Dalit families in Marathwada in Maharashtra continue to demand regularisation of land rights for common grazing land that they have been traditionally cultivating. Vishwanath S. Todkar, director of Prayay, a nonprofit supporting the movement, told Land Conflict Watch that according to a survey conducted in 2018, approximately 10,920 people in the region are cultivating 18,631.62ha of common grazing land in four districts Osmanabad, Parbhani, Beed and Nanded.
The Jamin Adhikar Andolan (JAA) was started in the 1990s spread over eight districts. However, the practice of cultivating common grazing land and demands for private land titles date further back. During the preIndependence period, the then rulers had conferred the grazing land to Dalits, as per a TOI report. Cultivating the land since then has been a way to reduce the socioeconomic vulnerabilities that the community is subjected to, to attain resources and to challenge the monopoly of upper caste on land and other crucial resources as well as to assert their right to have a dignified status in society. Community leaders also say that conferring formal cultivation rights will help in better management of land resources in the droughtprone region.
The two resolutions passed by the Maharashtra government in December 1978 and November 1991 directed the state authorities to provide the members of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes, Nomadic Tribes, Vimukta Jati and the Nav Bauddha community with land titles for the land in their possession, amongst other guidelines. However, according to a writ petition filed in 2010, the concerned authorities have failed to successfully implement the two resolutions, highlighting the resistance of uppercaste communities, inactive state authorities, transference of land to the forest department for afforestation and land privatisation as the reasons for the delay in implementation. The writ petition also provided instances of Dalit families cultivating common grazing land being harassed by the upper caste and forced to give up the land.
According to the petition, until April 1990, 84,230 families were collectively in possession of over 1,08,915.54 hectares of grazing/fallow land, however, Todkar stated that the movement has reduced to 30 per cent of its early reach in terms of land and people affected. He also noted that the NGOs and concerned families are refraining from filing a court case or seeking any legal aid due to the governments emphasis on increasing forested area, for which large parts of land has been diverted to the state forest department by the revenue department. Meanwhile, the families continue to demand legal recognition of their possessions.