Skip to main content

Ex-Gujarat farmer uses RTI to seek his land back decades after family migrated to Rajasthan fearing reprisal

By Pankti Jog*
Abdulla Akelbhai has crossed 70. Yet, he decided to travel all the way from a village called Faikaron Ka Nihaan, from the border areas of Barmer district of Rajasthan to our Saturday legal clinic in Ahmedabad. The Mahiti Adhikar Guajrat Pahel (MAGP) had just returned from its campaign, with Right to Information (RTI) On Wheels, in the area from where Abdulla hails.
“I had gone to Jaipur the day your van visited our area”, Abdulla said. “I got your RTI pamphlet that you had left on the tea stalls and dhabas, which were useful. I came to know that I can track my forefathers’ land in Gujarat using RTI.Thus, I have come here”.
On returning from the border areas of Rajasthan, we were somewhat familiar with a dialect of Sindh area. Miyana, Vagher and Sandhi communities of Gujarat, and people in the boarder villages of Barmer, Bikaner, and Jaisalmer, speak this language. It is also spoken in the entire Sindh area, which now lies in Pakistan.
Abdulla told me, “My grandfather Abdulla Maulena used to live in a Mankol village of Sanand State. I got my name after him. Ruler Prabhatsinh Vaghela, known as Darbar, gave him 52 bighas of land for tilling (tenancy). He used to cultivate wheat, which was famous in this area.” He didn’t know the exact year, but said it was certainly about years ago. Maybe 1915..."
He recalled: “My grandfather and Prabhatsinh Vaghela were more like a friend, There were not many Muslim families in my village. Once villagers asked the ruler why he had given this fertile land to a Muslim family. Prabhatisinh was very angry. He pointed his gun towards the villagers. This land-related issue was sought to be turned into a sort of Hindu-Muslim conflict in the aftermath of Partition.”
“It was against this backdrop that my grandfather decided to shift to the border area Rajasthan, a Sindh area”, Abdulla went on. “With time, our families spread out to several villages. A few of them went to Pakistan, while others remained in Rajasthan. Till 1995, the borders were not wire-fenced, and people did not realize the difference of being in two countries. Times have changed. Now we can’t meet our brothers.” Abdulla was in tears.
The 1946 receipt on the basis of which Abdulla is seeking information
“Did you ever try to locate your land after migrating to Rajasthan?” I asked Abdulla. His reply was: “My grandfather died in 1955. In 1954, we remember visiting Gujarat to meet our ruler Prabhatsinh and his son. They welcomed us, and asked us to stay and continue tilling the land. But by then, we had heard very scary stories of relationship between Hindus and Muslims in Sanand State, and were were scared to return.”
“How come you thought of tracking your land now, after almost 60 years?” I questioned. Abdulla replied, “After settling down in Rajasthan, which is a dry area, my grandfather always missed his lovely wheat fields and the area with ample of water. He use to tell us stories. It was his wish that we should once again cultivate that land. I did not inquire about it because we were apprehensive.”
“But now I am old, and my sons, too, have settled down in their life. Hence, I decided to find my own way, return to farm. When I heard of RTI, the first thing came to my mind was to locate documents of my land”, he asserted.
Abdulla has studied up to 4th standard, but has very good understanding about laws and policies. He already has read our small booklet on RTI, and I was surprise to find that he knew exactly which documents he should seek from the government. He had receipts of the rent paid to the then Inamdar – Ambalal Sarabhai – for tilling this land, which was to become the basis of his RTI query.
“In the year 1946, my grandfather paid 8 rupiya and 12 ana towards ‘vighoti’ (rent for tilling). He told us that he paid in silver coins”, Abdulla quipped.
Abdulla’s RTI application was drafted for seeking copies of the documents of the land from 1915 till 1947. Land records of pre-Independent time are in the archives, and can be sought under RTI. It is also possible to know the current status of the land, by getting access to documents VII and XVI from the block revenue officer.
“What you will do, after knowing the status, your land must have been transferred to many people by now”, I queried. He replied, “After independence, during the first survey, the powerful person from the village put his name as the owner, and today his family is cultivating it. But If I get access to documents, I will be able to tell your government that ‘this land belongs to us’.”
He regretted, “I could not come here for tall these years to get my land due to to family responsibilities.” But now he realises that “forgetting your farmland is like forgetting your mother.” Ha adds, “It’s my duty to come back to my land. I will give those documents to the heir of Prabhatsinh – Tikubapu.”
Abdulla may have planned to put up a case against the new owner, but does not have the time to fight a long battle the court. But he is sure that RTI will help him fulfill his grandfather’s dream, of locating the land, and proving their ownership… He has begun the process of locating 100-year-old document of his farm through RTI.
---
*Senior activist, Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, Ahmedabad

