Dalit-Adivasi in Uttar Pradesh and the question of land


According to the 2011 census, the total Scheduled Caste (Dalit) population in Uttar Pradesh is 4.13 crore, which is about 21% of the total population of Uttar Pradesh. According to the same census, there are 61.91 lakh families of Dalits in Uttar Pradesh, which is 23% of the total families of Uttar Pradesh. Similarly, the total population of Scheduled Tribes (Adivasi) in Uttar Pradesh is about 11.34 lakhs, which is about 1% of the total population of Uttar Pradesh. There are about 1.77 lakh tribal families in this.

According to the above census, about 42% of the Dalit families in Uttar Pradesh are landless and do manual labour. Only 2.93% of the Dalit families are employed in government, 1.14% in non-government and 1.92% in private sector i.e., only about 6% are employed. The remaining 94% are in wage earning and other professions. Similarly, 35.30% of tribal families are landless and do manual labour. Of these, 3.54% are in government, 1.63% non-government and 2.95% in the private sector, i.e. 8% of the families are employed. The remaining 92% are laborers and in other professions.

According to the same census, 82.40% of the Dalit households in Uttar Pradesh have an income of less than 5000 per month. The income of 13.25% of the households is between 5000 to 10,000 and 4.29% of the households have income above 10,000 per month. The number of families with income above 5000 from government jobs is only 2.71%. According to the 2011 census, 81.35% of the tribal families in Uttar Pradesh have an income of less than 5000 per month. The income of 13.82% of the households is between 5000 to 10,000 and 4.81% of the households have income above 10,000 per month. Only 3.31% percent of the households have an income of more than 5000 from government jobs.

As per 2011 census, 15.69% of Dalit families in Uttar Pradesh have unirrigated land, 42.06% have irrigated and 9.12% families have other land. Similarly, 28.16% of tribal households had unirrigated land, 39.33% had irrigated and 12.50% had other land.

It is clear from the above description that the Dalits of Uttar Pradesh are mostly landless, low income and unemployed, which is the main reason for their social, economic and political backwardness. Being landless and doing manual labour only, they mostly work as agricultural laborers in the village. They also have to go to other’s fields for pee and fodder for their animals. Being landless and unemployed, they have to face the tyranny and exploitation of the upper castes. Marking this weakness, Dr. Ambedkar in his speech in Agra had said, “My rural brothers are subjected to atrocities because they do not have land. That is why now I will fight for the land for them.”

It is also well known that India is an agricultural country and about 60% of its population is associated with agriculture as farmers and agricultural laborers. It is also clear from the above data that in Uttar Pradesh also most of the Dalits and Adivasis are landless and they can do only manual labour. Landlessness and mere manual labour are their greatest weaknesses. Due to these, neither they are able to face the atrocities on themselves due to caste discrimination and untouchability nor fight with force on the question of wages. Since employment in agriculture is only seasonal, they have to search elsewhere for wages or remain unemployed for the rest of the time.

In rural areas it is also a fact that land is not only a means of production but it is also a symbol of respect and social status. The person who has land in the village is not only financially strong but also socially respected. Now since most of the Dalits have neither land nor regular employment, they are neither socially respected nor financially strong. Dalits in rural areas can be empowered only when they have land and get regular employment. Therefore, the distribution of land and availability of secure employment is the first need of the Dalits and Adivasis and other landless.

After India became independent, land reforms were implemented by abolishing the zamindari system to redistribute resources in the country. By this, land ceiling laws were made in the country, from which land was to be made available for allotment to the landless. But there was a lot of dishonesty in implementing these laws because at that time most of the leaders in the ruling party Congress were old zamindars and this class also dominated the administration. That is why, on the one hand, very little land came out of these laws and whatever came out was not distributed to the landless. As a result, the people who had the said land before the implementation of these laws remained with them. Even today thousands of acres of land remains in the name of benami and trusts and temples in different states. Same is the situation in Uttar Pradesh also.

It is clear from the analysis of the socio-economic and caste census data that the question of land is the most important question for Dalits and Tribals of the rural area, which is not possible to solve without the proper implementation of land reforms. But it is a great irony that land reforms and land distribution is not on the agenda of any Dalit or non-Dalit political party. Therefore, empowerment of Dalits and Adivasis is not possible unless they are provided land by land distribution.

It is to be known that in Uttar Pradesh from 1995 to 2012, Mayawati was the Chief Minister four times. During her reign, except the central and western regions of Uttar Pradesh no land was distributed in the remaining parts in 1995 and 1997. In eastern Uttar Pradesh, which has the most dense population of Dalits, except in Gorakhpur, no land was allotted anywhere, that too due to the efforts of one officer (Harish Chandra, Commissioner Gorakhpur). It is not that land was not available for allotment in Uttar Pradesh. In 1995, in Uttar Pradesh, so much ceiling land, village common and Bhoodan land was available that not only the Dalits but also the landless of other castes could get subsistence land, but Mayawati did not allot it. Not only this, no action was taken to get possession of the land which was allotted earlier. After 1997, neither allotment nor any possession was given due ti sarvjan politics.

