Amid a protest march taken out in Gujarat by members of Dalit community over allocation of land and other demands, four Dalit families in Lavara village of Dhanera district were given back their agricultural land from illegal occupants almost after four decades.
The district administration of Banaskantha gave back the tracts of lands, which were actually owned by the Dalit families, but were allegedly forcibly being used by some villagers.
Dalit leader and convener of Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch, Jignesh Mevani, whose ‘Azadi Kooch’ (Freedom March) ended at Dhanera town today, reached nearby Lavara village with other Dalit activists and celebrated the “victory” by putting a blue flag on one of the allocated pieces of land, a statement said.
“While four Dalit families in Lavara got possession of around nine acres of land yesterday, three such families from this village would get around 2.5 acres of land each in the next few days,” Banaskantha Collector Dilip Rana said.
When asked Rana, however, claimed that the land allocation had nothing to do with the Dalit protest march.
“On paper, these families are the actual owners. They were given this land by the government in the 1980s. We have no idea who was using it or how they were not able to use it. We gave them possession as soon as we received their representation,” he said.
Rana declined to comment about the charges of illegal possession of land by some persons for these many years.
The ‘Freedom March’ led by Mevani that had begun in Mehsana town on July 12, ended at Dhanera today. The march was planned to mark the first anniversary of the Una dalit thrashing incident, which had rocked the state.
The key agenda of the march was to mount pressure on Gujarat government to allocate agricultural land to Dalits, so that they can give up their ancestral work of cattle skinning or sewage cleaning and start a new life with dignity.
Meanwhile, Kantibhai Solanki, one of those who got back his land yesterday, approached Dhanera police today with the help of Dalit activists and lodged a complaint against four men, who he alleged had been using the land for the last 35 years.
In the complaint, Solanki alleged that the agricultural lands had been allocated by the government to his father around 35 years back.
He claimed that some people of Lavara village had grabbed the land until the Collector gave its possession back to him yesterday.
After receiving the complaint, Dhanera police lodged an FIR of criminal intimidation as well as under various sections of Prevention of Atrocities Act, said Dhanera police inspector, G J Chavda.
“Solanki alleged that when he was putting up a fence around the land, four persons of a particular community, who allegedly grabbed that land, had threatened him of dire consequences. We have not only taken the complaint, but also provided police protection to him,” he officer said.