Ahead of the 2017 assembly elections, the fight waged by the Dalits to claim one-third share of panchayat land (reserved for Scheduled Castes) at low rates for community farming in Sangrur villages, is set to spread across Punjab.
On Monday, Dalit organisations, along with some farmers’ organisations, announced in Jalandhar that a protest to get their share of land for cultivation will be held at all district headquarters on June 7. A protest is being organised in Delhi, too, they said.
The organisations spearheading the protest include Kirti Kisan Union, Zamin Prapti Sangharsh Samiti (ZPSS) and Punjab Pendu Mazdoor Union.
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Datar Singh of ZPSS informed that according to the Punjab Village Common Land Act, 1961, one-third of common village land was to be provided to Dalits for cultivation.
He added that except in a few villages of Sangrur and Bathinda, Dalits are deprived of their rights in entire Punjab. In some villages in the two districts, Singh said, Dalits have been tilling the land collectively and getting excellent yields.
Tarsem Peter of Pendu Mazdoor Union said the movement will be taken to entire Punjab, and that they will not relent until the Dalits of Doaba and Majha too get their share of land.
There is around 1.57 lakh acres of panchayat land in Punjab’s over 13,000 villages out of which Dalits’ share is just around 52,000 acres.
“The movement started in the villages of Sangrur district, and will spread across the state,” said Nirbhay Singh Dhuddike of Kirti Kisan Union, adding the rates of the land should be slashed. He said around 300 villages in Doaba have not been given land even as the government sanctioned it way back in 1970s.
In Majha region, too, the Dalits are demanding their share of land in some villages.