Land Struggles Across India: SC Ruling Offers Hope, Conflicts Persist

Hello everyone! 

Welcome to our latest newsletter, packed with new conflict reports and legal insights to keep you informed about the ongoing land and natural resource conflicts across the country. Let’s dive right in!

The Supreme Court has passed an important jugdment this month, expanding landowners' rights in land acquisition cases. Over 40% of the ongoing conflicts in the LCW database involve land acquisition laws. Many of these conflicts involve a violation of the sub-rights mentioned in the recent judgment. If unchallenged, this judgment could allow affected communities to more effectively contest controversial land acquisition proceedings.

Gujarat is witnessing major land conflicts that have sparked opposition from local communities. In a bid to boost tourism to the iconic Statue of Unity, which drew a staggering 5 million visitors in 2023, the state government has proposed building a new airport in Ekta Nagar. But this plan has run into resistance from farmers in three villages - Kher Kuva, Bhadarva, and Sureva - located in Tilakwada taluka of Narmada district, where land has been earmarked for the airport project. These agricultural communities fear the loss of their farmlands and livelihood sources. Read the full report by our researcher Suchak Patel.

Meanwhile, in Mumbai’s Mira Bhayandar, simmering tensions along communal lines have erupted once again over the demolition of 17 shops belonging to Muslim traders. The shops, deemed “illegal” by the municipal corporation, were razed without prior notice in the aftermath of clashes that broke out in the Muslim-dominated locality of Naya Nagar during the consecration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. Our researcher Shubham Kothari reports that legal proceedings and investigations into hate speeches and the ensuing violence are currently ongoing.

In **Assam’s Karbi Anglong **areas, a long-drawn conflict over land rights has taken a violent turn. The Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) served eviction notices to around 10,000 people, predominantly from the Hindi-speaking community, accusing them of illegally occupying reserved grazing lands in the Sixth Scheduled districts of Karbi Anglong and West Karbi Anglong. While the Karbi tribe demands the eviction to protect their ancestral lands and tribal identity, the Hindi-speaking settlers are seeking the de-reservation of these lands. Protests from both sides have spiralled into violence, leading to injuries, arrests, and heightened tensions in the region, as reported by our researcher Sarup Sinha.

The Supreme Court expands Right to Property in land acquisition cases:

On 16 May, the Supreme Court passed an important judgment expanding the constitutional right to property with respect to land acquisition carried out by the government. The court noted that land acquisition, regardless of whichever provision it is carried out under, must ensure that the Right to Property is followed.

The original case involved acquisition of private land by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) in 2009. The KMC allegedly tried to forcibly enter the property, and later removed the landowner’s name from official records. A series of Calcutta High Court judgments invalidated the acquisition, leading to the Supreme Court appeal. 

In the judgment, the Supreme Court noted that the Right to Property should not merely be restricted to the payment of compensation but should include several sub-rights. Among the seven non-exhaustive sub-rights named were the right of landowners to receive notice of the land acquisition and have their objections heard. 

The judgment goes so far as to also include the right to an efficient and expeditious process and a right of conclusion. What is significant is that the judgment completely ignores a controversial constitution bench judgment passed in 2020 that whittled down the landowners’ right to be fairly compensated. 

New in our Database

We currently track 781 ongoing conflicts in the LCW database, affecting around 9.4 million people. Last month, our dedicated researchers added 10 new conflicts, including the ones mentioned above, and provided 11 critical updates. Let’s take a closer look:

Our researcher Emilo Yanthan reported that tensions erupted in the Tsithrongse and Diezephe villages on 10 February 2024, over an old land dispute, leading to property destruction and arson. Additionally, on 25 January 2024, a methane explosion at an illegal coal mine in Ruchanyan village resulted in six deaths and four injuries. The mine lacked proper clearances, highlighting rampant illegal mining in the region, severely impacting the environment and contaminating rivers, reports Emilo.

Apart from the conflict in Karbi Anglong area, the state is also grappling with the escalating human-elephant conflict that has claimed numerous lives along the Assam-Meghalaya border—since 2010, more than 1,000 people and 900 elephants have died in conflicts in Assam alone. Villagers demand government intervention for fair compensation and effective mitigation measures, reports East Street Journal Asia.

In Raiabari, 17 minority Muslim families face harassment and violence over a land dispute centred on forest land allocated under the Right to Forest Act, 2006. On 23 December 2023, an arson attack injured several villagers and destroyed crops belonging to one of those families, reports our researcher Emilo Yanthan.

Our researcher Sarup Sinha reported that the residents of Nongsning and Umrasong protested against nearby coke oven plants on 15 February 2024, citing severe environmental and health risks, and demanding the closure of these plants, some of which operate without required licences. Another conflict was reported from the East Khasi Hills where locals led by the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), protested against illegal settlers in Maxwelton Estate and Indian Army encroachment in Lawsohtun, demanding government action to remove settlers and improve sanitation, writes East Street Journal Asia.

Apart from the Ekta Nagar Airport conflict, our researcher Suchak Patel reported that the residents of 17 villages threatened to boycott elections in January 2023 over demands against three proposed town planning schemes for Bhavnagar, covering 131 square kilometres. Residents fear the loss of fertile farmland, especially affecting mango farmers.


The Mormugao Port Trust proposes extensive expansion in Vasco Bay, raising concerns among fishermen and residents about loss of access, erosion, land encroachment and health hazards. Another set of protests targeted a Sheraton resort in south Goa, on ecological grounds. In Tiracol village, Leading Hotels Pvt Ltd’s Four Seasons project faces legal battles and public protests over land ownership and tenant rights, leaving its fate uncertain despite environmental clearances being granted. The conflicts have been reported by researcher Nihar Gokhale and updated by researcher Maitreya Ghorpade.

In July 2020, Goa’s cabinet approved land for an IIT campus in Melauli village, sparking protests over preserving cashew plantations and local biodiversity. The chief minister initially supported the project but later announced relocation due to the protests. In Colva, since 2013, villagers have resisted converting Colva Lake into a sports complex, advocating its recognition as a wetland. The conflicts have been reported by researchers Aditi Patil and Anamika Gode, respectively, and updated by researcher Malvika Neurekar.

NHAI’s agreement with Gammon India for four-laning the Patna-Buxar highway had stalled due to land acquisition hurdles and protests. In 2022, NHAI deposited compensation after court intervention. A stretch of the highway was inaugurated, but farmers remain dissatisfied with compensation. The conflict was initially reported by researcher Alok and updated by researcher Rahul Kumar Gaurav.

For two years, Chandrapur residents have opposed a waste management plant at a defunct power station, fearing river contamination and harm to wildlife. The protests and the high court’s intervention led to plans to move the site in 2021, reports Sarup Sinha. He further reports on a border dispute between Assam and Mizoram, which erupted in June 2021, with alleged arson by Mizoram residents. The contested area has seen Mizoram build structures despite talks and a 2014 agreement, with frequent incidents and accusations continuing in 2024. 

The Gujarat government’s plan to set up a cheetah breeding centre in Banni grasslands faces opposition from the Maldhari pastoral community, who depend on grazing land for 45,000 people and 150,000 cattle, demand land rights and oppose the project’s approval process, reports researcher Suchak Patel.

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Nayla Khwaja
Communication Officer