In Runni Saidpur village in Bihar's Sitamarhi district, 316 landless Dalit families, who have been living on 10.7 acres of land since 2003, have been claiming ownership over the land under the Dakhal Dakhani programme of the Bihar government, which allows landless people to take possession of the land on which they have been living for many years. Fifty-one people from these families started an indefinite hunger strike on January 11, 2019, demanding legal documents proving their ownership over the land. The Dalits claim that the local administration is siding with the upper-caste land owners, who do not want the Dalits to get this tract of land. The Dalits are being supported by the All India Kisan Sabha and All India Agricultural Workers Union. After multiple visits to various government offices, the block Circle Officer (CO) finally inspected the disputed land in early January 2019, and it was decided that the Dalit families will receive the ownership papers. But soon after, the CO went on a long leave due to health problems, and the responsibility was shifted to the Block Development Officer (BDO), Saroj Baitha. On January 10, 2019, the BDO visited the area accompanied by 100 policemen. They were allegedly also accompanied by the local land mafia. The BDO informed the Dalits that he would conduct the inspection again and then take a decision regarding the ownership. The Dalits protested and clashed with the policemen, during which several local women were hurt. This further angered the protesters, and they sat on a hunger strike from January 11. During the first five days of the strike, there was no response from the administration. On January 16, the BDO called the Dalit representatives for a meeting. Just as they were about to leave the protest for the meeting, they were attacked by the land mafia, who hurled a petrol bomb at Devendra Jadav, their leader, which he narrowly missed. But two of the protesters, Binda Sahni and a Dalit woman named Anari Devi, were critically injured, along with several others. Sahni later succumbed to injuries at the hospital. The Dalits decided to call off the hunger strike after the incident. They organised a protest rally with the call, Chalo Runni Saidpur
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All India Kisan Sabha, All India Agricultural Workersâ€™ Union
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