By Gladson Dungdung
Infochange 29 November, 2008
The non-Adivasis used many tricks for acquiring Adivasis’ land. The best way of buying Adivasis land is get marry to an Adivasi girl and register the land in her name. The honest implementation of legislations and recommendations would be panacea to address the land issue of the Adivasis.
The Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act 1908 known as the safeguard to the Adivasis prohibits the transfer of Adivasis’ land to non-Adivasis, marked 100 years on 11th November 2008. The Adivasis across the state raised their voices for immediate action against breaching of the law as they have already lost more than 22 lakh acres of land since independence. The case of an Adivasi village ‘Tetulia’ situated nearby the steel city Bokaro in Jharkhand is one of the crucial examples of land alienation through tricks and breach of the laws. The village has lost it identity and now known as Bari Cooperative, where 250 posh buildings have replaced the mud houses and non-Adivasis have become the owners of the land of the Santha Adivasis. 45 Santhal families had been living in the village but their lands were grabbed, they were forced to leave the place and few who survived live in mud houses outside of the cooperative area.
The ‘Bari Cooperative Society’ was established in 1980 by two property dealers R.K. Singh and B.K. Singh, who approached to the Adivasis with a proposal of establishing a cloth factory and promised them for jobs other than price of the land. Finally, they acquired 50 acres of land from Adivasis in the name of Bari Cooperative but the sad part is they did not even pay Rs 1 thousand per acre as promised. 40 years old Pankisto Manjhi says, “He had been given just 10 kg of rice for 3 acre of land”. 60 years old Fagu Manjhi, whose 1.27 acre of land was acquired for the Cooperative given a job of guard in monthly salary of Rs 800 but when the cooperative was closed he was left in isolation. Similarly, Kari manjhi had 9.26 acres of land in which 4.24 acres were taken by the Bari Cooperative and 2.36 acres were captured by migrant Biharis and merely 2.66 acre lands are remaining. He has filed a case in Bokaro Civil Court against the Bari Cooperative in 2006 but nothing has happened yet.
Interestingly, the land was bought in the name of establishing a garment factory but after a few days the factory was closed down and the property dealers constructed posh buildings in the land and sold these to non-Adivasis at the market rate. When the matter was brought out into light, the deputy commissioner of Bokaro, Amrendra Pratap Singh investigated it in 2005 and found that 95 percent buildings were constructed on Adivasis land, which is serious violation of Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, but unfortunately no action has been taken yet. Ironically, 28 years have already passed since Adivasis’ lands were grabbed in the name of garment factory but they are still running from pillar to post for justice and rights.
The Adivasis land alienation is not a new phenomenon in Jharkhand. It had begun during the medieval period but it arose rapidly during the British regime. The British Indian government introduced “Jamindari system” by enforcing the ‘Permanent Settlement Act’ in 1793 which created upheaval in the Adivasi community. Consequently, the series of Adivasis upsurge took place in the state. The Santhals upsurge in Santhal Pargana, Kolh revolution in Kolhan and Birsa Ulgulan in Chotanagpur, which resulted in enforcement of three legislations – Chotanagpur Tenancy Act 1908, Wilkinson’s Rules 1837 and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act 1949. The prime objectives of these legislations were protection of Adivasis land, traditional self governance and culture. But these laws were seriously violated.
In 1969, the Bihar Scheduled Areas Regulation Act was enforced for prevention and legalization of illegal land transfer and of Adivasis. A special Area Regulation Court was established and the Deputy Commission was given special right regarding the sell and transfer of Adivasis land. According to the provision, an Adivasi can not sell or transfer land to another Adivasi without permission of the DC. When the special court started function, a huge number of cases were registered. According to the government’s report, 60,464 cases regarding 85,777.22 acres of illegal transfer of land were registered till 2001-2002. Out of these 34,608 cases of 46,797.36 acres of land were considered for hearing and rest 25,856 cases related to 38,979.86 acres of land were dismissed.
But after the hearing merely 21,445 cases regarding 29,829.7 acres of lands were given possession to the original holders and rest remains with the non-Adivasis. Further more 2,608 cases of illegal land transfer were registered in 2003-2004, 2,657 cases in 2004-2005 and 3,230 cases in 2005-2006, which clearly indicates that the cases of illegal land alienation is increasing rapidly. According to the Annual Report 2004-2005 of the Ministry of Rural Development of the Government of India, Jharkhand topped the list of Adivasi land alienation in India with 86,291 cases involving 10,48,93 acres of land.
A prominent Adivasi leader and Vice-Chairperson of the National Commission for SC & ST Bandi Oraon has undertaken a study on the implementation of various legislative measures meant to protect illegal transfer of Adivasis lands to non-Adivasis in the State. The study was confined to 15.703 cases registered in the Ranchi Collectorate in respect of Adivasis living in and around Ranchi city. The study reveals that merely 41.46 percent cases were accepted for hearing, 26.82 percent cases were rejected and 31.72 percent cases were kept in pending. But interestingly, out of the hearing cases, actual possessions were given in 96 percent cases.
The non-Adivasis used many tricks for acquiring Adivasis’ land. The best way of buying Adivasis land is get marry to an Adivasi girl and register the land in her name. This trick was widely used by the non-Adivasis. Secondly, many Adivasis surrendered their land to the money lenders after trapped by them through loan. Besides, threatening, coercion and illegal documents were prepared for acquiring land. Authorizing the Deputy Commissioner for land transfer also caused huge loss for the Adivasis as many non-Adivasi officers justified the land transfer to non-Adivasis. In many case, the court also defined the laws in the favour of non-Adivasis. Another major fact is the CNT Act was amended in 1947 for the purpose of urbanization, industrialization and for development projects caused huge deprivation of Adivasis from the land. Finally, these legislations were utterly misused, violated and interpreted against of the Adivasis by the policy makers, bureaucrats and other non-Adivasis.
In these circumstances, how can issue be addressed? The National Advisory Council constituted by the Government of India has sent a recommendation to the government of India on 19th January 2005 has ample provisions to address the issues. According to the recommendation, the state is required to play pro-active role in monitoring the restoration of lands to the Adivasis from the non-Adivasis. The transparency and access to land records (at the village level) to Adivasis in local languages, speedy disposal of cases where Adivasis are involved and oral evidence to be considered where records are not available. All pending land disputes should be settled at the earliest so that Adivasis do not face harassment from non-Adivasis, revenue officials and others. Regular updating of land records, regular Jamabandhi and display of revenue details at the village level. Where lands are restored to Adivasis, the non-Adivasis often obtain Stay Orders from the Courts which has to be obviated. All States with Scheduled Areas should have the prohibitory clause on transfer of lands from tribals.
The council strongly recommends that there should be no displacement of Adivasis for any project (mining, energy or any others) in the Scheduled Areas. The Land Acquisition Act may be amended in line with the PESA Act, 1996 so that the rights of the people are protected in the Fifth Schedule Areas. The setting up of industries in Scheduled Areas without assessing their impact on the Adivasis economy should stop forthwith. No agricultural land or land used for community purposes should be allowed to be transferred or purchased for setting up an industry. At no cost should the laws of the Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution be considered for amendment to open up the areas for control or ownership by private non-Adivasis individuals, industries or institutions. The honest implementation of legislations and recommendations would be panacea to address the issue.
Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org