Is Judiciary Biased Against Adivasis?

Gladson Dungdung

On 15 July, 2012, in the afternoon, the weather was cool, the sky was cloudy and it was drizzling. Hundreds of Adivasis of Nagri village entered into the central hall of the Birsa Agriculture University, Ranchi, with the single point agenda to get back their agricultural lands, which had been captured by the State with the power of the Gun. In fact the Birsa Agriculture University was also built on their land after snatching it from their ancestors. They have been resisting the forceful and illegal land acquisition because the present government has been attempting to grab rest of their land in the name of growth and development. They are well aware that if they surrender their land in front of the Gun, they'll become landless, homeless and helpless. Their survival, identity and existence will vanish. Therefore, they were there to attend a meeting called by the "High Power Committee" constituted by the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Arjun Munda, on the basis of an order of the Jharkhand High Court, which states that the Government should resolve the land row of Nagri within a week otherwise the court will directly deal with the land owners.

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When the meeting began, the villagers told the High Power Committee that they'll not surrender their land at any cost even if they have to face bullets while resisting for it. Therefore, the government should return their agricultural lands, which have been captured by the State with the terror of Gun so that they would go for the cultivation as the Monsoon is in its peak. The Social and Rights Activists also echoed their voices in support of the villagers. After hearing the concerns of villagers, Social and Rights Activists, the Chairperson of the committee and Revenue Minister Mathura Mahto assured them that the committee will take a decision in favour of the villagers. However, the villagers were not satisfied with the assurance and started raising slogans because they were expecting for some concrete result as their case was dismissed by the Jharkhand High Court and when they approached the Supreme Court, the Court simply didn't admit it.

nag_24First of all, let's understand the land issue of Nagri. The Adivasi dominated village "Nagri" is situated at a distance of 15 km from Ranchi, the capital city of Jharkhand. On 23 November, 2011, the Jharkhand Government began to capture 227.71 acres of fertile land of the villagers and handed over the entitlement of the major part of the land to the IIM, the IIIT and the Law University. Thus these institutions started constructing the boundary wall. The government claims that the land was acquired in 1957-58 for the extension of the 'Birsa Agriculture University and Seed Bank' under the 'public purpose' provided in the section 17 (4) of the Land Acquisition Act 1984. However, Rs, 155,147.88 was allocated for the compensation but out of 153 Raiyats (tenants), 128 had declined the compensation offered and merely 25 Raiyats of a particular community had received it. When 128 Raiyats declined the compensation, the Government deposited their money Rs. 1,33,732 in the treasury but they were not informed.

In 2008, the Jharkhand Government started acquisition of 12.6 acres of land for the proposed 'Ring Road' but the Raiyats resisted against it and when it was taken forcefully, they approached the Jharkhand High Court for relief. However, the Court did not accept the claim of the Raiyats on the land and merely ordered the Government to pay compensation with the addition of 15 percent interest and closed the case. Interestingly, when the land was supposed to be acquired, it costs Rs. 7 per decimal and today the same land is worth Rs. 1.5 lakh. The Government is willing to pay merely 1.55 lakh for 227.71 acres of land, which is worth Rs. 341.5 crore today. The final call of the Raiyats is that they simply want their land back and don't want to bid for it at any cost precisely because the land is only source of their survival, identity and existence, and the compensation money will not serve their purposes. They say that once the compensation amount is fished, they'll be nowhere.

nag_1The Adivasis of Nagri, have been knocking each and every door of democracy but they are not being heard anywhere. In January 2012, the government deployed 3 companies of Rapid Action Force (RAF) and bulldozed the fields just when the winter crops, mostly potatoes and pulses, were to be harvested. The RAF also destroyed wheat, gram and other crops. And when the villagers strongly protested against it, the Government imposed section 144 of the Indian Penal Code within the distance of 1 km of the project area and the villagers were not even allowed to move on their own land. When they strongly resisted against it, an FIR was filed against 12 villagers including 85 year-old Dhuchu Toppo in allegation of breaching of peace. Ironically, Dhuchu Toppo could not even walk properly but he was a threat to peace in the region. However, when the construction work of boundary wall was started, the villagers again went to the Jharkhand High Court and pleaded to stop the construction work on their land; the Court rejected their petition on 26 April, 2012. After decline of the Court to hear their plea, the villagers sat in indefinite protest on the spot and also gathered support from nearby villagers and outsiders and halted the construction work. Their sit in protest went on for a record 125 days in the history of displacement movement.

