People's Democracy

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


No. 26

June 27, 2010




First Phase of Bhoomi Sudhar Jagaran Jatha Concludes


Arun Kumar Mishra


AFTER assuming power in Bihar, the NDA government under Nitish Kumar pompously declared that the Land Reform Act would be implemented and that the surplus ceiling, government and benami lands would be acquired and distributed among the homeless and landless. It formed a commission under D Bandopadhyay, a retired bureaucrat from West Bengal, to go into the land question in Bihar and submit a detailed report, so that the government could take appropriate legal steps for comprehensive land reforms. Bandopadhyay was advertised as the main architect of land reform in West Bengal under the Left Front regime, ignoring the fact that Left Front was backed by popular peasant and working class movements when it moved to implement the land reforms there, bringing about a complete change in the correlation of class forces in rural Bengal.




In contrast to Bengal, the Nitish government’s approach was from the very beginning flawed; he was completely dependent on the bureaucracy that sides with the powerful feudal forces in the state. When the Bandopadhyay commission submitted its report, all the bourgeois landlord parties came in defence of the landed gentry, forcing Nitish Kumar to declare in the assembly that his government had nothing to do with the committee’s findings and recommendations. The opposition RJD and LJP came out openly against the committee’s recommendations and went on spreading canards against them.


It is to be noted that 83 per cent of the dalits and 66 per cent of the backwards are landless and it is they who could benefit most from the recommendations. Those championing the cause of social justice for dalits and backwards are making common cause with the feudal lords who are bent upon thwarting any attempts at land reforms in Bihar.


Since then, Bihar has witnessed a bizarre spectacle of bourgeois leaders floating a forum called Kisan Panchayat and spewing venom against Nitish Kumar and Bandopadhyay. In their rally at Patna on May 9, leaders of the RJD, LJP and JD(U) warned the Nitish government against implementing the Bandopadhyay report or face the consequences. This has brought the land reforms agenda to the fore and now it is the Catch 22 situation for Nitish Kumar. He can neither reject nor accept the commission’s recommendations. The BJP, partner in the Bihar government, has openly opposed land reforms, threatening to pull out of the government if land reforms were implemented.


But the Left parties have taken up the issue. A campaign has been launched all across Bihar for the implementation of the commission’s recommendations.




From May 14, the Left took out Bhoomi Sudhar Jagran Jathas simultaneously from Darbhanga and Begusarai.


The first meeting took place at Beuni where 350 acres of land has been liberated; it is now under the possession of the peasants who have put up their huts and are tilling the land. It is also to be noted that in a recent panchayat election, the CPI(M) candidate was defeated through strong arm tactics by the local feudal goons. The result was challenged and the CPI(M) candidate won in the repolling. This elated the villagers and a big meeting of peasants and agricultural workers at 8.30 a m sent off the jatha took place. Popular kisan leader and CPI(M) state secretary V K Thakur inaugurated it.


The second stop was Kharajpur, under Dekuli panchayat, where people were on a dharna on the issue of implementation of pro-poor schemes.


In Kapchahi village, peasants, mostly dalits, are in possession of 174 acres of land. Landlords have tried several times to evict them but in vain. When the Jatha reached the village, it created a new awakening among the homeless and poor peasants of the area. Its message was well received and now they are preparing for another round of struggle.


Sonki is a village where MCC goons killed Nachari Chaupal during a land struggle. Here, 200 acres of land of Sitamarhi Mahant were liberated by challenging the landlord-police-politician nexus. The Mahant has powerful connections with all the ruling class parties, and his daughter, Veena Shahi, is the daughter-in-law of a once powerful Congress leader L P Shahi. The Mahant had gifted his entire land to Veena Shahi, ex-MLA, who is now in JD(U). In between, Bhola Yadav, Laloo Prasad’s private secretary, claimed to have purchased the land that is under the possession of poor peasants. He tried to snatch the land from the peasants but the latter, under the leadership of Kisan Sabha, beat him back. In the background of this development, the Jagran Jatha evoked great enthusiasm and a big meeting took place in the village.


Majhiam village is also known for a big land movement. Kisan Sabha lost a popular leader, Maheshwar Singh, who was murdered by CPI(ML) goons. The peasants of the area have kept the red flag flying and did not allow the CPI(ML) to play its nefarious game. A big meeting here paid floral tributes at Maheshwar Singh’s statue, and vowed to keep his memory alive.


