TERROR IN THE VILLAGE:
At around 10.30 in the morning of the 26th
of May 2013, a cavalcade of four large police
vans filled with around 150 male and female police
personnel, and several cars and jeeps and a large machine for work on the dam-site headed by Shri Jitendra Singh, SDM, Bhagwanpura arrived at Village Choukhand, which is a village on the dam site of the Kharak dam proposed to be built on Kharak river in District Khargone
, Madhya Pradesh
. These villagers, all adivasis, Bhils
and Bhilalas, as well as those of the accompanying villages had been resisting the construction of the Kharak dam, until they are rehabilitated and resettled, and their claims are justly settled. On that morning, as the cavalcade stopped at the village, many adivasi
villagers went up to the administration to talk to them about the dam, and find out the reason for the police presence. The SDM was the first to emerge from his car, however he did not talk to the people or respond to their queries in any manner. The police force
got down thereafter and grouped themselves in a single file. The SDM then ordered that the villagers should be arrested and put into the vans. At this, the police brutally lathi-charged the villagers. The villagers were chased all through the village. Those in their houses were not spared as the police personnel and the SDM himself went from house to house, dragging out people. Even the small children and any others who pleaded with the administration to talk to them were not spared. Women and small children, as also school going children were brutally beaten up. During the lathi charge, the police typically held the villagers close and then hit them on their heads with their lathis. As per the villagers, the skulls of a number of villagers who were then arrested, were cracked open. Women were also brutally beaten by the male policemen, lathis inserted into their clothes, and their clothes pulled, torn and dishevelled. Many of the male police were carrying bottles of liquor, and they would alternately take swigs of the liquor, shout and beat the villagers. Many of the female police were also drunk. As per the reports of the villagers, the SDM himself donned khakhi uniform and a hat and lathi-charged the villagers along with the police. A large number of men and women were arrested and taken to Bhagwanpura and from there onwards to Kharone where they were reportedly placed in judicial custody, after reportedly being charged under S.151 and 353 of the IPC.
Some of incidents narrated which showed the brutality of the police are as follows:
- Muliram s/o Bhadada, a youth from the village studying in Bhopal, beseeched the SDM saying Please do not beat us, please talk to our people. On hearing this, the police flung him on the ground saying how did you dare say this, and beating him mercilessly and dragging him on the ground, took him to the thana where he was arrested.
- Even visitors to the village were not spared. Nathu bhai from village Bhulwania who was visiting his daughter in Chaukhand was picked up and arrested, as was Geetabai from village Khapada who was visiting her relatives in Chaukhand, and who was dragged out of her host’s house and arrested.
- Banchabai of village Chaukhand who was inside her house with her two small children and a third suckling infant at her breast, was also hounded out of her house by the police, beaten and arrested.
- Tudpiabai Gangaram’s two young daughters Kalibai aged 9 years and Phulbai aged 13 years, who began to cry and cling to their father Gangaram who had been hit on the head in their presence and was being taken away by the police, were also brutally beaten up by the police with lathis. By the time of the night meeting, neither of the girls had spoken or eaten anything, one had not got up from her bed, and apart from the physical hurt and inflammation of their bodies, both of them were in deep trauma.
THE DAM AND THE LAND:
The Kharak dam is an irrigation project proposed to be built on the Kharak river at the border of Districts Khargone and Badwani in Madhya Pradesh. The project is slated to affect 7 villages of Districts Khargone and Badwani, namely, Juna Bilwa, Kaniapani and Choukhand in District Khargone, and villages Kamat
, Kaniapani, Julwania and Muvasia in District Badwani. The dam is yet to receive either statutory forest clearance under S.2 of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 or environment clearance under provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Yet work on the dam has been illegally started this year by the State Government. Challenged by the adivasis, it stopped two months ago, but was resumed once more after the police action
on the 26th
of May 2013.
Acquisition for the project commenced in 2011 and 2012, and in July 2012, S.12 notices dated 27.07.2012 were given to some villagers, for payment of compensation under the Land Acquisition Act. However they were not given any copies of the awards which would allow them to challenge the award through references under S.18 of the LA Act in the courts. The people were told that they would be given their compensation in three installments, and if they did not take the money, they would have to forego it, and further they would be jailed and kept in jail, until the project was completed. Thus they were forced to take the compensation in an oppressive manner. These families of Choukhand and the other affected villages of District Khargone were compensated at the rate of Rs. 40,000 per acre, although reportedly, the Collector’s guideline for the village is Rs. 1,60,000 per acre for un-irrigated land
and is Rs. 3,20,000 per acre for irrigated land. The actual market rates in voluntary sales are much higher. Much of this land is irrigated, which had been ignored while assessing compensation.
However around 150 families from the three Khargone villages including Village Chaukhand, who cultivated land
through a common cooperative society
since 1969 (through common patta dated 10.03.1969 and renewed by pavti dated 27.06.94) and whose cooperative society was disbanded in the late 90’s cultivate individual portions of these revenue lands, without title. The cultivators of the Khargone villages who are cultivating revenue lands without title have also been denied any form of compensation or rehabilitation, and were in fact told that they were not entitled for any rehabilitation. Many of the families who cultivated patta land in Village Chaukhand and the other Khargone villages also do not have their names inscribed on the pattas as Khatedars, as the land records were old, have not been updated, and does not reflect the actual cultivation status on the ground. These families were also denied any form of compensation. Persistent demands for the just settlement of their claims has not been met by the district administration.