On the other hand, on 30 April, 2012, while hearing a public interest litigation filed by the Bar Association of the Jharkhand High Court, pleading for the completion of construction work of the Law University Campus, the Jharkhand High Court ordered the state government to start the construction work within 48 hours. Finally, the villagers went to the Supreme Court through a Special Leave Petition (SLP) with the last hope to get justice. However, they were not only denied justice but also humiliated in the Supreme Court. On 28 June, 2012, a legislator Bandhu Tirkey and a few villagers were present in the Supreme Court and they were shocked to see the Judges' behaviour. The vacation bench was hearing the petition and while hearing it, Justice H.S. Gokhle and Justice Ranjna Prakash Desai didn't even open the file and threw it on the ground. They said, "Acquisition of the concerned land has taken place in 1957-58, we do not see any reason to interfere with the impugned judgement." They dismissed the petition.

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Since, Nagri village comes under the Fifth Schedule Area in the state of Jharkhand, as per provisions made in the Indian Constitution, where the Governor is the constitutional head who has been empowered by the President of India with special power to issue Public Notification and Regulation to protect and promote the interest of Adivasis in Scheduled Area and thus maintain 'Peace & Good Government'. Therefore, the Villagers also went to meet the Governor several times and pleaded with him to intervene in the case. However, the governor did nothing for the Raiyats. The villagers could see and believe that the Supreme Court, High Court, Governor, State Government and the Police are against them; therefore they'll not get justice if they don't fight on the street. They became angry against the 'state' and determined not to surrender their land at any cost even if they have to sacrifice their lives. A billion dollar question for them was how will they survive if they lose only source of their livelihood i.e. land? Finally, they decided to save their land at the cost of their lives and the behaviour of the Supreme Court fuelled their anger.

nag_3On 4 July, 2012, they gathered near the site of the IIM and started breaking the boundary wall. They destroyed the boundary wall of one side of the IIM in presence of the Rapid Action Force. Meanwhile, the Sub-Divisional Officer of Sadar (Ranchi), Shekhar Jamuar reached the spot and ordered a lathi charge. The clash started between villagers and the police forces. The Police forces not only beat the villagers with lathis but also pelted stones on them. Consequently, Dubhan Toppo, Dukhni Toppo, Jammi Toppo and Bandhni Toppo got severe injuries and were admitted to the Rajendra Institute of Medical Science, Ranchi. However, the police filed an FIR against 100 villages alleging that they attacked the police and also destroyed the government property. The police also arrested Jammi Toppo, Bandhni Toppo, Rama Tirkey and Chhoto Toppo. Since, Jammi Toppo and Bandhni Toppo were injured severely therefore, they were sent to RIMS for treatment under the police custody but Rama Tirkey and Chhotu Toppo were sent to Jail under the charge of attempt to murder the police personnel.

nag_17On the next day, the villagers sat on the road and declared an indefinite road block of Ranchi-Patratu Highway demanding the persons arrested to be released and the case withdrawn immediately. The People's organizations, Rights Groups, Political parties, student unions and intellectuals also joined the protest against the terror of the State. There were a series of protests across the state in support of the Nagri People's Movement. Meanwhile, the villagers also got the support of Shibu Soren the chairperson of staring committee (Govt of Jharkhand) and two Cabinet Ministers of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha also openly supported the villagers. The Minister of Revenue and Land Reform, Mathura Mahto said that injustice has been done to the Raiyats of Nagri by the government. Hence, the Government was unable to deal with the situation.

