On July 10, resisting feudal forces, members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation (CPIML) along with Dalit families occupied land in Angara village in the Indian State of Bihar. The land was allotted to 98 poor Dalit families (the oppressed caste in the Indian caste system, considered the ‘untouchables’) by the Patna High Court in 2008. In the order, the court had granted four acres and 53 decimal (1 acre equals 100 decimal) of government land to Dalit families.
The families, hailing from Piro block in the Angara village of Bhojpur district, resorted to land occupation as the government was delaying the land allotment allegedly in collusion with the local feudal and upper caste forces.
“The reason why the CPIML felt the need to take the law in its hands is because the nexus between landlords and the officials within the State government has denied these poor families their due rights for almost a decade. These families have now obtained some portion of the prescribed land which was allowed to them long ago in 2008 by the court.,” CPIML State committee member, Sanjay, told Peoples Dispatch.
“We decided that the community will make makeshift camps until the paperwork is finalized. If the authorities take any measures to remove them from their rightful land, we are ready to fight back for justice,” he added.
The occupation comes after the local administration called for negotiations in the face of intensfying land rights assertions by Dalit families and members of the CPIML. The block officers, the deputy superintendent of police and the station head officer met with the leaders of CPIML on the issue, but the talks failed due to the government’s alleged delaying tactics.
“What the State government failed to achieve in providing justice to these Dalit families for over a decade, we achieved within a month. This indicates that to solve these issues you only need resolve and clear mindset of standing with the marginalized,” Sanjay said.
According to the 2008 report of the Bandopadhyay Land Reforms Commission appointed by the Bihar Government, over 2.1 million acres of delimited land in the State have been illegally captured by zamindars (feudal landlords). More than half the agriculture in the State is done on the basis of sharecropping. According to a survey by an NGO, there are 5 million families in the State who have no homestead land (large agricultural land) and about 1.8 million families who have been settled on raiyyati (cultivable land in an estate but not private land) and government lands for decades but have not been given occupation papers for those plots of land.