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Dalit labourers of Punjab demonstrate in Zameen Prapt Sangharsh Committee meet

By Harsh Thakor 

Democratic revolutionary spirit touched soaring heights in a conference organised by the Zameen Prapti Sangharsh Commitee on 28th September, in village Shadihari in Sangrur district of Punjab, with around 10,000 dalit agricultural labourers converging from all round Punjab. Spirit of resistance soared at towering heights, written on the faces of the participants. In no uncertain terms, the speakers condemned the non implementation of the land ceilings act, and summed up how it was related to the anti-people agenda of the ruling classes as a whole. It was culmination of meticulous preparations at grassroots level by ZPSC.
Possibly, one of the most impact or successful conferences in organising dalit agricultural labour, to be staged in Punjab, reminiscent of a Festival of the masses. Most Commendable integration of students and youth activists .I was privileged to participate in the event. Evidence of the escalating class consciousness and striking capacity of the dalit landless labour of Punjab.
Similar to days during the British Raj, even today in Punjab, the lands belonging to the Dalits and farm labourers are being grabbed by the rich and influential people. The third part of reserved panchayat land is seized through dummy bids. The 34 percent Dalit population living in Punjab is stripped of ownership rights of Nazul land in spite of the order from the High Court. Finance Secretary Bikar Singh Hathoa and Jagtar Singh Tolewal said that Punjab has the maximum landlessness of Dalits in India.
In the view of the report of the Planning Commission of the Central Government, if the land is fairly distributed among the landless and small farmers in Punjab under the provisions of the Land Ceiling Act, then several acres of land will be given to each household. However leaders of different political parties, big bureaucracy and landlords have acquired this land resorting to manipulation. At present Dalit and small farmers do not have benefit o any meaningful employment.
The conference was a turning point in the land struggle in which thousands of workers from hundreds of villages from different districts of Punjab participated. Hundreds of village rallies, Jago, Jatha March and district and area level meetings were held, in preparation. Leaders earlier vociferously condemned the attitude of administration in the land issue of Shadihari and framing leaders through FIRS.
ZPSC president Mukesh Mulaudh in detail elaborated how in reality the rulers broke all their promises to the landless agricultural labour. He asserted that till now, the provisions of the land ceilings act have not been implemented. He exposed the lies of the ruling class intellectuals who professed that genuine land reform shad been established.
Bikar Singh Hathua narrated how all the ruling class parties connived in preserving the status quo of the establishment, and how in essence al tooth and nail opposed any genuine reforms for the dalit agricultural labour. Pendu Mazdoor Union President Tarsem Peter summarised the inter relationship between the economic and caste issues. Kirti Kisan youth President Bhupinder Longowal expressed the support of his organisation towards the enforcement of he land ceilings act. Woman or Stree Mukti leader Aman Deol stressed on how it was imperative task to mobilise women within the fold of the struggle, with women being the most victimised section, amongst the landless labour.
Dharamveer Harigadh raised the issue, by naming a list of 20 persons, who were stripped of their land rights. He laid a condition for prompt action, without which a pukka morcha would be staged. He also mentioned that i the 20 persons arrested in Mander village were not released, a major gherao would be organised in at the SSP office.
The programme concluded with a play staged by Lok Kala Manch,which was founded by late playwright Gursharan Singh. It expounded the domination of feudal and a casteist culture and hegemony of upper caste landlord mafia.
The success of the conference s a tribute to the diligent or intensive work of the organisation at the very base or block level, in confronting upper castes ,and undertaking land auctioning. Extricating the movement from mechanical reductionism on class lines or economic questions is an important achievement. The dalit community look like making the earth shake if their demands are not met, with the event manifesting their do or die spirit to fight at all costs.
Meanwhile, we received welcoming news that 17 activists incarcerated and detained in village Mander for fighting for land rights and protesting fake land auctioning, under section 307, have been released. It was victory for the democratic movement and celebrated. Activists included Daljit Singh, Gurvinder Bina, who led the delegation of released activists to Ravidas Mandir in Mander village. Earlier a major protest was lodged in Patiala on August 25th, mobilising 1000 members of the SC community.
Still it is still a major challenge of the landless labourer organisations to neutralise or win over the landed jat community to their side, or fuse together to build an agrarian movement. The integration of the landed jat peasantry with the dalit labour in negligible. Regretful that no leaders participated from other trends of the revolutionary camp in Punjab ,like the Krantikari Pendu Mazdoor Union, Bhartiya KIsan Union factions and the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union.
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Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist who attended the recent conference of the Zameen Prapt Sangharsh Committee

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