On the occasion of CPI(ML)’s 4th Purnea District Conference, a rally was held at the district headquarters on 15 March with the slogan – “Plant Flags on All Government, Sikmi (sharecropping) and Bhoodan Land; Integrate All Poor People With the Struggle for Land and Livelihood!” The rally acted as a warning for the district administration, and the Purnea DM called an emergency meeting of all concerned officers of the district’s 14 blocks, and gave orders that all land disputes, especially those relating to Section 48-D and E, be resolved at the earliest; 3 decimals of land be allocated to all landless households and the latter be given possession of the allocated land. Yet, the pressure of the local feudal forces on the administration ensured that the orders were not implemented.
In Purnea, most farming is done by sharecroppers. But landlords in collusion with the district administration and with the help of stay orders from the High Court, have been evicting peasants from land that the latter have been cultivating for years, and even destroying standing crops in the peasants’ fields.
According to the legal provisions for Sikmi Bataidars (sikmi sharecroppers), if the latter cultivate a piece of land continuously for 12 years, they get occupancy rights for that land. However, landlords and administration are falsely propagating that after the sikmi sharecropper’s death, the Sikmi right to occupancy lapses, and sharecroppers are being evicted on this basis.
There are also several cases of fake thumbprints being used to falsely claim that sharecroppers’ land has been handed over to others.
Another big issue is that of poor people failing to get legal rights over homestead land, in spite of having settled on raiyyati land, government land and gairmazarua land for over 50 years. The legal provisions mandate that people settled on raiyyati land for 12 years must be allocated land papers a maximum of 12 decimal land for ‘makan and sahan’ (homestead). Further, the government has announced that all landless poor who are not settled on any land, will get 3 decimals of homestead land. The poor demand that they should get this land where they already live, so that they benefit from government schemes.
In the Maikhand village of Badhara Kothi block, criminals and strongmen have, for years, grabbed 5 acres of land in the name of public use. On 18 March 2012, people led by the CPI(ML) planted flags on the land to free it. In the course of the struggle, when a daroga (SHO) misbehaved with a local leader, people beat up the SHO and forced him to apologise. In the face of the presence of a large number of people armed with bows and arrows, the police did not dare to unleash repression.
On 21 March, the administration organised a panchayat to resolve the land issue. Scores of people armed with bows and arrows and other traditional and household weapons, led by district committee member Comrade Lalan Singh, arrived at the panchayat. In the face of this mobilisation, the criminals and strongmen armed with firearms stayed away, while the police with their rifles kept their distance. The party’s presence proved stronger at the panchayat. Party representatives made it clear to the administration that the matter of this particular land would be discussed only when the records for all panchayat land and government land in the whole block was placed in front of the public; ceiling surplus land be redistributed among the poor by holding camps within a month; occupancy papers be distributed to Sikmi bataidars in the same way; bataidars who have been sharecropping for more than 12 years be registered under Section 48 E; and poor households settled on land for more than 12 years be given papers for 12 decimals of land. The administration was forced to accept these demands. Though the administration is yet to implement these demands effectively, the struggle has broken the people’s fear of the criminals and strongmen, and increased the confidence and assertion of the landless poor and sharecroppers in five villages.
In the Kukraun No.1 of Dhamdaha block, 30 green-card-holding peasants of the Uraon (adivasi) hamlet had sown crops in 30 acres of land. Last year, the sub-divisional administration, citing a supposed order, had the crops destroyed, and had cases filed against all the card-holders for ‘breaking the peace.’ The peasants were close to JD(U) and BSP. This year, a powerful JD(U) mukhiya secretively took land on lease and began evicting the card-holders. This time, they contacted our party.
On 20 March, the JD(U) mukhiya had the crops sown by the card-holders cut even while unripe. The angry people cut the crops on the land leased by the mukhiya. The mukhiya’s goons who attacked the people received a thrashing. Then, the JD(U) Rupauli MLA’s husband, notorious criminal and Bhawanipur block pramukh Awadhesh Mandal summoned a large contingent of police, and a force of criminals, seeking to launch an attack on the people. But seeing the large number of people armed with bows and arrows, the goons fled and the police too stepped back.
On the same day, when Awadhesh Mandal with his goons tried to help a lumpen neo-rich landowner grab a poor Sikmi Bataidar’s occupancy land in Bishnupur, people armed with traditional weapons attacked the goons and forced them to flee.
On 6th April, more than 500 people armed with traditional weapon participated in a mass meeting at Bishnupur Chowk. The meeting was addressed by party district secretary Pankaj Kumar Singh, Com. Lalan Singh and several others.
On 20 March, in Kataiyya village of Bhawani block, two local woman leaders of the party led a movement to plant flags on 35 acres of ceiling surplus land of the old feudal Badahari Estate. The land was tilled and moong crop sown. Egged on by the feudal forces who resented the loss of control over the land, the police filed cases against several of the comrades.
Similar struggles to redistribute ceiling surplus land are on in several other panchayats. In the Kachahari Balua panchayat, 21 acres of ceiling surplus land, which the local poor had been hoping for redistribution, was sold to a landlord. When the latter came to get the land ploughed, people resisted him, defended the land, and even erected some huts on the land. The huts were razed once, but people erected them again. Around his time, the people got in touch with our party. The party’s organised efforts have till now deterred police from taking action.
In Pokhariya tola of the same panchayat, four homes of mahadalit families were burnt down on 16 March, as punishment for their participation in the 15 March Rally of CPI(ML). The police refused to file an FIR. On 17 March, on the initiative of local party comrades, scores of people armed with bows and arrows, gheraoed the police station and forced the police to file FIRs against the assailants.
In the Gopalnagar dalit basti of Bohra panchayat of Banmakhi block, people planted flags on 9 acres of gairmazarua commons land. The local middlemen, landlords, police and administration, tried threats as well as all sorts of underhand methods to vacate the people from the land. On 5 April, CPI(ML) held a mass meeting at Prahlad Nagar, Banmankhi which has infused confidence in the struggle.
The CPI(ML) is striving to expand and consolidate the ongoing land struggles in Purnea district. In May, a ‘Land Rights Justice Yatra’ has begun in Purnea, where the party is conducting intensive campaigns and protests all over the district.