Kusheshwar Sthan is the most inhospitable place in Darbhanga district and known for criminal gangs operating in the area. What is not known is the valour and sacrifices of the peasants of this area for a better life. Under the leadership of Kisan Sabha, land movement is going on in 109 villages of the area.


On the second day, the Jagran Jatha held its first meeting at block headquarters. Peasant cadres of different panchayats assembled there, narrated the present situation and underlined the need to continue the land struggle. They welcomed the initiative of the Kisan Sabha and Khetihar Mazdoor Union to intensify the land struggle in the face of the gang-up of feudal forces under the so called Kisan Panchayat.


The second meeting took place at Jhapra Dak Bungalow as the jatha criss-crossed the district, spreading the message of land struggle and the need of comprehensive land reforms as the key to progress and prosperity of the state.


On the third day, the jatha entered Madhubani district, known for its heroic land struggle and martyrdom of peasant cadres.


Darbhanga Maharaj is the biggest landlord of Bihar but thousands of acres of his land are in possession of the landless peasants of Kapileshwar, a place in Madhubani district where land movement has brought about a big change in rural life and created an awakening. A huge gathering greeted the jatha here.




The next stop was Madhepur, a block headquarters, where took place a brutal attack on Jatha leaders and those who had gathered to listen to them.


In Madhepur, 70 families of Mahadalits belonging to the Musahar (rat eater) caste were residing on a 3400 km long bund which covers Madhubani, Saharsa and others districts of north Bihar.


In February 2010, the government tried to clear the bund  without any alternative arrangement for thousands of these poor and hapless people. Kisan Sabha unit in Saharsa district took up the cause of these people and fought against the government order. After a protracted struggle an agreement was reached between Daharna commissioner and the Kisan Sabha that not a single hut would be removed from the bund without alternative arrangement. But the administration violated this agreement and forced the Mahadalits of Madhepur to clear the bund. They were not provided any other land and were left with no option but to erect their huts in Neema village, along the road running nearby. The feudal forces threatened the mahadalits of dire consequences if they didn’t move out. Under constant threat, they were living a wretched life, bereft of minimum necessities.


On April 22, they destroyed and burnt these huts, looted the belongings were looted and mercilessly beat a kid to death. The CPI(M) intervened against this barbarism. However, the local administration and the police remained mute spectators to such a heinous crime against the most exploited section of the society.


Under the banner of the CPI(M), Mahadalits sat on a dharna before the BDO office on April 28. State party secretary V K Thakur and state Kisan Sabha general secretary Awadhesh Kumar visited the place and addressed a big meeting here took place, despite elaborate police mobilisation. The magistrate on duty assured the leaders of providing alternative land to the homeless in two days. But till date no alternative arrangement has been made.


On May 16, Jagran Jatha reached Madhepur Chowk, half a kilometre from Madhepur block. A meeting was still on when two motorcycle borne youth began to beat a rickshaw-puller who was standing nearby. One woman comrade tried to pacify them but they were in no mood to relent and started beating the same woman. Angered, the audience beat both the youth black and blue. After some time, the two brought their fellows and attacked the meeting with weapons. The hoodlums surrounded Sarangdhar Paswan, state president of Khetihar Mazdoor Union, and dragged him with the intention of killing him. But Kisan Sabha president Lalan Chowdhary compelled the police to intervene and rescue Paswan.


But the incident did not deter the spirit of the Jatha comrades. They moved ahead to reach Laukahi, bordering Nepal. It is a place where recurrence of floods in Bhootahi Balan and Kosi rivers make the life of the sharecroppers miserable. Landlords and those who can afford have already left the area. The sharecroppers, who face the annual flood fury, are united under the Kisan Sabha. They are the masters of the land they till, due to the strength of their organisation.


In Sitamarhi, the jatha travelled through all the places of land struggles, like Pupri, Kharka and Runi Saidpur. Well attended meetings took place in all these places. In Pupri, peasants are in possession of 14 acres of land of Nonpur Mahant.


