2.5 million landless Dalits expected to flood Jantar Mantar on Saturday

Dalit activists on Friday announced a nationwide two-day agitation to seek greater land rights. The National Alliance for Dalit Land Rights (NADLR), in collaboration with NGO Ekta Parishad, is seeking to mobilise an estimated 2.5 million landless Dalits in the capital.

The government’s efforts in implementing land reforms have been inconclusive even as the agreement reached between the Ekta Parishad’s Jan Satyagraha and the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) has not moved forward.

The campaign, from April 14 to December 6, will be spread across 300 districts in 18 States.

“We will be asking landless Dalits to make their claims for land,” said Lalit Babbar, a member of the NADLR.

“We will flood Jantar Mantar tomorrow [Saturday] and the next day. Our demands include equitable distribution of land, freeing of land from NRIs and corporations who do not use arable land for agriculture,” said Vincent Manoharan, chairperson of the National Federation of Dalit Land Rights Movements.

Intensifying their demands, the federation has adopted a new slogan, “First Land then Vote; No Land No Vote.” The organisations are reaching out to other political parties to mobilise support for ensuring that land rights remains a key electoral issue with almost 10 States going for Assembly elections and the general elections in 2014.

“We want the government to take this issue up seriously, for it will not go away. We will continue our protest by filing claims after claims for land titles. We will mobilise 25 lakh Dalit women,” said Mr. Jai Singh, an activist from Punjab, who has mobilised over 600 people to come here for the two-day sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar.

National Sample Survey data suggests that the percentage of landless and near-landless households (owning less than 0.40 hectares of land) was 79.20 among SCs and 52.90 among the non-SC/STs in 1999-2000.

The Jan Satyagraha Yatra, a movement for land rights, and the MoRD had signed a 10-point agreement in October 2012, committing to bring about a National Land Reform Policy, besides enacting legislation for assigning land for “shelter and cultivation” of the landless poor in India.

The governments had agreed to promote monitoring mechanisms, including fast-track courts and tribunals, to ensure effective implementation of the same.