Skip to main content

Gujarat Dalits off Somnath protest forcible eviction from the land they were cultivating for decades

Dalit representatives demonstrate in Veraval
By Our Representative
Unrest has gripped Dalit villagers surrounding a fast-expanding town off southern Saurashtra coast in Gujarat, not far away from famous Somnath temple. Thousands of villagers, mainy of them Dalit representatives of Saurashtra, gathered outside the district headquarters of the newly-created Gir-Somnath district at Veraval early this week to protest against the state forest department’s move to forcibly occupy hundreds of acres of land being cultivated by Dalits for more than four decades. A representation to the district collectorate, Somnath-Gir, said, “The forest officials entered the fields illegally and removed standing crop. Worse, these officials, who are responsible to take care of environment, removed 30 years old mango trees the Dalits reared.”
The land, according to sources, belonged to the state forest department, but it was all plain, had no trees on them. In fact, the forest department never took care of the land ever. The Dalits of the area had been cultivating the land, considering it as their only source of livelihood. Instead of applying the forest rights Act (FRA), which makes it mandatory for the government to hand over land any forest dwellers were cultivating since 2005, the sources said, the forest department decided to swoop on them. “These forest dwellers should have been made legal owners of the land under the Act. But their plight was never taken into account”, a senior activist who is know of things said.
“The forest department’s illegal occupation of the land has come about at a time when the Dalit cultivators have no other source of livelihood”, the representation said, adding, “Faced with such a situation, three Dalit representatives first sat on a relay fast between June 27 and 29, and have now begun fast until death to get back the land they had been cultivating for so long. Their main contention is that, their demand towards keeping intact their only means of livelihood should not have been violated.” The representation was prepared by Veraval Dalit Adhikar Andolan, set up by the Saurashtra Dalit Sangathan. Those who took leadership were Deven Vanvi, Jayanti Makadia and Gova Rathod.
Dalit meeting ahead of demonstration
The representation, which carries an eight-point demands, said that in Paldi village, the standing groundnut crop on Survey No 4, which was being cultivated by 23 Dalit families, has been destroyed by the forest department officials without serving any notice. “Responsible officials should be punished”, it insisted, adding, “Similarly, the groundnut crop on the land of Survey Nos 52 and 53 was destroyed by these officials. Apart from taking legal action against the officials concerned, the farmers should be fully compensated against.”
Insisting that the state government should apply the anti-atrocities law against responsible officials, the representation further said, “The land which the farmers were cultivating should be immediately transferred to the Dalit farmers who were their actual occupants. The transfer should take place under the forest rights Act, 2006, under which the farmer cultivator occupying any plot in reserved forest, cultivated since 2005, is entitled to be its legal owner.” At the same time, the representation added, a standing order should be issued to ensure that the “forest department officials do not harass anyone who is cultivating any area which comes under reserved forest.”
Especially emphasizing on the manner in which mango trees were cut down in Ramnechi village, the representation said, “These trees were being reared by the Dalit occupants for decades, and there was little reason to remove them. The farmers who reared these trees should be adequately compensated, and land titles should be issues to the farmers. There has been large number of complaints about Dalit farmers being harassed by forest department officials in the recent past. They are stopped from using irrigation facilities, especially wells.” The representation concluded: “In case the Dalit farmers’ demands are not satisfied within the next seven days, the district collector will be held solely responsible for any steps that the Dalit representatives of Saurashtra take”.

Comments

TRENDING

Allow international human rights observers, media to access Kashmir: US lawmakers

Counterview Desk
In a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, two members of the American Congress, Pramila Jayapal and James McGovern, raising "significant concerns" about what they call "humanitarian and human rights crisis in Jammu & Kashmir”, quoting "credible reports" from journalists and advocates on the ground" have said that "the Indian government has detained thousands of people with no recourse, imposed de facto curfews on residents' and cut off internet and telephone access in the region.”

Rescind Gates Foundation award to Modi, demand three Nobel Peace laureates

Counterview Desk
In a major boost to those opposing the award to the Gates Foundation’s proposed to be awarded to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, three Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Mairead Maguire (1976), Tawakkol Abdel-Salam Karman (2011) and Shirin Ebadi (2003), have in an open letter called upon Milinda and Bill Gates to withdraw their decision, stating Modi is allegedly involved in human rights violations.

Now clampdown on rally, arrest of pro-freedom activists in Pak-occupied Kashmir

Counterview Desk
In a fresh evidence, international human rights organizations are not just confining their attention on the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), whose special status was taken away by the Government of India in early August, leading to an unprecedented clampdown on the region. They have simultaneously begun focusing on the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), where the situation is said to be worsening.
Thus, the International Human Rights Council ((IHRC) Hong Kong (HK), a top human rights organisation, said to be working towards to the promotion peace, equality, fundamental rights and social justice “as enunciated in the UN Human Rights Charter and other instruments of human rights”, has noted now a new wave of independence movement has struck PoK.  With offices in US, UK, Switzerland and Hong Kong, and having Kirity Roy and Lenin Raghuvanshi as IHRC office bearers from India, in a statement, it has claimed that on September 7 one of the biggest pro-Independenc…