Shahid Ali, a JD(U) minister in state government, acts as an agent of the landlords and has been trying hard to evict the peasants from 400 acres of land of Ramsewak Singh. Recently, Shahid Ali’s musclemen attacked the peasants, but were beaten back.


An erstwhile RJD MP and minister, Sitaram Singh has bought a portion of the same land under the possession of the peasants. But due to the strong presence of Kisan Sabha, he is not in a position to claim ownership. Some 750 huts have been erected on Saidpur Kothi land. The Kisan Sabha and Khetihar Mazdoor Union have decided to liberate more lands and distribute then among the landless of the area.


The Jagran Jatha also covered Sirsia and addressed a meeting here. Next day it crossed into Muzaffarpur district and held meetings at Musahari, Sahebganj and Ramdaspur.


Musahari is a place which came to prominence due to the naxalite movement and the peace mission undertaken by Jaiprakash Narayan in the block. He and his wife Prabhawati Devi lived there for a year. The dalits and mahadalits of Musahari are now fighting under the banner of Kisan Sabha. The Jatha also visited Sahebganj where a big meeting was held.


East Champaran is a district known for heroic land struggle under Kisan Sabha leadership. Kesaria, Banskothi, Piprakothi, Jhakhia are the places where Jagran Jatha was greeted with revolutionary fervour. These are the places where vast tracts of liberated land are in possession of the poor, landless and homeless peasants.


West Champaran figures among the districts with the highest concentration of land. The district has witnessed big land struggles right from pre-independence days. Still the land concentration has not been broken. The government acquired 500 acres from Baklahar Estate but it is not in its possession and has not been distributed among the rural poor. Such cases abound in Bihar and the Kisan Sabha and Khetihar Mazdoor Union will take up all issues in the coming months. Regarding the bhudan land, the poor have relevant papers but no physical possession.


In Gopalganj and Siwan, the jatha addressed several meetings with large numbers of the rural poor. One meeting was held at the gate of Hathua Estate, about which the Bandopadhyay report said one lakh acres of land were donated to Vinoba Bhave but this land cannot be located and nobody knows where it exists. This massive fraud exposes the nexus between the successive ruling parties and the landlords.


In Mairwa block of Siwan district, the Kisan Sabha liberated 1200 acres of land or more from the Rahimpur landlord and distributed it among the landless who are in physical possession of this land. Kisan Sabha leader Vikram Chaudhary courted martyrdom during the land movement here. Meetings were also held at Ekma and Dawoodpur in Saran district.


The Jagran Jatha rounded off its first phase by visiting several scenes of land movement in Samastipur district, like Mohiddi Nagar, Ujiarpur, Dalsinghsarai, Alampur and Dudhpura. Hundreds of acres of land have been liberated in these areas and distributed among the landless and poor peasants. In several cases, the peasants have not been provided legal rights and face the threat of eviction. The jatha has given them a new hope.


During the jatha press conferences were organised at several district headquarters and its message received wide coverage in print and electronic media.




The second Bhoomi Jagran Jatha started from Chemtha Diara in Begusarai district. All India Kisan Sabha joint secretary N K Shukla flagged it off. The place is known for intense land struggle against Uthri Mahanth. Half a dozen comrades have been killed by landed gentry and its musclemen. MCC marauders, in league with the local landlords, have murdered many of the CPI(M) comrades and destroyed by explosion the house of popular kisan leader Dinesh Prasad Singh. But the poor peasants and agricultural workers of the area bravely repulse such attacks. A martyr fair is organised every year from January 13 to 23, with meetings and processions marking the fair.

Fighting peasants in large numbers warmly greeted the jatha here and heard its message with rapt attention.


Durga Prasad is a dreaded landlord of Bajitpur. Late Comrade Surjeet had once visited the place where poor peasants had been murdered and their huts burnt down.


There is an old history of land struggle against this notorious landlord. A firebrand socialist leader, late Karpoori Thakur had also fought against him but did not initiate any step to seize his surplus land during his chief ministership. A militant movement led by Kisan Sabha liberated 75 acres of land from this landlord and distributed it among the rural poor. The land is still in their possession. The jatha has reinforced their spirit of struggle against the feudal forces who are desperately trying to impose their will.