When the Mulayam Singh Yadav government came to power in Uttar Pradesh in 2002, he amended the Revenue Act to change the land allotment priority of Dalits and merged them with other landless classes. There was land allotment in his government, but the land was given to other castes and not to the Dalits. Along with this, by amending the law, he also removed the ban on the purchase of Dalit land by non-Dalits. At that time this legal amendment was postponed, but later he duly gave it the form of law. Thus, due to Mayawati’s non-allotment of land to Dalits, Mulayam Singh abolishing the priority of allotment of land to Dalits in law, the allotment of land to the Dalits of Uttar Pradesh could not be done and their condition in rural area remains very pathetic.

For the empowerment of Tribals, the Forest Rights Act- 2006 and Rules were implemented in 2008. Under this law, tribals and non-tribals living in protected forest areas were to be given lease of residential and agricultural land in their possession. The Tribals had to submit their claims in this regard. At that time, Mayawati’s government was in Uttar Pradesh, but her government did not take any effective action in this direction, as a result of which out of total 92,406 claims submitted by Tribals in Uttar Pradesh on 30.01.2012, 74,701 claims i.e. 81% claims were rejected and only 17,705 i.e. only 19% of the claims were accepted and a total of 1,39,777 acres of land was allotted.

Seeing the negligence of Mayawati government in allotment of land to Tribals and the anti-Dalit/tribal mindset, All India People’s Front had filed a public interest litigation in the Allahabad High Court, on which the High Court in August 2013 directed the state government to reprocess all claims under the Forest Rights Act. But no attention was paid to that too. Thus, 81% of the claims were rejected due to the negligence of the government of Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav due to their anti-Dalit/Adivasi mindset.

Let us now see the role of the Yogi government of the BJP regarding the implementation of the Forest Rights Act. It is well known that BJP had written in its Sankalp Patra in the 2017 Vidhan Sabha elections of Uttar Pradesh that if its government is formed then all illegal encroachments of land (gram sabha and forest land) will be got vacated. After the formation of the government in March 2017, Yogi government immediately started taking action on it and in compliance of this, those people who were in possession of the gram sabha land and the forest land were to be evicted from them. According to this order, 74,701 claimants who were rejected for forest rights in 13 districts were also to be evicted. When the Yogi government started the eviction proceedings, we again had to go to the Allahabad High Court against it. We requested to stop the eviction proceedings and re-examine all the claims. The Allahabad High Court, on our request, stayed the eviction proceedings and gave one month’s time to all the claimants to file appeal on the old claims and gave the government the time three months’ time to re-hear and dispose of all the claims. But even after the expiry of the said period, no action was taken by the Government in this regard.

A few years ago, the validity of the Forest Rights Act was challenged in the Supreme Court by the Wildlife Trust of India and a request was made to order all the state governments to vacate the land related to the claims rejected under the Forest Rights. The Modi government did not take the side of the tribals / forest dwellers in the Supreme Court. As a result, the Supreme Court passed an order to vacate the land of all the rejected claims of Forest Rights by July 24, 2019. Due to this, the number of families affected in the entire country is 20 lakh, of which 74,701 families are in Uttar Pradesh. Against this order, we again appealed to the Supreme Court through the Adivasi Vanvasi Mahasabha, in which we requested for stayed of eviction order and direct all the states to re-examine all the claims. On this, the Supreme Court, accepting our request, stayed the eviction till July 10, 2019 and ordered all the states to re-hear all the claims, but no action has been taken on it in Uttar Pradesh even after the lapse of two years.

It is clear from the above description how the government of Mayawati and then Akhilesh Yadav has deprived the Dalits, Tribals and traditional forest dwellers from the right of land under the Forest Rights Act and the sword of eviction hangs on them in the BJP government. It is worth considering that if Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav had given the rights of land to these people after processing the claims of these people during their tenure, then their condition would not have been so pathetic today. Similarly, if Mayawati had given pattas of gram sabha land, which is still in the possession of the oppressors, to the landless during her reign, how much their economic condition would have changed. Therefore, it is worth considering whether Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav, who have been forming the government in the name of social justice, have given any social justice to the Dalits and Tribals. BJP talks of harmony instead of social justice, which is status quoism. Will the Dalit-Tribals of Uttar Pradesh not seek answers from SP, BSP and BJP for the above injustice done to them in the upcoming Vidhan Sabha elections?

Therefore, if real empowerment of the Dalits and Adivasis of Uttar Pradesh is to be done, it can be done only by strictly implementing land reforms and allotting land to the landless. For this the desired level of political will is needed which is totally lacking at present. Therefore, there is a need to launch a strong land movement to implement land reforms and to allot land to the landless Dalits/Adivasis. This movement cannot be run by opportunistic and caste politics party like BSP because it abstains from all types of movements. The Samajwadi Party also does only power politics. It too has nothing to do with the empowerment of Dalits and Adivasis.

All India People’s Front has always given a prominent place in its agenda for land reforms and land allotment and has fought for it in court as well as on the road. The same party had also obtained orders by filing public interest litigations in the Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court for the honest implementation of the Forest Rights Act in Uttar Pradesh, which was thwarted by the governments of Mayawati and Akhilesh. Therefore, the AIPF calls upon all Dalit/Adivasi friendly organizations and Dalit political parties to Come on a common stage to create a public pressure to include land reforms and land allotment in the agenda of all political parties in the 2022 elections of Uttar Pradesh.

S R Darapuri, National Spokesperson, All India People’s Front



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