Monday, December 28, 2009

[ZESTCaste] Fwd: Salute to the indefatigable spirit of struggle of Subedar Jasram

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Vidya Bhushan Rawat <vbrawat@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, Dec 27, 2009 at 11:03 PM
Subject: Salute to the indefatigable spirit of struggle of Subedar Jasram
To:


Tribute

Following Rule of law means end with out justice

Salute to the indefatigable spirit of struggle of Subedar Jasram

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

As I write this tribute to a very respected friend who looked to me to
get the justice for over 150 landless Dalit families in Shaheed Udham
Singh Nagar, for over 20 years. It was way back in 1994 when Subedar
Jasram met me in Delhi at Ambedkar Bhavan. It was a meeting called by
a friend when Subedar narrated story of horror in the Tarai region of
Uttar-Pradesh. Afterwards, we got in touch regularly watching and
reviewing the situation in that region where land ceiling laws were
never implemented and where the terror of certain communities are
still the order of the day.

We all know how difficult it is to fight for land battle in this
region where a padyatra conducted by us last year was met with spying
of our activities and threatening the poor villagers of dire
consequences. The threat did not end at the grassroots, it came to me
many time on my mails and various comments at my blogs too. In 1995,
when some of us went from Delhi to investigate the case and assure the
villagers that we are working with them, the encroachers of the land,
attacked us for 'inciting' the 'harijans', a term deliberately used to
describe the Dalits. Subsequently, the threats continued and when they
did not work, there were efforts for co-option and finally the
economic boycott of the Dalits.

Each activity was reported to not only the courts, but to the
governments of the days in the form of representations to political
parties and autonomous institutions yet nothing yielded result. Led by
both Maywati and Mulayam Singh Yadav, the governments in Uttar-Pradesh
did not do anything. Contrary to this, they played with those who had
really exploited the Dalits, the powerful land mafia in the region.
Later, when Uttarakhand state came into being, the condition of Dalits
worsened in this region as the government, the bureaucracy did not
work to help them.

To those who do not know the background of this, I would like to
inform that, over 1167 acres of land in possession of M/s Escorts
Farms Limited by declared as surplus land by the Commissioner of
Nainital in 1990s. Nobody ever take notice of it as the land was being
tilled by about 150 Dalit families who had developed 'Ambedkar Gaon,
near Hari nagar. Several years later, when the land became cultivable
by seer hard work of the Dalits, the owners of M/s Escorts Farms
Limited realized that the land should now be cleared. With the help of
police and local administration they not only bulldozed the community
but put them behind the bar for charges of illegal occupation of land
and trying to disturb peace. Cases were filed in local courts.
Commission of inquiries suggested that the Dalits were tilling the
land and had some cemented structure also, but the company always
tried to say that nothing existed. In a clever and manipulative way,
it challenged the government's ceiling order in the high court to make
it a case between the government and the company. It was natural but
with efforts, the Allahabad High Court decided to hear the cases of
the Dalits as a grieving party.

In 1997, Allahabad High Court's judgment upheld the order of the
Commissioner of Kumaon, Nainital and posed a fine of Rs ten lakh on
the company to compensate the government. It also asked the government
to suitably rehabilitate the Dalits.

The government never took control of it. I had personally been
involved in the entire exercise. From the chief ministers to senior
leaders, we searched every option. The National Human Rights
Commission, SC-ST Commission and every avenue in this 'liberal'
democracy was used but to no avail. The government never took over the
land. Interestingly to our disgust, the lords of the company were
selling the land illegally to people outside the state. Nobody can
procure land in Uttarakhand yet the number of immigrants from other
states have been increasing but our governments do not understand
this. Most of them are poor farmers from Punjab who have been lured
for big land in this region. They end up in nothing as they can not
really legally own it.

The aggrieved party went to the Supreme Court and in February 2004, it
lost the case there. The two judge bench upheld Allahabad High Court
order yet the authorities decided not to act on it. Again, we had the
same exercise asking the political leadership to act. Congress party
had come to power at the centre in May 2004 and Sonia Gandhi became
chairperson of National Integration Council. Representation were made
to her but nothing happened. Instead, the honorable chief minister of
Uttarakhand, Mr Narain Dutt Tiwari, found a noble way of implementing
the court's order. He first ordered demolition of the houses of
encroachers and later when lot of noises were made by Akali Dal and
other political parties including BJP and Bharatiya Kisan Union, that
Sikhs were being targeted in Tarai, redistributed to the same land to
people along with hefty compensation package. Finally, Subedar Jasram
approached the Lokayukta for justice. Some of us informed him to find
out the political solution rather then approaching the courts as it
was too tidy and danger of being rejected. After two years of hearing,
the Lokayukta of Uttarakhand, Justice S.Z.Raza submitted a report to
state government indicting the revenue department and district
magistrate of Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar for violating the Supreme
Court order. When we challenged the government redistributing the land
to those who the court called encroachers, the government rejected our
plea. It said that it has a right to redistribute the ceiling surplus
land according to its own choice and it can not be forced to
distribute it in a particular way. We showed them the clauses of the
Zamindari Abolition Act and also the clause of how the ceiling land
should be redistributed after declaring surplus which clearly
mentioned  SC, ST, war widows etc. All those who were given land never
came under this category but nothing happened. Based on the report of
Lokayukta, we went to the Supreme Court where the petition is pending
for final disposal.

