How long will you deny justice to Dalits in Uttarakhand....
Mr Bhuvan Chandra Khanduri,
Chief Minister of Uttarakhand,
Chief Minister's Secretariat,
Dehradun November 5th, 2011
Re: Honouring the Nainital High Court's Judgement in the Escort Farm case
We write you with great concern and anguish for the failure of Uttarakhand state to provide justice to nearly 150 Dalit families living in and around village Harinagar and Kundeswari, in Kashipur block of district Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar, who have been waiting for land redistribution for the land declared ceiling surplus under the UPZALR act in 1990s by the commissioner of Kumaon. This was upheld by Allahabad High Court in 1992 which was again challenged by P.N.Mehta of M/s Escorts Farms Ltd yet the Supreme Court in its historic judgement upheld the Allahabad High Court Order in February 2004.
After the Supreme Court upheld land ceiling, we thought that the state of Uttarakhand will implement the court order which was clearly meant according to ceiling laws but very unfortunately without caring the human aspect and the issue of social justice as well as the claims of the Dalit families who were actually tilling the land during the time in 1990 when M/s Escorts Farms Ltd of Mr P.N.Mehta in active connivance of administration mercifully dislocated the 150 landless Dalit families who created a new world of their own by dint of their hard work. The administration from the day one was hell bent to deny the Dalits a right to have their land.
The dismal state of Dalits and their isolation in Uttarakhand is well known to be described here. The antipathy of the political parties to raise this issue in the past 15 years is an example of how our polity take up the issue of Dalits in the region. Yet, we have fought the issue with great conviction in rule of law and our constitution.
After the Supreme Court judgement too, the Uttarakhand authorities were not ready to take over the land from the farm house which used every trick to circumvent the rule of ceiling act by creating fictitious companies and group of people which were clearly described by the Supreme Court as people who should be shown no mercy. In fact, on February 5th, 2001, Shri Bansidhar Bhagat wrote a letter to district magistrate Udham Singh Nagar, ( letter number 831/vip/2000 dated 5.02.2001) on our complaint to investigate the activities of the land mafia in the region who with active connivance of the district administration were allotting the land declared surplus under Ceiling Act, to the people from Punjab without providing any papers etc. In fact none of the residents of the area would have any paper of land but they would claim having been there for 'years'.
On January 2nd, 2006, the State Chief Minister Shri N.D.Tiwari under pressure of violating Supreme Court order asked the state administration to take the possession of the said 1126.67 acres of land. The way the entire issue was dealt showed the farce in the entire exercise. The government demolished various houses of the 'farmers' who were declared encroachers by the Supreme Court and later on redistributed the same land to nearly 200 families. Hence the illegal owners have now been legalised by the state government. Ofcourse, the politicians from Punjab, Akali Dal and BJP were in the forefront of fighting for the 'rights' of the 'farmers'. We all know all the land ceiling act has been mercilessly and violently violated in the Tarai region of Uttarakhand.
The shocking aspect of all these is the continuous neglect to the issue of the Dalits in the region. Why have the government officials, political parties continue to deny the rights to the Dalits in the region. We filed a petition with the Lokayukta Justice S.H.Raza who declared in his final report that the state of Uttarakhand has violated the Supreme Court order. The attitude of the government officials in Uttarakhand was clearly caste-ist in nature and thoroughly anti Dalit. We wanted to know under which category the land was given to these 200 Sikhs after the government took over the land.
We can understand that your government was not there during the period but your party has a role in thwarting the Supreme Court judgement. Land Ceiling Act is clearly design to provide social justice to all the landless people particularly Dalits, addivasis and women but definitely the government officials had other ideas. They felt that the government has enormous rights over their land and can redistribute it to whoever it feels. This was challenged by me in the Uttarakhand High Court on October 19th, 2010 under PIL No 75,2010 about which Justice Barin Ghosh, Chief Justice of High Court of Uttarakhand said " The petitioner contends that the land acquired under UP Zamindari Abolition and Land Reform Act, 1950 can only be dealt with in the manner provided in Section 198 of the said Act In other words it is the contention of the petitioner that the land, which has come in the possession of the State, in view of the provision contained in the said Act, can only be settled in favour of the persons named and in accordance with the preference specified in Section 198 of the said Act and the State Government has no authority to utilise the said land for any other purpose.' The state counsel said that the state government has unfettered rights of deciding about the acquired land to any one.
On 26th October 2010 Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court Justice Barin Ghosh passed the order accepting our position and asked the state government to redistribute the land according to the provisions Section 198 of Uttar-Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reform Act, 1950.
We however want to mention shocking details here and completely lack of coordination between the standing Counsel of the government of Uttarakhand in the High Court, who did not know anything happening at the ground. The standing counsel suggested that the government has not done anything with the acquired land while the government's own records suggested that over 200 people were already redistributed land which violated the basic principle of the land ceiling act. The officials were unable to convince the Lokayukta that time whether their act was according to the provisions and spirit of Supreme Court order.
The court however accepted the contention of the Standing Counsel that the government has not acted there because of various problems, while the fact is that the government on January 1st-2nd and 3rd, 2006 distributed about 450 acres of land to nearly 200 families who were actually declared encroachers by the Supreme Court of India in its judgement in 2004 and suggesting that no mercy should be shown to them.
We felt that finally the Uttarakhand government will act and provide relief to the Dalit families hence we did not insist on our charges against the standing counsel for openly misguiding the court about the said land.
It is over one year now since the High Court Order came and it is with deep sense of regret that we are approaching you that the government's in Uttarakhand have not shown any will to implement the Supreme Court order despite a clear guide line from the High Court in Nainital as how should the land be redistributed.
We are enclosing all the main documents including the high court order in this regard in the hope that your government will soon take and action. In case it is not done, we will have to approach the High Court and Supreme Court for the clear case of contempt of the Court order by the state of Uttarakhand.
We are looking forward for a speedy action from your side so that the Dalits in Uttarakhand may feel that government has honoured its constitutional obligations. It is rare that despite so much of miscarriage of justice by the state authorities the Dalits of the state still are looking for constitutional means to provide them justice. We congratulate for passing a Lokpal bill though without ensuring participation of Dalits and OBCs in it, yet we hope you will find time to read Justice S.H.Raza's scathing indictment of Uttarakhand government officials for violating the spirit of Supreme Court order. It is therefore not important whether you bring this law or that, but the implementation of it. We hope that your government will act on it and provide justice to the displaced Dalits of village Harinagar and Kundeswari who fought against the might of the land mafias and still opted to believe in the constitution of India and did not pick up guns to get speedy justice. That need to be appreciated by you and your government if it want peace and prosperity in Tarai region as social inequalities and mafia raj on land will only precipitate the matter and no action for the sake of vote will create a big distrust between different communities.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
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