Skip to main content

Need to deepen fight against Modi government, seeking to do away with social existence in rural areas in one sweep

By Suneet Chopra*The hot debate over the land acquisition ordinances of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is not accidental or restricted only to the matter of access to a scarce resource. Land rights, and especially those that we achieved after our struggle for independence from colonial rule, are crucial to our social existence as citizens with equal rights under the Indian Constitution. The denial of any of these rights is an attack on our right as citizens of India.
It must never be forgotten that for over a thousand years we were able to keep a fifth of our population in the shackles of untouchability and semi animal conditions by simply denying dalits land rights in the village. A similar situation prevails in the case of women who may reproduce the family line but are denied the right to land in both the family they are born in and the one they may marry into.
Social marginalization like this may be traditional but it violates our rights as full citizens of a state that claims to be both secular and socialist. Now with scarce resources likely to become even more scarce with a government wishing to hand over everything to corporates, foreign agencies and even mafias, we are left with no alternative but to struggle.
Much of the anger we see in the peasantry today is a result of the fear that the Modi government at the centre is taking away our citizenship of the Indian state and handing it over to corporates, mafias and speculators. That is why the same peasantry that not only gave land for development freely and even its sons and daughters to defend our borders, is resisting the present government’s rush to act as real estate agents for big business.
Today the same peasants who denied dalits and women land rights are coming out in protest against the new legislation. While we support their struggle firmly and actively, we must also demand our right to compensation for work lost in land takeovers, but also the right of landless dalits and women in the villages where they live and contribute to life and production.
We must not only fight this attempt of the Modi government to do away with our social existence in the rural areas in one sweep, but we must deepen our struggle for democratic rights by demanding that land rights for dalits, tribal people and women are a necessary part of our struggle to defend the rights we won with independence and to implement them even more thoroughly.
Any backtracking on this count will also lead to the erosion of our democratic rights as they exist today as well. In this condition we have a situation in which a worker peasant alliance in the rural areas can be strengthened meaningfully.
The struggles going on in tribal areas to protect lands seized from tribal people by the British and never returned to them by independent India are not merely an economic demands but an assertion of their democratic rights that were taken away from them. In the same way, when we struggle for house-sites for dalits in our villages or for land to the tiller, and dalits are half the tillers of the land anyway, so we are fighting for strengthening the roots of our democratic system. In the same way we strengthen it when we demand that women get land rights on the land they till anyway as second-class citizens.
The struggles against the dispossession of the peasants and the tribals by the state today must be integrated with those for giving land rights to landless dalits and women. These are necessary to strengthen the roots of our democracy at the level of our villages and will ensure we do not lose our place as equals in the face of economic fundamentalist policies handing over our fate to a few corporates and billionaires who will then feel free to transport us like cattle and trade us off as cheap labour.
Or worse, let us wander wherever we can, begging for work and becoming targets for human traffickers. This must not be permitted. The human cost of this development will be far greater than any benefit such development delivers.
Even today dalits constitute 28% of the landless while they are only 16.3% of the population according to 70th Round of NSSO Survey. For the Scheduled Tribes the figure is 9.4% landless of 13.4% of the population. For the OBCs the figure is 52.5% landless of a population of 45.4% while others who constitute 24.9% of the population, have only 10.4% landless. This reflects the fact that caste seriously affects the pattern of land ownership and consequently the continued oppression and denial of rights of the lower castes, primarily the dalits.
From this angle, the struggles for land, for work ensured by Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the proper implementation of provisions like reservations for scheduled castes and tribes, for backward classes and women, for equal wages for equal work, for free and compulsory education, free medical aid and food security are all connected with our right to live as human beings in our communities and more precisely as the citizens of a secular, democratic socialist republic based the principle of one person one vote.
It is obvious that in a society based on sharp inequalities, laws will be made to exploit, dispossess and oppress us. But our struggles also have given us laws that we wanted in our interest, like zamindari abolition and land ceilings, Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes, 73rd Amendment devolving power to local government institutions like panchayats, the women’s reservations at various levels in the political system, MGNREGA, Forest Rights and Food Security Acts to name only a few.
But not only are they not being implemented as they should without our struggles, we find powerful individuals backed by the NDA government taking over assets, drying up job opportunities and even trying to make these laws toothless. At such a time we cannot wait and watch. We must fight for the demands of the mass of our rural people from the ground upwards. 
---
*With All-India Agricultural Workers' Union (AIAWU). Excerpts from article published in "AIAWU Bulletin"