Begusarai is known for the landlord of Nawkothi, one of the biggest in Bihar. Ayodhya Singh of Sheokumar Mahant owns about 22 thousand acres of land. The Kisan Sabha has fought many a battle against this landlord, liberated hundreds of acres of land and distributed it among the rural poor. The jatha visited Kushmahot village, a centre of militant struggle against this landlord.


Rahua, where popular peasant leader Kameshwar Mahto was murdered during land struggle, was the last stop of the jatha in Begusarai district. Struggle is still going on for homestead and agricultural land.


After rounding off the visit of Begusarai district, the jatha entered Khagaria district where 16 mahadalits were recently gunned down in the remote inhospitable Diara area.




Two of the most turbulent rivers (Bhootahi Balan and Kosi) and almost all the rivers rising from Nepal pass through this district and bring flood havoc in the entire district. Their ever changing courses make the land useless for agriculture and rich landowners try to make the land useful for growing food. It is the marginalised section of the society who make it useful. However, they sometimes grow bumper crop on Diara land due to the rich alluvial soil of the rivers, which become a matter of dispute between the sharecroppers and landowners. The recent carnage in Khagaria Diara reflects the intensity of such disputes in their most inhuman form.


The jatha visited Amni village, a centre of many struggles; half a dozen comrades have laid down their lives here. These included veteran kisan leader and district CPI(M) secretary Anandi Singh who was murder by the landlords’ henchmen. Rehabilitation of flood victims of the area poses the biggest challenge as the government has no plan for it and people are left to fend for themselves. Kisan Sabha and Khetihar Mazdoor Union are always in the forefront in taking up these issues.


Malpa village is notorious for social oppression. Panchayat pradhan and CPI(M) district committee member Ramswaroop Sharma was murdered by the landlord’s goons.


In surrounding districts, 3,000 acres of land are in hands of sharecroppers but they have not been given legal rights. Rousing reception was given to the jatha traversing through this area.


After this, the jatha reached Kehar Mandal Tola where sharecroppers’ movement is very strong. Murli Mandal, a peasant leader spearheading the movement in this area, was murdered.


The jatha then moved into Saharsa district, a citadel of socialist movement in earlier days. The Sonbarsa Mahant is one of the biggest landlords of Saharsa, having 2200 acres of land. The Kisan Sabha under the leadership of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati had once launched a movement against the landlord’s ancestors. The socialists had joined the communists in this movement. But after their election debacle in 1952, the socialists sided with the landlords. Since then it is the Kisan Sabha which has been carrying on the fight. In a big meeting held at Sonbarsa, braving scorching sun, about 2,000 people gathered to hear the jatha leaders.


The next stop was Sulindabad where 84 Musahar (mahadalit) families have erected their huts on government land and are fighting for legal rights under the Kisan Sabha banner.


Next day the jatha reached Puraini. Kulanand Pandit, popular Kisan Sabha leader of the area, was murdered here by feudal forces for championing the cause of the oppressed sections. His widow is now carrying on the struggle. There was enthusiastic response to the jatha. The people who had gathered on the occasion, fondly remembered the contribution made by Kulanand Pandit.


Alamnagar was the next stop in Madhepura district. The Kisan Sabha has liberated thousands of acres of land here from the Alamnagar Mahant and the rural poor are in physical possession of this land. The village of BP Mandal, chairman of the Mandal commission, falls under the Alamnagar block. The jatha held a massive meeting at Alamnagar and stayed here at night.


Next morning the jatha visited Rajni and Murliganj, two important places of peasant movement. At Rajni, Kapileshwar Das was murdered by the feudal elements. In Murliganj, the CPI(M) has been fighting against the deep rooted corruption in pro-poor schemes.


Having covered many important spots of struggle in Madhepura district, the jatha entered Supaul district. In between, two comrades could not continue the journey and were sent to Patna for treatment.


At Zadia in Supaul district, five hundred acres of surplus and government land have been liberated and distributed among the landless. Balram Singh Yadav survived a merciless, fatal attack here.


Oppression of women is widespread in the area. Women of poor families are playthings for the strong and the mighty. Rapes are common and nobody dares to complain. The CPI(M) has been relentlessly fighting against this situation. Now women are coming forward to fight for dignity.


In Chhatapur block, many land struggles are going on. In Kalika, 300 tribals have erected huts on a landlord’s land but are yet to get legal rights.


