National Conference on Land Reform in India
In India, land reform is currently a forgotten agenda. Immediately after India’s independence, the Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru promised to eliminate the intermediaries and restore land to the tiller resulting in the passing of historic Zamindari Abolition Act in 1956. Yet unfortunately, land has never became the core agenda of the successive governments despite various revolutionary steps through social movements.
Departing from this background, Social Development Foundation (SDF), an ILC Asia member from India held a two days consultation, took place in New Delhi, India. Convened during 25 and 26th November, this consultation is part of the ILC NES program and aiming to sharing about the status of land struggle and land reforms in India. It was being participated by more than 80 participants from 16 Indian states, and involved activists, civil society workers, lawyers, political activists, policy makers, government agencies and journalists. The majority of the participants were coming from the indigenous population of India; the Dalits and Adivasis.
SDF Director, Mr. Bushan Rawat was clearly emphasizing in his opening remarks that the land reforms in India since independence has never been implemented in its intended spirit. In the process, there have been scores of prevalence related to discrimination and victimization. Instead of land redistribution to the poor and marginalized families, it was grabbed and acquired in different ways and mechanisms. He also referred as to how the government is intimidating and who ever raised their voice, are labeled as anti-development and hence anti-national.
Survey on status of the landlessness and land reform in various states in India which were beinng undertaken through ILC support showed that the size of landless people is huge and it is ever increasing. It is also observed that they are from the Dalit community. In many places, the land which is in ownership of marginalized families, are actually grabbed by the influential from years now. This is mostly the case in commons land. There are increased incidence of violence against land defenders and activists.
The consultation also displayed the land situation national wide and also the Dalits, which described how the land reform act in India is being used to grab land, so this act used by land lords to grab land, and not give land to Dalits or landless. For example, after independency era, land given to Dalits and landless are registered under the landlords’ pet (dogs), or servant. According to the Rajashtan Tenancy Act states that dalit’s and tribal’s land cannot be transferred to non dalit’s and tribal’s land, but the act also states that the land can be transferred to company and religious bodies, and moreover, the religion in India instructs the people to build sheds for their cows, which this also then became the reason for these religious bodies to grab huge acres of land to build these cows’ sheds.
Mr. Ramdev Vishwabandu, a land activist from Jharkhand stated that 6000 tribals are now being detained for being involved in land conflict, and defending the land. These tribals are now being accused as maoist (a philosophy follower who fight for the rights of marginalized people and now being categorized as local terrorist).
Another case experienced by an activist, Mr. Virendra Singh Bagoria, a dalit who has been evicted out of his village for more than a decade now. Together with more than 100 families, he was forced to move out of the village.
“I have been fighting for this case in the High Court”, he said in a strong voice.
Since then they keep raise protest against it at the national capital. Their fight is still on and they have hope that someday, they would be able to return to their village.
Based on all cases being raised, this two day consultation resulted a big recommendation, as follows:
- To develop a national alliance of social movements, NGOs, civil society networks, opinion makers, policy makers, lawyers, including individuals on the issue of Land Reform, and also monitoring its implementations.
- To evaluate and to analyse the states' policies on land reform and their implementation.
- To focus on specific policies on land reform to influence them particularly targeting Land Ceiling Laws and their implementation, as well asunderstanding the gaps.
- To have better understanding on the Bhoodan Land and its current status.
- To organise awareness programmes at different levels for diverse stakeholders, including to have state consultations with the policy makers, opinion makers, activists and social movement leaders.
- To hold regular training and awareness raising workshops for the grassroot activists, workers of civil society, NGOs and CBOs, in order to equip them with useful tools to attain success.
- To organise public hearings at different places by involving district level officials, with those directly affected due to the non-implementation, and to conduct local surveys on landless people who are not being included in the government lists in our field areas.