After seeing the people's resistance, the Jharkhand High Court also changed its behaviour. On 10 July 2012, the Court ordered the state government to find out the ways with the villagers within a week. On the basis of the order, the Chief Minister constituted a five member 'High Power Committee' under the chairmanship of Mathura Mahto, the Minister of Revenue and Land Reform along with four bureaucrats as members including N.N. Pandey, Secretary (Revenue and Land Reform), Sukhdev Singh, Secretary (Finance Dept), Surendra Singh, Commissioner (South Chhotanagpur) and Vinay Chaubey, Deputy Commissioner (Ranchi). The committee called its first meeting on 14 July but the Raiyats declined to participate in it. They said that if the government wants to talk to them, then the representatives must come to the spot and secondly the delegation should have Adivasi officers in majority. Meanwhile, the villagers organized a Jan Panchayat at Nagri on July 15, where more than 10 thousand people participated. They had also invited Shibu Soren in the Jan Panchayat, where he said that the agriculture land will not be given to the government and the villagers should start ploughing their land. Since, Shibu Soren is head of the coalition government therefore it had a ripple impact in the state. The support of Shibu Soren fuelled the Nagri movement. Finally, the High Power Committee decided to meet the villagers near their village, therefore, the meeting was organized at Birsa Agriculture University, Kanke on July 16.

nag_13On 16 July, 2012, the Jharkhand High Court also asked a number of questions to the state government while hearing the petition of the Bar Association in the matter of Law University. The Court asked the State Government whether it is government policy that the law will prevail or issues will be decided on the roads in all matters in future? Whether the land in dispute is the only or last land which is cultivable land, acquired after coming into force of the Act of 1894 in the state of Bihar and now in the state of Jharkhand till the year 2012? Whether non-acceptance of the compensation by cultivators will nullify the land acquisition proceedings undertaken under the Act of 1894? Whether the state government has taken a decision that all lands which have been acquired after the year 1894 or at least since 1957-58, and it was cultivable at that time, shall be declared deacquisitioned and will be returned to the cultivators? Why this inequitable decision will be for those persons only acquisition of whose land has not been violently protested when possession of the land was taken over and whether the Government will be guided by law of violence and will not hear the law abiding persons, who obeyed the law? And if the state government takes a decision that no cultivable land should be acquired, then whether that decision will be prospective in nature or retrospective in operation?

The seven pages order seems to be clearly anti-Adivasis and willing to facilitate the land grab from Adivasis of Nagri village. Needless to say that the people of Jharkhand have been raising their endless voices against the Legislative and the Executive but in the case of Nagri the people have also questioned the functioning of the Judiciary, which is of course not a good sign for democracy. But do people have any other choice? The pertinent questions are: why are the people questioning the Judiciary? Has the Judiciary become anti-Adivasis? Does the Judiciary favour the bigwigs? One needs to find out the answer. If one would closely see the behaviour, intention and orders of the Jharkhand High Court, one would definitely say that the Judiciary is not only anti-Adivasis but it is also anti-poor, anti-Raiyats and anti-Jharkhandis. Dr. Ram Dayal Munda had shared his experiences with the Indian Judiciary in 2007. According to him the Judiciary has become anti-people, hence, from where will these people get justice? He had said, "When we approach the Judiciary, we are scolded. The Judges say, 'We cannot hear the Adivasis. These people don't talk sense'."

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Let's go deeper into this case. When the Raiyats halted the construction work, the Bar Association filed a PIL in the Jharkhand High Court on 3 May, 2012. One would question: why did the Bar Association file a case in the High Court instead of the Law University? Is the Bar Association really worried about the development of the state or its intention was something else? Was the Law University incapable of filing a case or it had some other legal obstacles? The fact is that according to the 'National University for Research and Studies on Law, Ranchi Act 2010' enacted by the Jharkhand Legislative Assembly in 2010, the Chief Justice of the Jharkhand High Court will be the Chancellor of the University. The National University for Research and Studies on Law (NURSL), Ranchi, was inaugurated in 2010 by its first Chancellor and the Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court, Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra. When Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra was elevated as the Judge of the Supreme Court in August, 2010, Justice Bhagwati Prasad was elevated as the Chief Justice of the Jharkhand High Court and he became the Chancellor of the NURSL too.

