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Posted at: May 16, 2019, 6:54 AM; last updated: May 16, 2019, 9:01 AM (IST)

It’s NOTA for landless Dalits of over 40 Sangrur villages

Say parties have failed to protect their land rights

Vishav Bharti

Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 15

It was after a decade-long struggle that landless Dalits in Punjab were given a share in panchayat land. Led by Zamin Parapti Sangharsh Committee (ZPSC), Dalits in over 40 Sangrur villages have now decided to go for NOTA (none of the above), rejecting candidates of all parties.

The issue of their right over panchayat land was first raised in 2009 in Benra village but became a burning issue in Baladkalan four years ago. After violent clashes, the Dalits were given one-third share in the village panchayat land, as envisaged in the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Rules, 1964, and they have taken to cooperative farming in 47 villages in Sangrur district alone. 

However, land reserved for them is often taken on lease by village landlords through their pawns. Mukesh Malaud, the ZPSC chief, says political parties usually align with the upper castes to deny the Dalits land right. “We have tried several options. We fielded ZPSC candidates, but that didn’t work. Then we gave a call for boycott of elections, that too failed,” he explains.

He says activists in villages are now questioning candidates as to what they have done to ensure their right over panchayat land is protected. “This time by resorting to NOTA, we want the leaders to understand that they have been rejected because they have betrayed us,” says Mukesh. The organisation, with a network in 47 villages, is holding meetings in villages and educating the Dalits on NOTA.

Why village common land matters

Panchayats in Punjab own 1.7 lakh acres of land, of which 1.42 lakh acres is auctioned annually for cultivation, generating a revenue of over Rs 300 crore. But 20,800 acres of land is in possession of land mafia and “influential” persons. 

‘BSP is anti-Dalit’

}In Jaloor village in 2016, one of our activists was killed. A delegation of BSP leaders met the district administration, demanding action against us for ‘disturbing’ peace in the area. That is why we have no faith in the party. Gurmakh Sekha, zpsc secretary

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