Twentyone families belonging to the Bhil tribal community face the threat of being evicted from 18 hectares of farmland in Karamdi village on the outskirts of Ratlam city. On paper, the land belongs to the government and is classified as grazing land. A silver lining for the farmers came in the form of a Supreme Court ruling on April 29, 2019, which upheld the temporary stay on their eviction issued by the Ratlam civil court in 2016. In January 2019, the farmers filed another petition before the Madhya Pradesh high court, stating that under an 1984 state law, they should receive titles to the grazing land. On January 9, the high court ordered a stay on the industrial cluster. The petition is being heard. In 2015, the state had proposed to set up a namkeen industrial cluster for the production of Ratlami Sev (a popular snack in the city) over 18 hectares of grazing land, which included approximately 12 hectares of farmlands belonging to the Bhils. In 2016, the government began excavation on the site, damaging the standing crop of the farmers. Twelve Bhil families are now landless and work as daily wage earners to make ends meet. In the past three years, the farmers have filed cases at all levels of the judiciary. In February 2016, they filed a suit in the Ratlam civil court, seeking protection from eviction. The court granted an immediate oneyear temporary stay on the eviction. But the stay order was overruled in March by an appeals court in Ratlam and then by the high court. The farmers appealed this before the Supreme Court, which, in November 2016, ordered a stay on the construction of the cluster. However, in April 2017, the government resumed construction, leading the farmers to file a contempt petition, which is still being heard. The cluster has been constructed, and more than 50 plots have been allotted for commercial purpose, according to the state government's website. Ratlam District Collector Ruchika Chauhan declined to comment when contacted by LCW. In an application to the Union Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, the state government claimed that the cluster is necessary to support the city's namkeen makers who are losing market share to largesized competitors. In affidavits to the local courts, the government has claimed that the land is rocky and that the Bhil farmers are merely encroachers. Shailendra Gandhi, president of the Ratlami Sev Evam Namkeen Mandal, dismissed the Bhils' claims as _bakwaas _(bogus). "This is just a _saazish _(agenda) by the Indore namkeen lobby and opposition politicians because they don't want our industry to grow," he said. Ankit Luniya, an entrepreneur setting up the first namkeen unit in Ratlam, said the land was rocky and that the cluster did not take up farmland. The Bhils, on the other hand, claim to have been cultivating on this land for the last 80 years and to have been recorded in revenue surveys dating back to 1967. The farmers claim that their forefathers had worked hard on the rocky land to make it cultivable and that they should be given patta or permanent lease so that they can continue to cultivate. The Bhils are landless and grow food on their farms. The origin of the conflict between the Bhils and the state can be traced back to 2009, when the government proposed a foodprocessing park over 32 hectares of the grazing land, including the entire area cultivated by the Bhils. The district officials had attempted to evict some farmers then, but they returned to the land and the government did not pursue the project.
Demand/Contention of the Affected Community
Demand for legal recognition of land rights
Government Bodies Involved in the Conflict:
District Administration, Ratlam; Department of Industries and Commerce, Government of Madhya Pradesh; Union Ministry of Micro, Medium and Small Industries
Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:
Madhya Pradesh Audyogik Kendra VIkas Nigam (Ujjain) Limited (A Government of Madhya Pradesh company)
Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:
Adivasi Ekta Maha Sabha
Legislations Involved in the Conflict:
Forest and Scheduled Area Governance Laws, Constitutional Law, Central/State Government Policy
Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:
Forced evictions/ Dispossession of Land, Constitutional inconsistencies between state and Central land laws, Scheduled Tribes status or lack of status
Name(s) of Court(s)
Madhya Pradesh High court
W.P. No.2234/2016, W.P. 431/2019
Nature of Protest
Advocacy (for inclusion in courts)
Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:
Displacement, Physical attack
Reported Details of the Violation:
In February 2016, government officials visited the area proposed for the namkeen cluster with JCB and razed the farms of the Bhil farmers despite their protests. Twelve families were forcefully evicted.
Date of Violation
Location of Violation
Has the Conflict Ended?
When did it end?
Why did the conflict end?