Presently, Justice Prakash Tatia is in the capacity of the Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court and is also working as the Chancellor of the NURSL, Ranchi. Interestingly, Justice Prakash Tatia has been hearing the PIL filed by the Bar Association regarding the land dispute between the Law University and the Raiyats of Nagri village. This is why the Law University didn't file the case in the court and it went through the Bar Association. It would not have been possible for Justice Prakash Tatia to hear the case if the NURSL, Ranchi had filed the case in the High Court. However, the most important question that may be asked is whether the Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court has legal or moral rights to hear this case? Is it not a clear case of conflict of interest? Can a lion be allowed to pronounce judgement in a case between a lamb and a lion? Even if the responsibility is given what would be the judgement? Will the lion say that since, the lamb's ancestors used to live in the territory therefore the lamb should be allowed to graze the green grass? How can a person heading a constitutional body misuse his power and authority like this? Is it not a mockery of the judiciary?

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The Jharkhand High Court has given five orders in this case till date, and each and every order seems to be full of bias. Let's examine some of the significant points in the orders. On 16 July, 2012, the Jharkhand High Court has raised the question whether it is government policy that law will prevail or the issues will be decided on road in all matters in future? The fact is the Raiyats of Nagri village had opposed the forceful and illegal land acquisition in 1957-58, therefore, the government was unable to acquire their land. However, the government played a trick and deceived the cultivators. The compensation amount was deposited in the treasury and land was presumed to be acquired under the Land Acquisition Act 1894. But in reality, the villagers were neither informed about it nor were their entitlements dismissed in the revenue record. Hence, the Raiyats have possession of the land. They have also paid revenue of the land to the government till 2011. The most important thing is that some of the Raiyats have sold their land to others and it was also registered in buyers' name by the Circle Officer of Kanke, which means the land was not legally acquired by the Government. Therefore, how can the government declare a land acquired when Raiyats are not ready to bid for their land? Is it only because a colonial Act (Land Acquisition Act 1894) says so?

The government claims that the land was acquired for the Birsa Agriculture University but the fact is the University has declined it. In 2008, the BAU said that it does not own the land when it was asked for a no-objection certificate from the state road construction department, which wanted to construct the 'Ring Road' over the land. It means that the government has been illegally and forcefully acquiring the land on the power of the gun. The High Court is also not ready to hear the Raiyats' plea though they have right over the land and produced the entitlement papers in front of the Court. When the court is not ready to accept the official land papers of 60 years, deny the Fifth Schedule provision and CNT Act, then what will they do? Of course, if the democratic institutions are determined to deny the rights and claim of the Raiyats, they will come on to the road and take a decision because this is a democratic country, where democracy is of the people, for the people and by the people. How can someone decide about the destiny of the villagers in a closed AC room illegally? How can Judges of the Jharkhand High Court forget that the India's freedom movement and the autonomy movement of Jharkhand were both also fought on the roads, not in A.C. Rooms?

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The Jharkhand High Court has been attempting to justify the forceful and illegal acquisition of the land. Let's presume that the land was acquired in 1957-58 and also find out whether the Raiyats' claim is illegal as the Court has stated in its orders. The land of Nagri village was acquired under the section 17 (4) of the Land Acquisition Act 1894 for the 'public purpose' in urgency. In the case of urgency, the land was supposed to be acquired within 15 days of the public notification and it should be free from all encumbrances. But in this case, the government didn't take possession till December 2011. The urgency is also clearly mentioned in section 17 (2) that the necessary to acquire the immediate possession of any land for the purpose of maintaining any structure or system pertaining to irrigation, water supply, drainage, road communication or electricity. Hence, the extension of the University cannot be termed 'urgency' under the Act. However, if it was urgency then why didn't the Government take possession of the land for last 60 years? The High Court says in its order that since, the cultivators didn't challenge the acquisition in 1958 therefore, the section 17 (4) cannot be challenged after 60 years. The court has neglected the fact that the villages had challenged the land acquisition in 1957-58 and declined the compensation. Is it possible for the cultivators to challenge everything in the court? Can the Court expect the Raiyats to do so when the Court itself has stated in the order that the majority of the villagers are illiterate and poor? Can the court think patiently for the protection of the rights of these people instead of facilitating the forceful and illegal land grab? The High Court doesn't have the duty to protect the rights of the marginalized people?