Comments

TRENDING

#MeToo moment in Hyderabad Urdu varsity? Two girl students seek action against authorities

Counterview Desk
Has the #MeToo movement reached Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MAANU)? It would seem so if a recent letter by newly-appointed chancellor Firoz Bakht Ahmed to MAANU vice-chancellor Dr Aslam Parvaiz is any indication. Seeking reinstatement of two girl victims of “sexual harassment and humiliation”, the letter specifically names head of the department of the Media Centre for Journalism, suspecting, the problem could be much deeper.
Text of the letter: It is a matter of utmost perturbation for me to receive the two representations from the girls studying in the MCJ (Media Center for Journalism) regarding their sexual and subsequently, mental and social harassment at the hands of Prof Ehtesham Ahmad Khan, the HOD, MCJ.
We do not know, how many girls have been exploited by him and preferred to be silent for saving their family’s honour; however, there are two brave girls who stood to the depraved advances and misuse by Prof Ehtesham and came up with written complai…

"Ineligible" funding of Sardar Statue in Gujarat: CAG tells Central PSUs, it's not a heritage CSR activity

By Our Representative
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, in its recent report on Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE), has qualified public sector undertakings’ (PSUs') funding the 182-metre world’s highest Sardar Statue, currently being constructed in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam as an “ineligible” corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity.

Gujarat BJP MLAs, youth leader "incited" attack on North Indians: Cong releases video

Counterview Desk
Senior Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, currently in charge of Bihar and national spokesperson, All-India Congress Committee, has sent a legal notice to chief minister Vijay Rupani threatening criminal case and civil defamation suit for accusing him with "baseless statement" that he was responsible for attacks on north Indians in Gujarat.

29th "NRC-related" suicide in Assam, as Nirod Baran Das takes his life by hanging on a fan

By Our Representative
Reporting 29th case of National Register of Citizens (NRC)-driven suicide in Assam, one of India’s human rights campaign sites has said that, on October 20, tragedy struck Kharupetia town in Darrang district of Assam, when a retired school teacher and advocate Nirod Baran Das “took his life by hanging himself to a fan in his home.” The report adds, “The NRC process has so far claimed over two dozen such lives in the past four months alone.”

"Highly irregular" for PSUs to fund Sardar Statue under Corporate Social Responsibility

Counterview Desk
In a letter to I Srinivas, secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, former secretary (economic affairs), Ministry of Finance, EAS Sarma, has raised questions on the funding of the Sardar Patel statue in South Gujarat by Central Public Sector Undertaking (CPSUs) relying on the Comptroller and Auditor General report (No 18/2018).

Murder of Tamil Nadu teenage Dalit girl: "Stoic silence" despite #MeToo movement

Counterview Desk
Brinelle D'souza, who is with the Centre for Health and Mental Health, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, has prepared a strong statement to protest the brutal murder of 13-year-old Rajalakshmi. "Other than a few media reports, this gruesome killing has not caught national attention despite a very vibrant #MeToo campaign currently underway", regrets D'souza.

Post-MJ Akbar resignation: #MeToo movement and fears of backlash

By Sheshu Babu*
For the last few days, #MeToo movement has picked up momentum and many women are coming out with horrific tales of severe harassment in their past lives. They are not afraid anymore to expose famous persons including those at ministerial levels. As a senior journalist Neeraja Chowdhury opined (“An exit, a beginning”, October 18, 2018, indianexpress.com), "The #MeToo revelations are like the eruption of a volcano which was imminent, given the journey working women have covered. It was not easy to make public what they had gone through,and take on powerful men.”

Bank account frozen, raid on Amnesty office: Govt of India "treating" human rights NGOs like criminal enterprises

By Abhirr VP*
Amnesty India’s bank accounts have been frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, effectively stopping its work. Amnesty India is thus the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society in the country. The accounts of Greenpeace India were frozen earlier this month.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

60 ex-civil servants seek release of CAG reports on Rafale, demonetisation before 2019 polls

Counterview Desk
As many as 60 retired civil servants have asked President Ram Nath Kovind to expedite the release of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reports on demonetisation and the Rafale deal. The letter, signed mainly by former Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service and Indian Police Service officers, regrets that the status of the audit is "unclear”. According to them, “An impression is gaining ground that CAG is deliberately delaying its audit reports on demonetisation and Rafale deal till after the May 2019 elections so as not to embarrass the present government”.