150 dalit families rendered landless

The Times of India News Service, 19 December 2000

LUCKNOW: An entire hamlet of 150 dalit families in Ambedkar village, located in Udham Singh Nagar, has been forcibly evicted from their land in utter violation of rules and despite the intervention of the high court.

The dalit families were legally settled on this land by the Uttar Pradesh government in the early 70s but were declared "surplus from ceiling" by the commissioner, Nainital, in 1993 and the land expropriated on the pretext of agrarian reforms by the UP government in 1995.

The dalit families then knocked on the doors of Allahabad High Court which asked the state government to settle them at the same site or give them adequate compensation, which the government did not. The court also, on May 5, 1995, declared the displacement as invalid.

Officials of the revenue department kept telling the dalits their land would be restored, but nothing happened. Finally, a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court by an entrepreneur with whom the officials had reportedly struck a deal.

Social organisations working for the uplift of dalits who came to help these families were told by the officials they should approach the new state of Uttaranchal because Udham Singh Nagar was now a part of Uttaranchal. Even in the Supreme Court where the matter finally landed, the UP government was asked to furnish details.

In desperation the dalits, many of who had become daily-wage earners, appealed to the National Human Rights Commission. The NHRC, it may be recalled, immediately asked the UP government to return the land to these families.

In the meantime, Uttaranchal came into being and the officials told the NHRC that the new state would deal with the problem. Since Uttaranchal has yet to enact a land ceiling law, the matter is destined to remain pending, thus enabling the interested parties to usurp the land, said an official on condition of anonymity.

In the last hearing on May 6, 1999 in the Supreme Court, the apex court had asked the UP government to respond to certain queries, but to no avail.

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