March 19, 2023

J&K: Farmers Protest against ‘Bulldozer Raj’

Shubhojeet Dey

A KISAN protest dharna was held at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi on February 24, 2023 by All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and Jammu and Kashmir Kisan Tehreek (JKKT). The dharna was organised against the forceful eviction of Jammu and Kashmir farmers using the Land Eviction Order, 2020. Farmers from Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh participated in the dharna.

The demonstration in the national capital comes after a series of spontaneous and organised protest actions in Jammu and Kashmir. Farmers’ organisations are demanding the Manoj Sinha administration to stop such actions detrimental to the farmers and landless people residing in villages as petty producers, who are dependent on state land which they are occupying for decades. Political parties have also come out against this notification. What is the issue at hand?

The revenue department in J&K has submitted a list of encroachments measuring more than 20 lakh kanals (one kanal is one eighth of an acre) land to the High Court of J&K. The encroachments as per the revenue administration range from 3 Marlas (half a kanal) to big chunks of land. The encroachments are not new, having taken place during the regime of Dogra rulers and continued after independence till date. Thus, the present administration under the Lt Governor simply branding the present occupants as land grabbers is not only unjustified but downright misleading. Even the Supreme Court order had observed that those having uninterrupted adverse possession of more than 30 years on state land may have accrued the rights for regularisation. 

There are number of government orders and notifications from 1924 till date that recognise the rights of occupants in government land. J&K’s people have a troubled history of the partition and related migrations and people were helped by the then administration in Jammu and Kashmir to settle down on government land and also provided with schemes such as ‘grow more food’ to encourage them to cultivate government land. Many generations have been living in such lands and cultivating them to support their livelihood. 

These settlements need to be regularised and land rights of these farmers should be protected by the administration. Instead, the Lt Governor is using bulldozers to evict the poor people from the land even without paying any compensation. Such illegal actions cannot be tolerated by the farmers and the people in general. The struggle will be intensified in the days to come. 

Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) general secretary; Vijoo Krishnan, AIKS general secretary; Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, CPI(M) Central Committee member; Zahoor Ahmad, JKKT general secretary; Kishore Kumar, JKKT Jammu region secretary; B Venkat, All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU) general secretary and other leaders from AIKS, AIAWU, AIDWA, and SFI addressed the gathering.

The AIKS made the following demands to the union government: 

1)      Issue directions to the Lt. Governor and the administration to prevent them from taking any adverse action which is detrimental to the farmers/landless people residing in villages as petty farmers and those landless who are wholly and solely dependent on the state land which they are occupying since decades. 

2)      The inhabitants who are residing in the area and are in possession of state land rights from 1947/1957 till date shall not be disturbed. A proper mechanism be adopted to regularise their holdings as per prior government orders. 

3)      That the land and the houses constructed there on by those who have purchased land from old occupants may be regularised. 

4)      The orders of the Supreme Court in which it is ordered that those having uninterrupted adverse possession of more than 30 years on state land may have accrued the rights for regularisation be implemented. 

5)      Ensure implementation of Forest Rights Act.