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Armed with bows and arrows, a Gujarat farmers’ squad that ploughs disputed land

He has been paying land tax for years. However, come sowing season, he sharpens his arrows, strings his bow to prepare for any eventuality.

Written by Parimal A Dabhi | Mathasara Village (sabarkantha) | Published: May 19, 2015 5:10 am
farmer, indian farmer, gujarat farmer, tribal farmer, land tax, land dispute, disputed land, ahmedabad news, city news, India news, nation news, national news, Indian Express Fights are common between Mathasara and Mahadi tribals in sowing season. (Source: Express Photo by Javed Raja)

Nona Gamar is a tribal farmer around 40 years of age from Mathasara village of Khedbrahma taluka in Sabarkantha district that shares its border with Mahadi village of Udaipur district in Rajasthan. He has been paying land tax for years. However, come sowing season, he sharpens his arrows, strings his bow to prepare for any eventuality.

Gamar has to think twice before sowing fields that he jointly owns with his cousins for a peculiar revenue dispute — going back to the 1950s — that his village shares with Mahadi.

Kesra Bumadiya, a tribal farmer from Mahadi along with others, also claims ownership on the same land with their names listed as owners in Rajasthan’s revenue records.

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And if any of the two group of farmers go to the field on the Aravalli mountain range for any agricultural activity, there is a war cry literally accompanied by the beating of drums. The tribals from Mathasara and Mahadi attack each other with bows and arrows.

Gamar and other tribals with the help of the village chief Anil Solanki have been pursuing the district authorities for the past many years to resolve the issue so that they can sow and harvest peacefully, but to no avail. They mostly grow maize, tuver and cotton.

Notwithstanding the claims of Gujarat Government of launching the ambitious project of resurveying all land in the state, there are many tribal farmers in villages of Sabarkantha district which continue to fight with tribals of Udaipur district of Rajasthan. And the issue has
remained unresolved even after joint meetings of the collectors of Sabarkantha and Udaipur.

Apart from Mathasara, some of these villages having land disputes with Rajasthan farmers include Kali Kankar, Mithasara, Mithi Bili, Khari Bedi and so on.

“We have been facing this issue for past several years with little help from the district administration to resolve it. We have land in our village with official revenue records showing our ownership over it. In fact, we have been paying the land tax also. But, since the land is on the border, certain people from Mahadi village of Udaipur district also stake claim on the same and try to encroach upon it,” said Solanki a tribal leader, locally known as Mukhi, from Mathasara.

“The dispute becomes intense in monsoon when people go for sowing the disputed land and there is confrontation with the farmers of Mahadi village. Since there is no demarcation on the revenue limits of the two villages like stone-marks, we feel helpless,” Solanki said.

According to Solanki, the dispute is so intense that tribals from Mathasara who live on the border area keep close watch to detect any “encroachment” attempt by tribals from Mahadi. “And if any such attempt is found, a confrontation is confirmed. Our tribals beat drums and within no time, several villagers gather on the disputed land armed with their bows and arrows,” Solanki said.

Each tribal family of Mathasara, Solanki said, keep a bow and at least 10 arrows made of bamboos ready, to fight the Mahadi farmers.

In all, total 42 acres land of various survey numbers is disputed in Mathasara village. Solanki said that they are ready to forfeit some land if, the issue is sorted out amicably. “But, the government is just not taking any interest to resolve it. We have made a number of representations to the collector, but to no avail,” Solanki said.

Meanwhile, Sarpanch of Mahadi village — Ram Lal — makes similar claim over the disputed land. “Our farmers have their names in the revenue records as owners. But, whenever they go for sowing the fields, the confrontation ensues. The collectors of Udaipur and Sabarkantha have held meetings a number of time, but there is no solution to the issue.”

The last such violent encounter was in August last year where one person was injured.

The Congress MLA from Khedbrahma, Ashwin Kotwal, said that there are around 23 villages in the district which are having revenue disputes with Rajasthan farmers. “I have represented the issue to the chief minister and even to the prime minister seeking to resolve it with political initiative. But, so far, no solution is being offered,” Kotwal said.

A senior revenue officer from Sabarkantha district said, “The land of Sabarkantha district was surveyed in early 1950s and farmers were allotted plot numbers. But, the same land was surveyed by Rajasthan Government in the late 1950s and the Rajasthan farmers were also allotted plot numbers by it. Now, this resulted in overlapping of the survey numbers in the border villages. As a result, we have land pieces in border areas having two owners; one from Gujarat and one from Rajasthan. And due to this, we have one piece of land having two owners, one from Gujarat and one from Rajasthan,” the officer added.

He further said that earlier the issue was not much intense. “But now for the past more than one decade, the farmers have started fighting for the same as land has become a very precious asset. Only last year in August — during sowing season, the tribals of the two villages had a major fight in which apart from using bows and arrows, even fire weapon was used in which one person was seriously injured.”

“The issue is such that it can be resolved only at political level. Revenue department can only put the facts before the concerned state government,” the officer said.

Sabarkantha Collector P Swaroop acknowledged the revenue disputes in a number of border villages of the district due to the overlapping of the survey numbers. “About a year back, the collectors of Sabarkantha and Udaipur had held a meeting to resolve the issue. And Sabarkantha collector office had then sent a report in that regard to the Revenue Department. So now, the decision is to be taken by the government.”

Revenue Secretary of Rajasthan, Alok, could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.

When contacted, Cabinet minister and official spokesperson of the Gujarat Government, Nitin Patel, said he was not aware of the issue.

Additional Chief Secretary, Revenue (In-charge) in Gujarat, J N Singh, also could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.

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  1. M
    Mohan
    May 19, 2015 at 9:38 am
    It is a problem created by Congress governments in Gujarat and Rajasthan in the 1950s and left simmering for nearly half a century. It has been given prominence more than due to create the impression that Modi/BJP are some how responsible. Other wise what was the over intelligent Congress MLA who now says he has peioned the CM and the PM but nothing is happening-- doing all these first 50 years ?
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