nag_4Let's also accept the fact that it was acquired for the extension of the Birsa Agriculture University and Seed Bank. If that is true then why has the land been transferred to the IIM, the IIIT and the Law University, free of cost? Is it not breach of law? And how can the government deceive the Raiyats like this, since, the land was supposed to be acquired for the BAU? According to the Land Acquisition (Amendment and Validation) Ordinance 1967, the acquired land cannot be used for other purposes than said during the acquisition. In the case of the Heavy Engineering Corporation, Ranchi, the Deputy Commissioner of Ranchi wrote to the Land Reform Commissioner in 1991 that the HEC has sub-leased 300 acres of land to other private institutions, which is against the said purpose in the lease agreement. The letter further states that the sublease is illegal, therefore, action should be taken against the HEC. But nothing has happened against the HEC till date but why is the High Court not taking any action against the HEC? Is the High Court not aware of it?

Similarly, according to the Bihar Land Reforms Act, 1950 (amended in 1972), land acquired before 1972 and not used for the said purpose had to be returned to the tenants. This Act is applied in this case precisely because when the land was said to be acquired, the area was under the state of Bihar. The Land Acquisition Act 1894 also has a provision in section–48, which states that the Government shall be at liberty to withdraw the acquisition of any land of which possession has not been taken. The government had not taken possession on the land of Nagri for 60 years. Hence, it was totally free from the acquisition. However, the land was forcefully and illegally captured by the state Government with the power of Gun only in January 2012, therefore, it should be returned to the villagers. But why is the High Court mum on the above fact? Is the Court deliberately covering up the laws, which are in favour of the Raiyats? Why is the Court not questioning the government for bypassing these laws which are in favour of the Raiyats?

nag_28According to the Chhota Nagpur Land Tenancy Act 1908, the agricultural land cannot be acquired for non-agriculture purpose. The land of Nagri village is completely agricultural. However, the Court denied protecting the rights of the Raiyats. Instead, the Court has questioned the Government whether it has taken a decision that all lands which have been acquired after the year 1894 or at least since 1957-58, and it was cultivable at that time, shall be declared deacquisitioned and will be returned back to the cultivators? Why this inequitable decision will be for those persons only, whose land have not been violently protested when possession of the land was taken over and whether the Government will be guided by law of violence and will not hear the law abiding persons, who obeyed the law? The fact is the deacquistion of all lands is not possible but the court should order the government to find out all the displaced masses and rehabilitate them. However, the government should return the unutilized land to the original cultivators wherever it is possible. It is also fact that the people have simply not surrendered their land by obeying the colonial law, the Land Acquisition Act 1894, but their lands were forcefully and illegally captured under the terror of Gun since 1894. The history of each and every so-called development project suggests that the Raiyats had protested during the land acquisition therefore, the High Court should order the Government to right the historical wrong instead of forcing the government to continue the historical injustice.

The High Court says that even if the government wants to withdraw the acquisition, it cannot do only for the land of which possession has not been taken. The Court also says that nobody can question the acquisition because it has been acquired by the government for 'public purpose' under the Section 6 of the Land Acquistion Act 1894. The High Court has referred the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act 1894 and also mentioned that this Act has been enacted by the Parliament and has been binding law in the entire country as far back as in the year 1894 and since then, thousands and thousands of acres of cultivable land have been acquired under the provisions of this Act of 1894. However, the same court completely forgets that the state of Jharkhand comes under the Fifth Schedule Areas provision made under the Article 244 of the Indian Constitution, where the Governor is empowered to repeal any Act either enforced by the Parliament or the Legislative Assemblies, merely through public notification if the Law is not suitable for the scheduled area, with retrospective effect.