Comments

TRENDING

Mystery around Gujarat PSU 'transfer' of Rs 250 crore to Canadian firm Karnalyte

By AK Luke, IAS (Retd)*
While returning from a Board meeting of the Oil India Limited (OIL) in Ahmedabad some time in 2012, two officers of the Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GSFC), Nanavaty and Patel,  saw me off at the airport. They said they were proceeding to Canada in connection with a project GSFC had entered into with a company there. As we were running late, I hastily wished them the best.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

J&K continues to be haunted, as parts of India 'degenerate' into quasi-Kashmir situation

By Rajendran Narayanan*, Sandeep Pandey**
“Jab har saans mein bandook dikhe toh baccha kaise bekhauf rahe?” (How can a child be fearless when she sees a gun in every breath?) remarked Anwar, a gardener from Srinagar, when asked about the situation in Kashmir. On November 30, 2019, a walk through an iron gate in a quiet neighbourhood of Srinagar took us inside a public school. It was 11 am when typically every school is abuzz with activity. Not here though.

Indians have made 119 nations their ‘karma bhumi’: US-based Hindu NGO tells Rupani

Counterview Desk
In a stinging letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, the US-based Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), referring to the report citing his justification for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – that “while Muslims can choose any one of the 150 Islamic countries in the world (for residence), India is the only country for Hindus" – has said, he should remember, Hindus have made several countries, including USA, their home.

Dalits rights meet planned on how citizenship law 'negates' Ambedkar's equality focus

By Our Representative
A Dalit rights meet has been planned at the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), Sanand, Ahmedabad district, to discuss implications of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), passed by Parliament on December 10-11, for Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalized sections. Announcing the decision, DSK director Martin Macwan said, the meet would take place on December 25, 2019, at 11.00 am, to commemorate the anniversary of burning of copies of Manusmriti by Dr BR Ambedkar.

What about religious persecution of Dalits, Adivasis, asks anti-CAA meet off Ahmedabad

By Rajiv Shah
A well-attended Dalit rights meet under the banner “14 Pe Charcha” (discussion on Article 14 of the Indian Constitution), alluding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi well-known campaign phrase of the 2014 Parliamentary elections, “chai pe charcha” (discussion over cup of tea), organized off Ahmedabad, has resolved on Wednesday to hold a 14 kilometres-long rally on April 14 to oppose the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), enacted on December 10-11.

Upendra Baxi on foolish excellence, Indian judges and Consitutional cockroaches

By Rajiv Shah
In a controversial assertion, top legal expert Upendra Baxi has sought to question India's Constitution makers for neglecting human rights and social justice. Addressing an elite audience in Ahmedabad, Prof Baxi said, the constitutional idea of India enunciated by the Constituent Assembly tried to resolve four key conflicting concepts: governance, development, rights and justice.

'Allow critical thinking': SAARC-sponsored varsity teachers support protesting students

By Our Representative
Teachers of the high-profile South Asian University (SAU), a New Delhi-based international institute sponsored by eight member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – have supported “peacefully protesting students and other citizens” against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Kerala governor turned History Congress into political arena, 'insulted' Prof Irfan Habib

Counterview Desk
In a signed statement, office bearers of the Aligarh Society of History and Archaeology (ASHA), Prof Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi (president), Prof Jabir Raza (vice-president), Prof Manvendra Kumar Pundhir (secretary) and Prof Farhat Hasan (joint secretary), have said that Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan had sought to insult veteran historian Prof Irfan Habib, 88, at the 80th session of the Indian History Congress, even as turning it into his “political arena”.