Dalit Communities in Maharashtra Demand Watan Lands Promised by Government

Reported by

Nihar GokhaleLand Conflict Watch

Last updated on

February 8, 2021

Location of Conflict

Achakdani

Solapur

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Caste-Based Conflict

Government's refusal to allot watan land that was promised to the Dalit communities

(

)

People Affected by Conflict

240

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

20

ha

Starting Year

2016

State

Maharashtra

Sector

Land Use

The Mahar and Ramoshi communities in Maharashtra are fighting for titles to watan lands -- agricultural lands that were given to them by the British in the early 1900s. The Mahars are a Scheduled Caste while Ramoshis are a denotified tribe. The British used to hire men from both the communities to serve in the village administration. In lieu of salary, they were given watan land to cultivate. After independence, in 1958, the then state of Bombay passed a law to abolish the watan system and transfer the land to the government. The law had a provision to grant land titles to all watan landholders if they completed some paperwork and paid a one-time tax. However, the process did not complete, and the government began using the watan lands for public projects instead. "These are our own lands, and yet we don't have them," says T. Vincent Manoharan, chairperson of the National Federation of Dalit Land Rights Movement. In the case of Achakdani village, 50 acres of land were granted to 50 families from the two communities. In the 1970s, the land was transferred to the Maharashtra forest department for carrying out afforestation under the Central governments Drought Prone Areas Programme. The community members allege that the government had promised to transfer the land in their names after the afforestation drive was completed. But that did not happen, and the government evaded the issue. The watan holders, meanwhile, strengthened their demand. They accessed historical records from the Maharashtra state archives and wrote letters to the district collector. In 2018, the tehsildar informed them in writing that since their land was under the jurisdiction of the state forest department, it is protected by the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. Section 2 of the Act prohibits the diversion of forestland for non-forest purposes without the prior approval of the Centre. The two communities have refused to accept this position and continue to campaign against the government and demand land. They are part of a larger movement started by the descendants of the Mahar and Ramoshi _watan _holders who wish to reclaim their lands and become self-sufficient farmers. "When the government needed land for plantation, people did not know if they had any right to object. It was _sarkari zameen _(government land) after all. They thought the government would return it after the plantation drive. If they wanted trees, they could have asked us to plant them. Farmers here anyway do that," 50-year-old Dhanaji Chavan, a resident of Achakdani, told LCW. Chavan's father was a _watan _grantee but he is now fighting to get title to the land."

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for promised land, Demand for legal recognition of land rights

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Common

Type of Common Land

Non-Forest (Other than Grazing Land)

Total investment involved (in Crores):

Type of investment:

Year of Estimation

Has the Conflict Ended?

No

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Legislations/Policies Involved

Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community? What was the decision of the concerned government department?

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Legal Status:

Out of Court

Status of Case In Court

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Case Number

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Whether criminal law was used against protestors

Official name of the criminal law. Did the case reach trial?

Reported Details of the Violation:

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Nature of Protest

Complaints, petitions, memorandums to officials

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

District Collector, Solapur

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Name, Designation and Comment of Corporate Authorities Approached

Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
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No Images Available

Documented By

Nihar Gokhale

Reviewed By

Nihar Gokhale

Updated By

Nihar Gokhale

Edited By

Nihar GokhaleLand Conflict Watch
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