Gujarat's incomplete canals: Narmada dam filled up, yet benefits 'won't reach' farmers

By Our Representative
Even as the Gujarat government is making all out efforts to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river up to the full reservoir level (FRL), a senior farmer rights leader has said the huge reservoir, as of today, remains a “mirage for the farmers of Gujarat”.
In a statement, Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has said that though the dam’s reservoir is being filled up, the canal network remains complete. Quoting latest government figures, he says, meanwhile, the command area of the dam has been reduced from 18,45,000 hectares (ha) to 17,92,000 ha.
“According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which was last updated on Friday, while the main canal, of 458 km long, has been completed, 144 km of ranch canals out of the proposed length of 2731 km remain incomplete.
Then, as against the targeted 4,569 km distributaries, 4,347 km have been constructed, suggesting work for 222 km is still pending. And of the 15,670 km of minor canal…

US Kashmiri diaspora body: World leaders, UN 'not acting', India enjoys total impunity

Counterview Desk
Ahead of the United Nations General Assembly session, to begin on September 17 in New York, Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, secretary-general of the World Kashmir Awareness Forum, a non-profit organization based in Ohio, US, claiming to focus on providing information on Kashmir, has regretted that despite "violent" behaviour of Indian authorities in Kashmir, they enjoy "total impunity" across the world.

Ceramic worker dies: 20,000 workers in Thangadh, Gujarat, 'risk' deadly silicosis

Even as the country was busy preparing for the Janmashtami festival on Saturday, Hareshbhai, a 46-year-old ceramic worker from suffering from the fatal lung disease silicosis, passed away. He worked in a ceramic unit in Thangadh in Surendranagar district of Gujarat from 2000 to 2016.
Hareshbhai was diagnosed with the disease by the GCS Medical College, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad in 2014. He was found to be suffering from progressive massive fibrosis. He is left behind by his wife Rekha sister and two sons Deepak (18) and Umesh (12),
The death of Hareshbhai, says Jagdish Patel of the health rights group Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC), suggests that silicosis, an occupational disease, can be prevented but not cured, and the Factory Act has sufficient provisions to prevent this.
According to Patel, the pottery industry in the industrial town of Thangadh has evolved for a long time and locals as well as migrant workers are employed here. There are about 180 units in in the to…

Bullet train impact report Japan agency property: Govt of India tells Gujarat NGO

The National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) has told Gujarat-based environmental organization, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) that the detailed report of Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) representatives on their visit to Gujarat and Maharashtra assess the impact of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project on farmers is not its property, but that of JICA.

NHSRCL letter to PSS, signed by activists Rohit Prajapati, Krishnakant and Swati Desai, comes following the latter’s request to it on June 10 for the report. PSS was one of the NGOs that represented JICA on the project, saying, if implemented, it would adversely impact farmers, even as pointing towards the fact that the project itself is unviable and Indian Railways needs to invest, instead, more on upgrading the present railway infrastructure.
Following the NHSRCL reply, PSS has shot a second letter to JICA, insisting that the latter should share a copy of the report, even as providing details of the …

Jharkhand riverine terminal: 485 families 'displaced', lose land, livelihood in Sahibgunj

Counterview Desk
Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposes to inaugurate on Thursday India’s second riverine Multi-Modal terminal (MMT) at Sahibganj in Jharkhand, built at a cost of Rs 290 crore reportedly in a record time of about two years, several civil rights organizations* have said that the government has failed to address the high-profile terminal’s social and environmental concerns.

Karma tribal festival an occasional to campaign for tribal rights: IPMSDL

By Our Representative
The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), in a solidarity statement has suggested that the current Karam festival of Central India -- which seeks to promote sisterhood, friendship, cultural unity, and closer link to nature -- should be the occasion to campaign against alleged efforts to violently drive away forest dwelling communities from their forest homes.
"Millions are threatened to lose lands and livelihood under the implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006", the statement States, adding, "As corporate interests continues to enter tribal territories and extract profit from its natural resources, indigenous people are pushed to further marginalization and discrimination."
Asserting that indigenous movement in India "remains steadfast in keeping their culture, deeply linked to their lands alive by carrying out their heritage and struggles", IPMSDL, even as extending "…

US Air Force expert smells regional security threat following Chandrayaan mission

Counterview Desk
A United States Air Force expert, writing on India’s Chandrayaan -2 mission, has expressed the apprehension that Indian moon probe’s “failure” won’t stop an Asian space race that “threatens regional security.” Affiliated with the US Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, Wendy Whitman Cobb, who is Professor of Strategy and Security Studies, believes like other space powers, India may be “seeking to improve its technology”, but advances can “also bring greater security concerns.”
Currently, admits Cobb, “These efforts have been primarily civilian and peaceful in nature.” However, India’s turn toward the military uses of space, so much so that lately it has been developing its own military satellites providing services such as remote sensing, tracking and communications “with greater frequency” has begun to “concern” the neighbours.
In her disclosure statement to an article published in the e-journal “The Conversation” Cobb, however, states that whatever…