People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 20

May 14, 2006

Peasants Struggle For Land In Uttarakhand

PROTESTING against the attacks of moneylenders turned land mafias on poor peasants in collision with local police, the All India Kisan Sabha local unit organised a demonstration at the block head quarters of Sitarganj block in Udham Singh Nagar district of Uttarakhand on April 26. The demonstration was led and addressed by N.K.Shukla, Joint Secretary, All India Kisan Sabha, Bacchi Ram Kaunswal, president, Gangadhar Nautial, secretary, Surendra Sajwan,vice president, Shiv Prasad Deoli, treasurer Uttarakhand state Kisan Sabha and Satya Prakash, president state CITU, Madan Mishra secretary state DYFI among others.


Thousands of refugees who had come from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) were rehabilitated in 13 villages of the then Nanital district now named Udham Singh Nagar. Each refugee family was given 5 acres of land. Bad terrain, undeveloped land and lack of capital forced a good number of refugees to borrow and get engulfed in the debt trap of moneylenders. They were forced to pay high interest rates - some time even 100 percent per year along with compound interest. They had to surrender their land to the moneylenders owing to the debts and thus became bonded labourers on their own land. Though legally these lands belong to pattedars, they can neither be purchased nor sold.


Local Unit of All India Kisan Sabha with the help of state committee took up this issue and invited Suryakant Mishra, Minister of West Bengal and one of the Joint Secretaries of All India Kisan Sabha to visit Udham Singh Nagar in January 2005,where it was decided to organise movement for liberation of these lands. In September 2005, Brinda Karat M.P. and Polit Bureau member of CPI(M) also talked to district magistrate on this issue.


From February 15 to April 10, six rounds of talks were held between displaced pattedar peasantry and moneylenders in the presence of revenue officials. But no settlement could be reached due to the reluctance of moneylenders in connivance with government officials and land mafia, to handover the lands to pattedars.


On April 15, moneylenders and their goondas with the support of local police attacked the poor displaced pattedars in Shakti Farm village. Many pattedars were injured. The Police on false report arrested Ahlad Sarkar, Paritosh Viswas, Ramesh, Sudheer Mishtri, Susheel Malakar, Suneel Malakar, Nirmal Pal, Jagdish Viswas, Nirmal Maghi, Gobind Dakua, Shri Nath Baragi, Harendra Majumdar, Sailendra Das and Birendra.  Besides arrest warrant was issued against many others. And local police refused to register FIR against moneylenders. That was done only after the state Kisan leaders approached the district headquarters.


This heinous crime of local police siding with moneylenders and land mafia has exposed the class character of Congress led state government who shed crocodile tears day and night for poor and landless.


On the very next day of attack on April 16, local unit of CPI(M) and Kisan Sabha organised a strong protest demonstration before the Sitarganj police station, which was led by Vijoy Ravat, state secretary of CPI(M), Bacchi Ram Kaunswal, president and Gangadhar Nautial, secretary of state Kisan Sabha.


The movement is continuing. The displaced pattedars are sitting on indefinite dharna on a piece of 3 acres of land in Shakti Farm village. Tension is prevailing because of threat from moneylenders turned land mafia and local police. This is the beginning of first militant land struggle in Uttarakhand after independence.