By Sanjay Parmar*
In a classic example official indifference, 23 families of the most backward scheduled caste (SC) community, Nadia, have been waiting to get back the land taken away from them fraudulently about seven years ago. Handed over to them as collective ownership way back in 1952 for cultivation, they were suddenly deprived of their only means of livelihood in June 2007. The land was first encroached upon by two brothers belonging to the non-Dalit castes of Ahmedpura village of Talod taluka, Sabarkantha district. The land was recently “resold” to a Kutchi Patel contractor living about 15 kilomtres away, in Vadagam village.
Currently, the land in question – 4.19 hectares (ha) – has been all dug up, with the contractor doing brisk business by incessantly mining blackstone. Only one-third of the land now remains fit for agriculture, which was the primary occupation of the Nadia community persons before it was encroached. Currently, all members of the Nadia community have been reduced to earn their livelihood as daily wage workers, mainly in the nearby farms. What is particularly shocking is that, they are in possession of legal land title, known as “7/12 Utara” in Gujarat – both in old the manual form and in the new computerized form.
It all happened on June 12, 2007, when the Talod mamlatdar told the village talati, the lowest village level revenue official, to “find out” to whom the land belongs. On the very next day, on July 13, 2007, the talati gave his report, saying he was not in possession of any land records, and an order was passed on July 26, 2007, to handed over the land to Gambhirsinh Nathasinh Jhala of the village. This was a clear case of forging official records, despite the fact that Survey No 614 has been in collective possession of the Nadia Dalit community for decades. False documents were prepared to prove do the job.
What is interesting is that, most of the higher officialdom, including the deputy collector, the district collector, the Gujarat director general of police (DGP) and the Gujarat home department asked the district police officials to institute an inquiry into the whole case by filing a first information report (FIR) against those who are involved. On representation from the Navsarjan Trust on as late as June 20, 2014, Gujarat director general of police (DGP) PC Thakur personally took interest in the matter, and directed the district police to register a case against those who have illegally encroached upon the land under the anti-atrocities law.
The letter, which the DGP wrote after hearing a written representation from the Dalit Nadia families through Chandubhai Motibhai Nadia, and addressed to the Sabarkantha district superintendent of police (SP), said, “I have personally heard with attention the representation made by the applicant regarding the land, Survey No 641 of village Antrolivas, bordering Dolji. The representation said the land belonged to to the Nadia families for several decades, but has been illegally encroached upon by forging documents with the help of corrupt government officials. A request has been made to take legal action.”
The letter asks the SP, Sabarkantha district, to personally look into the matter, and “direct a deputy SP, SC/ST cell to investigate into the matter after filing an FIR against those responsible, a copy of which should be sent to my office.” A separate letter by the state home department to the DGP says that Chandubhai Motibhai Nadia has “represented the case of illegal encroachment of his land to the additional chief secretary, home. Despite the fact that on January 8, 2014, the home department called upon the police headquarters to take action in the matter, even five months later, no action has been taken.” Marked “urgent” the letter adds, “It seems nobody appears to hear the representation. Please let us know what happened.”
Early this month, after no action was taken, on July 7, 2014, director, scheduled caste welfare, RM Jadav, stepped in. He asked the district collector. Sabarkantha, Banchhanidhi Pani, making him a similar request, and specifically saying that FIR should be filed under different sections of the criminal procedure code as also the anti-atrocities law. “Despite the fact that the complainant has officially represented his case, and on June 5, 2014 the social justice department asked the district officials to take further action, nothing has been done. You are ensure that FIR is lodged and send a copy to our office urgently”, Jadav underlined.
Former district collector Jayprakash Shivhare on June 13, 2012, in his order on the land dispute even said that, after hearing both the sides, it seemed to him that the order to transfer the land in question was taken “without proper examination of the papers.” Hence, the order of the mamlatdar transferring the land should be “cancelled.” Earlier, on August 17, 2011, the deputy collector also passed his order in favour of the Nadia scheduled caste families.
Despite so many official interventions, the Dalit families are unable to get repossession of their land, and even a simple FIR is not being registered against those who are guilty of trying to forge documents. Now, efforts are being made to seek to “compromise” – the Nadia families are being offered peanuts for the land, which has become a mining haven for the contractors who are in physical possession of the land. However, they have decided not to give in.
*Senior activist, Sabarkantha, Navsarjan Trust