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The Governor is also constitutional abided to see whether the Adivasis are alienated from their livelihood resources. According to the Chota Nagpur Tenacy Act 1908, Bhuihari and Khutkatti land cannot be sold and acquired. Some part of Nagri's land comes under Bhuihari of the CNT Act but why didn't the Jharkhand High Court notice such protective Law while hearing the case? The High Court has taken cognizance in many cases as sue-motto especially in the cases of corruption and human rights violation in general. However, thousands and thousands of acres of lands have been acquired illegally after bypassing the CNT Act 1908, SPT Act 1955, PESA Act 1996, the Provisions of Fifth Schedule and Forest Rights Act 2006 but why the Court is silence especially in the matters of the Adivasis? Why is the High Court enforcing a colonial law in the state?

nag_33The High Court has also said that 'a country where the laws are framed by the members of state Legislative in the State or by the Parliament in the Parliament and these persons projecting themselves leaders questioning the land acquisition after more than half century, in the year 2012 at time when construction started on the land and they become wiser now and they tried to instigate the innocent persons against the proposed construction. It further mentions that simply because it is known to everybody that state of Jharkhand comprises of more members of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribals and most of the population is poor and illiterate, who can be misguided by slightest elusion picture in the mind of those person'. Ironically, the High Court is not ready to protect the rights of the innocent persons but when they resist to protecting their rights the court coined it as instigated by the vested interest groups. Since, the Court is aware that majority of the people are illiterate and poor, in that case how can the High Court facilitate the alienation of livelihood resources from them? How can the Court deny protecting the rights of these people?

The villagers have been protesting to protect their land. They sat on protest for 125 days, which had begun on 5 March, 2012. They were sitting, eating and sleeping on their land, day and night, even during the middle of summer; consequently, three women – Mangi Oraon, Dashmi Oraon and Tebo Oraon died due to sunstroke. They died while fighting to protect their ancestral land. Similarly, on 4 April, 2012, when the boundary wall of the IIM was pulled down, only the villagers were present at the spot. The villagers have taken all the decisions and they executed it accordingly. Obviously, the people of 35 villages of adjoining areas are supporting the movement as they have also been given the notice for acquisition of their 28,000 acres of land for the proposed greater Ranchi project. Therefore, the Court should not be in illusion that the outsider leaders, social and rights activists are instigating the villagers. Of course, they are supporting them and that is not a crime. The Court has ordered the Government to translate the order and handover to the villagers so that they can understand the fact. When the officers went to handover the Court's orders to the villagers, they refused to receive it. Why? Are they again misguided by someone?

nag_32The Court also said that those who are challenging the land acquisition were not born when acquisition was done, and had no knowledge about the facts of acquisition. The dispute has been raised only at the instigation of some leaders and is not bonafide, which is apparent from the fact that since last more than 60 years, nobody objected to the acquisition of land, made in the year 1957-58. The court has been keeping aside the fact that the Raiyats have been protesting against the land acquisition since 1957-58 and the government also didn't try again to acquire the land in last 50 years. Meanwhile, the acquisition process was again started in November, 2009, and since then, the villagers are protesting against it. It is a lie to say that the Raiyats who are protesting are not aware about land acquisition attempted in 1957-58. There are many old people present in the village, who had taken part in the protest in 1957-58. They keep telling how they had chased away the officers who had come to their village for acquisition of their land.