Balua Bazar is the Mishra Empire. Former union minister late Lalit Narayan Mishra and former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra possessed vast tracts of land in this area, and tried to save their vast fortune by fair or foul means. Any opposition was put down ruthlessly. Mashiba and his father were murdered at the behest of Mishra brothers as they had mobilised the poor people of Balua Bazar to challenge the might of these Congress stalwarts. Bachcha Mandal is carrying on the militant legacy of Mashiha and his father. He has been jailed many times.


Everywhere tumultuous reception were accorded to the jatha and meetings held on the way.


Pauwakhali in Kishanganj district is a spot of land struggle where six comrades have been murdered. But the surplus land captured during the movement is in the possession of the rural poor.




In recent years, tea plantations have started in a big way in and around Kishanganj district. This has created a new problem in the district. Tribals are in possession of vast tracts of government land, but now the government is leasing out this land to the tea planters and brick kiln owners. These new masters are evicting the tribals, which has resulted in large scale clashes.


The CPI(M) has intervened and 6000 applications from tribals have been submitted to the district magistrate, demanding proper rehabilitation before eviction. A big convention of tribals was organised and action plan chalked out to fight the government order.


Since pre-independence days, Purnea has been the spot of big movements. Land concentration is very high in this district; 3 lakh 5 thousand and 499 acres of land have been declared surplus.


Due to the Kosi’s ravages, it is the sharecroppers who till the land. The nexus of the successive governments and the landowners can be ganged from the fact that once an honest DM tried to implement the land reform act but was immediately removed from the district on unfounded charges. Erstwhile Election Commissioner and one time DM of Purnea, Lyngdoh has candidly accepted it in his memoirs. The peasants whose names were recorded during the survey were not given receipts and thus they could not claim ownership.


Congress stalwart Lakshmi Narayan Sudhanshu’s name is linked with the mass killing of tribals in his village.


Purnea has produced many prominent peasant leaders who fought tirelessly for the rights of sharecroppers and for the distribution of surplus and government land. Nakshtra Malakar, a socialist, started the movement which continues till date.


Under the dynamic leadership of Ajit Sarkar, Kisan Sabha liberated more than 10,000 acres of land and distributed it among the dalits and other deprived sections of society. They are still in possession of this land, and are determined to fight against eviction.


Everywhere in Purnea, the jatha got rousing reception and thousands of people gathered in different parts of the district to listen to the leaders.


Here we have lost a jewel of the peasant movement, Ajit Sarkar, and dozens of local heroes who laid down their lives for the cause of the downtrodden.


Though some weaknesses have crept in after Comrade Sarkar’s assassination, the jatha has enthused the masses to take on the might of the landlords. The assassin, Pappu Yadav, and his gangs are languishing in jail and the comrades of Purnea have been firmly pursuing the legal battle against all odds to get the culprits punished.


The next district was Katihar where Kurshela Estate owns 22,000 acres of land and has its own private air strip for the landing of its plane.


The Kisan Sabha has relentlessly against this fought dreaded landlord, liberated hundreds of acres of land and distributed it among the poor. Three comrades have lost their lives here.


Two big meetings were organised --- one at Barsoi and another at Kurshela.


The jatha then entered the north part of Bhagalpur district and addressed a well attended meeting in Naugachia Diara. Here the Parbatta Sahu family, one of the biggest landlords, has  28,000 acres of land. The Kisan Sabha has been fighting here since the 1960s for the distribution of surplus land and for the rights of the sharecroppers. Many comrades have laid down their lives in these movements. A meeting also took place in Nathnagar diara which always faces the threat of erosion.


Thus the first phase of the Bhoomi Sudhar Jagaran Jatha, which started from May 14, covered the entire north Bihar before it came to an end. The response was encouraging. The jatha has created a lot of enthusiasm while leaders of the Kisan Sabha and Khetihar Mazdoor Union have got valuable inputs which will help them in formulating their demands and plan of action.


One should also pay left handed compliment to the Kisan Panchayat whose aggressive anti-land reform campaign has brought the land question to the fore. This has created a right atmosphere for launching a statewide movement for implementation of land reforms.


CITU unions, employees unions and service sector unions extended much financial help to the jatha programme and the June 14 rally. They put up posters supporting land reforms and campaigned for it.