All the four affected villages of District Badwani are under reserved forest, and the villagers there are cultivating forest land. The residents of the four villages of Badwani affected by the Kharak dam who cultivate forest lands and hold pattas for cultivation of forest land under the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, and some of whose claims under the 2006 Act are also pending, were excluded from any form of compensation and rehabilitation, and have been expressly told that the Government is not required to give them any compensation.
The villagers in this area had united under the aegis of the Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sangathan and had been agitating their issues for the last six months, and in the last two months stopped all work on the dam, until the issues related to settlement of land claims, compensation, rehabilitation, and grant of alternative land was settled. Leading activist of the organization, Ms. Madhuri Krishnaswamy had been jailed ten 10 days ago in a case related to denial of health and birthing facilities for Adivasi women in Badwani, and is presently detained in Khargone jail. Evidently, the district administration of Khargone has found the moment and the absence of Madhuri opportune for cracking down on the Kharak dam affected adivasis.
The main findings of the team are as follows:
1. The dam construction work is proceeding completely illegally, without the mandatory prior clearance under S.2 of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, and environmental clearance under provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The State Government must immediately stop all work on the project, and also discharge all tenders for the project.
2. There was no provocation, or use of any form of verbal or physical violence by the villagers on the 26th of May 2013. The villagers tried to talk to the officers about their problems but were repulsed. On the other hand, the administration and police deliberately planned a crack-down on the villagers in order to intimidate and terrorize the villagers and break their struggle for their rights. They came prepared for this purpose and executed their plan. The use of force on the villagers who were asking for the protection and grant of their legal rights is completely unjustified.
3. The majority of the villagers have been willfully excluded from the compensation process, and their bonafide claims and legal rights on the revenue and forest land have not been considered.
4. Thus, villagers cultivating government revenue lands without titles since 1984 have not been considered as Bhumiswamis under the provisions of Madhya Pradesh Krishi Prayojan Ke Liye Upyog Ki Rahi Dakhal Rahit Bhoomi Par Bhoomiswami Adhikaron Ka Pradan Kiya Jana (Vishesh Upabandh) Adhiniyam, 1984, under which all persons in cultivation of government land on 2nd October 1984 were deemed Bhumiswamis under the Act. They have also not been considered for grant of Bhumiswami status for being in possession of government land, under notifications of the State Government in 1998, 2000, and 2002, for change of use of charnoi land to agricultural land.
5. Claims under the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 of many villagers cultivating forest lands are pending or are yet to be considered. No cognizance has also been taken of the families who have already received pattas under the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. Ousting of the adivasis before their claims are settled, or alienation of their forest land rights due to the project since the grant of land rights under the 2006 Act is not alienable under the Act, is in violation of Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
6. Even those who have been compensated for their titled lands have been badly shortchanged, and compensation for their rich, black cotton soils, has been given at absurdly low rates and in a completely arbitrary manner, at rates which are only a fraction of the Government rates for the village and the market rates in the area. None of the villagers were able to file references under S.18 of the LA Act, in the district Courts to challenge the low rates of compensation, within 5 weeks time limit after receiving S.12 notices in July 2012. However, since they have not been given copies of the land awards as required as per judgment of the Supreme Court, this can still be done.
7. There was no updating of the land records and settlement of claims even for the titled land despite demand by the villagers, resulting in numerous disputes in the village and among families.
8. The State Government has not applied the State or National R&R Policy to the area or made any provision for the grant of alternative entitlements under any R&R scheme for the affected tribal population, despite ILO norms requiring land replacement for adivasis facing forced displacement.
9. The State Government must immediately discharge the adivasi men and women from jail, remove the cases against them, punish the police and administration officials responsible for the unjustified use of force, apologize to the adivasis and also give them damages.
10. The State Government must speak to the adivasis and their organization, and meet the bonafide, lawful and just demands of the villagers for settlement of claims, compensation and R&R.
A team of three persons Ms. Chittaroopa Palit, Dharamdas Lohare, social activists of Narmada Bachao Andolan and Ms. Santoshi, student visited Village Chaukhand on the night of the 26th of May. Around 100 villagers gathered in a meeting at 10.30 at night in which they related the events of the day, and the back-ground of the issue. Police vans could be seen moving to and fro even during the meeting. The Adivasi villagers were very disturbed by the repression which had taken place, but were valiant, and said that they understood that the struggle for just settlement of their claims and for grant of alternative land was going to be a long haul, and they were prepared to fight for their rights. The names of the villagers who shared the events which forms the basis of this report are as follows:
1. Tudpiabai Gangaram, 2. Vairaiyabai Sakharam, 3. Karewtbai Jagdish, 4. Saklibai Chunnilal, 5. Nirma d/o Gampulal (student class XII), 6. Archana d/o Dinesh (student Class XI), 7. Kalibai Gangaram aged 9 years, 8. Kamlabai Masriya, 9. Gyanibai Sikram, 10. Kalibai Kalarsigh, 11. Vestabai Esram, 12. Shivram Tersingh, 13. Bhikla Ramlal, 14. Vimla Dhulsingh, 15. Ramdas Chattarsingh, 16. Champalal Mangilal.
Chittaroopa Palit Khandwa, 28th May 2013