The High Court has also said that the State should deal with the unscrupulous elements effectively for the progress for which the state of Jharkhand was carved out from the state of Bihar and the establishment of these institutions will also substantially help the public of the state of Jharkhand. The Court should know that the state of Jharkhand was a result of the historical autonomous movement of the Adivasis and Moolvasis, therefore, the development should not be done over their graves. The fact is the Adivasis and Moolvasis were never against development. They have surrendered thousands and thousands acres of their fertile lands, that's why the state has the Heavy Engineering Corporation, Bokaro Steel Plan, TATA Steel, Power Projects, Irrigation Projects, Mega Dams and Mining Projects. However, the fact is the majority of the Adivasis didn't even taste the development. Why? Are the judges aware, sensitive and honest while dealing with the cases of these people?

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The Raiyats of Nagri and the people who are supporting the Nagri Movement are not against development at all, but they oppose the forceful and illegal acquisition of agricultural land. The People have never opposed the so-called prestigious institutions – IIM, IIIT and Law University. Instead, they have also given the option to the state government to shift these institutions to Kutte village, which is situated merely at a distance of 3 km south from Nagri village, where 1900 acres of barren land is available. A prestigious school 'Sphere International' has been built up on rocky land on Ranchi-Khunti highway; then why these so-called prestigious institutions should be built up only on fertile land? Will these institutions not grow if built up in barren land? However, a billion dollar question that remained unanswered is: development for whom and at what cost? The High Court should also find out the answer of above questions before helping the state in land grab.

The Jharkhand High Court said that as far as the land of University is concerned, most of the land is not cultivable land and it was not under the cultivation, and further the documents placed on record by the applicants cannot be said to have any relation with the land in question which is handed over to the University. It further says that. in fact, out of the acquired land if anybody has cultivated for a short period here and there that will make no difference and will not create any rights to the person. The question is if the land is not cultivable and was not under the cultivation, then how did the villagers of Nagri survive for the last 60 years? Were they eating soil and mud for their survival? The court is also not ready to accept the revenue record, Jamabandi (tax of land), land entitlement papers, which villagers had produced in front of the Court. However, the same Court accepted the revenue record produced by the University merely for last six months. Why? Is it not a result of bias?

nag_30The Court says that since the villagers are poor therefore, the government didn't oppose the payment of compensation with 15 percent interest and in that situation when such interest rate was not prevailing at that time. The fact is that it has been mentioned in the Land Acquisition Act 1894 section- 34 that when the amount of such compensation is not paid or deposited before taking possession of the land, the Collector shall pay the amount awarded with interest thereon at the rate of 9 per cent per annum from the time of so taking possession until it shall have been so paid or deposited. It has been also provided that if such compensation or any part thereof is not paid or deposited within a period of one year from the date on which possession is taken, interest at the rate of 15 percent per annum shall be payable from the date or expiry of the said period of one year. Since, the Court claims that the acquisition had been done in 1957-58 in that case, the Court should have asked to the government to pay 9 percent interest in the deposited amount instead of 15 percent at one time. Why is the Court always taking the side of the government? The Court has also said that most of the applicants have received the compensation, which is of course again a lie. The truth is out of 153 cultivators, only 25 cultivators of a particular community had received the compensation. The court also states that the applicants are in possession of the land because of non-payment and non-receiving of the compensation amount, which is completely baseless. The cultivators are determined to protest the grabbing of their land, therefore, they are resisting for saving their agricultural land and had always opposed the compensation.

nag_34The Court has stated that some persons are misguiding the villagers and imprinting a picture that thereafter the state of Jharkhand will have to starve out and starvation will be because of the non-availability of cultivable land. The court should know that the majority of Jharkhandi people especially the Adivasis depend on agro-forest for their livelihood. Hence, if they are alienated from the livelihood resources, they'll die due to starvation and it has already started. In fact, the Jharkhand Government has signed MoUs with national and multi-national companies for 104 mega projects. If these MoUs are materialized, approximately 2 lakh acres of land will be acquired, and of course, the most part of the land will be agricultural. Consequently, 10 lakh people will lose their livelihood resources and be displaced. What will happen to their future? Therefore, the people of Jharkhand are against conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes. However, people are not against development projects if these are being built on barren land and with the objective of maximum benefit to the local people. The Saranda Forest is a crucial example, where more than 50 legal iron-ore mining projects are running but that fact is local inhabitants are not benefited. Why? Though the people are not opposing the so-called prestigious institutions but the question that needs to be answered is: how many Adivasis will be benefited from the IIM, IIIT and Law University?

The population of the state has been growing very fast therefore, the government should think of how to feed these masses in future, precisely, because the agriculture lands have been converted for non-agriculture purposes in the state very fast. If the Government does not save the agriculture land, will it feed its people with iron, mud and stone? Therefore, the Government must think of judicious use of the land. How can Government decide to give any amount of land to the private companies? For example, the Jharkhand Government has signed MoU with the Arcelor Mittal Company allowing the company to acquire 25,000 acre of land for an integrated Steel Plant. Similarly, the TATA STEEL was allowed to acquire 24,500 acre and the list goes on. On the other hand, thousand acres of land remain unutilized in BSL, HEC and TATA, etc. Are these companies coming to the state for developing it or their intention is to make an empire in the state? Irony is, on the one hand, the state government spends crore of public money for conversion of barren land into agricultural land and the agriculture land is transferred for non-agriculture purposes on the other. Is it not the misuse of public money? Why the Court is quiet in these matters?

nag_37The Jharkhand High Court seems to be much worried about the future of those students, who have come to the state from the outside for their studies. The Court has mentioned in its order that there are a large number of students still living in hostels provided by some authorities of the State Government but by charging huge amount of rent resulting into heavy burden upon the students and otherwise also. But at the same time the Court seems to be non-sensitive towards the children of Adivasis of Nagri. Why? Why is the High Court not worried about the livelihood, education and future of Adivasi children? There are thousands of children in Nagri village, who have been protesting on the road after deserting their schools to save their land because they are well aware that if land is snatched they will have no future. Do these children also have right to education as provided in RTE Act 2009? The Indian Constitution guaranteed equal rights to everyone. But why the Judiciary is biased against the Adivasis? Are these children not the citizens of India? Indeed, it's very clear that the Judiciary is completely against the Adivasis.

Ironically, the Law University states in its vision paper that it will develop the 'Center of excellence for Advocacy of Human Rights with special focus on Tribal Rights'. The moral question is, how can the Law University advocate the rights of Adivasis (tribals) after snatching their livelihood resources for building its centers of excellence? Will it not be an attempt of rubbing salt on Adivasis' wound? People like Justice Prakash Tatia must read a famous story of Munshi Premchand i.e. 'Panch Parmeshwar' before hearing these kinds of cases so that they would be able to deliver justice to the people and also protect the Indian Judicial system. The Justice V R Krishna Iyer once said in the Supreme Court that the "Judges cannot render justice to the poor because they don't understand their socio-economic problems. They are from a different world". The case of Nagri has proved justice V R Krishna Iyer absolutely right.

nag_9

On 14 July, 2012, the students mostly outsiders studying in Law University asked us why we are opposing the construction of Law University at Nagri? If they don't get the University Campus their future will be at stake? They said that the people elect the government and the acquisition has been done by the same Government therefore, how can it be illegal and forceful? After patiently hearing their queries, I responded to them that we are not opposing the Law University but the illegal and forceful acquisition, and we have also given several options to the Government. But they were not convinced with my answers. However, when I asked them that how many acres lands they have? They responded that each one of them possess some patches of land and houses as well. I immediately asked them to surrender their land to me so that I'll talk to the government and the Law University would be at their door. They were mum and went back to their hostel. This is one of the living examples, which proves that the elite class is always ready to harvest at any cost and they don't bother about the marginalized people. And of course, the Indian Judiciary is dominated by them only. If the Raiyats of Nagri village are unable to protect their land, the Adivasis of Jharkhand will not only lose their faith in the India Judiciary but they will also have no faith in the Indian democracy.

~~~

Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist and is associated with the Nagri People's Movement.

Pictures courtesy: Gladson Dungdung

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