This is a small side of a big story which has taken nearly 20 years
and yet to get justice. Subedar Jasram, who was 85 years of age
continued with this battle. Just four days before his death, I tried
to speak to him. His family contacted me that he is in the last stage
and was barely able to speak. I said that we will win this battle. He
was an optimist. I never saw a person like him. He did not suffer from
any ideological crisis. He wanted land for his people. He was very
simple but true to his convictions. I know very well that every
movement has to pass through it. Hungary stomachs can not wait for
even a year. People used to contribute money but justice was not in
our hand. People would blame him that he is not doing enough but what
could we do. We did not have enough number to make a protest felt in
Dehradun, or Nainital. Most of the Dalits there are immigrants and the
upper caste dominated Uttarakhand simply has no time for them. Narain
Dutt Tiwari, the honorable retired governor of Andhra Pradesh was
instrumental in getting many outsiders huge benami land in this
region. He simply did not act on any of our complaints. In fact, why
should he alone, none were ready to act.

It was painful for old man to come to Delhi and walk kilometers and
kilometers. He would complain to me that it was becoming difficult for
him to walk now. For us finding lawyers were difficult. All those who
claims to be champion of social justice, become typical lawyers when
we go to them. It was difficult to convince the lawyers. They would go
with their speed. For them every case is same. It does not matter
whether it is delayed or not. I knew the pain of an activist. I know
we feel disgruntled at the turn of event but at the home people would
always ask: what is happening? When is the judgment coming? Many time,
I felt whether we are cheating people for not fighting a big battle. I
do not know what is big battle by asking people to pick up arms. I
never believed in that as I know nobody has got anything out of it so
far. All those fairy tales are good in red books only and not in real
books. But definitely our record as a democracy does not shine.

These uncomfortable questions were regular for me. Once I approached a
political friend of mine from the region to help ask his government to
expedite the case and he promised to bring a set of ruling party
leaders but for that we needed big mobilization of people. I declined
saying that was not possible for me to arrange a huge political rally
for him. It was a clear case of human rights violation and for
resolving them, we do not need to bring a massive crowd. How can a
minority community bring massive mobilization in India? I remember
Baba Sahib's prophetic words that a Gandhi can do fasting unto deaths
for Muslims but not for the Dalits. Same thing is true today. The
seculars do not get interested in Dalit cause. So they remain
completely isolated and marginalized where their numbers are
absolutely miniscule. That is the tragedy of India.

Subedar, during his battle lost his two sons and his wife. He was a
rare gem of person who served his wife who was totally paralytic. He
would talk to her and help her in emergencies unlike other
'revolutionary' males in India who are typical husbands at home while
champion of liberalism outside. Whenever, I used to visit him, he
would be sitting with his wife. She would ask me : 'zamin to mil
jayegi na'.. kya main dekh paoongi who din'.. ( hope I will get the
land… can I see that day.. ) and the subedar would always remind her
that people like me are always there with them.

Last year, we decided to do a Padyatra to carry on the battle and send
a political message to those in powers to implement the court verdict.
These government officials are simply anti Dalits and do not want to
even negotiate. We were hounded every day by intelligence officials
while the powerful mafia were after us, asking us to mend our ways.
Subedar was very happy with our yatra. He promised to send his
colleagues to our yatra. The age was catching him. And just two days
before the yatra reached the village Harinagar, on December 28th,
Subedar Jasram had a massive heart attack but he survived. I felt it
was his spirit that survived him. We continued our padyatra in that
difficult hour and culminated at his home. All of us met him and he
realized that people from different regions were there for the
padyatra. He felt bad as he wanted to greet each of us. That day, In
realized that he had enough energy as none of the friends who met him
that day felt that he would survive for long.

It was a miracle that the Subedar survived even after that. I had been
updating him about our activities and about the court case. He was
ever optimist of our efforts. He wanted to organize a big reception
when the final order would come. Some time, I always felt that it was
difficult to say no to people when they have hopes. Even a person like
me who never felt much in these institutions had to believe in and do
the best. Things were not in our hand and we could only do our best.
The community was not there all the time. Many of them had died and
many migrated. Most of the young children today have their children
and narrate the horrifying image of that time. They have passed
through one period. Rarely very few of them got educated. Subedar
ensured that his grand children and daughter get educated, ofcourse,
none of them had much with the movement.

Like every social activist, subedar too was quite alone at home. Some
of his family people cared for him while other did  not. Perhaps they
felt that the man was giving too much time to villagers at their cost.
Other felt his need for the land piece. I do not know what to say but
some time I feel what one gets after following the constitution of
this country. All of us who follow rule of law have to die without
getting justice. Today, when I see tribal fighting their battle with
gun, I do not know how to condemn them, I have a clear case in my own
front, and waiting for justice and my beloved friends are leaving one
by one without justice. There is no one to weep for all those who do
not have a tag of big neta, abhineta or an educated intellectual.
People like subedar Jasram, who contributed to the cause of their
community, with a big heart remain unknown as those who write history
only do parikrama around a few political leaders.. for them that is
the final moment of empowerment but none of them dare to write that
despite all these noise and slogan of empowerment, people still
waiting for justice. What will be the compensation for those who lost
their every thing ? Can any one return the life of those youngsters
who lost their livelihood, their parents, their land and therefore
their schooling?

For me, it is a personal failure. Though I am still optimist as our
courts will do justice and the shameless political class will act on
the cry of people, I am at loss of words for my inability to get
things on time. One remains helpless in the heap of papers in the name
of law. One remains pitied once you visit to a court. You are not at
your own. You can only hope. I am sure the great services of Subedar
jasram and his friends will not go in vain despite all these
disappointments and shocks. The struggle for life will continue. Jai
Bhim, Subedar, I salute your endless spirit. Hope it will inspire all
of us and all those who have heard about his tireless efforts to get
justice to his community. May be being a soldier, as well a Dalit, he
had faith in country's constitution. Subedar is no more and the wait
is now more painful. Hope the pain  does not convert into anger as
Baba Saheb had predicted in his constituent assembly speech. The
political class must ponder over, that if it continues to deny people
justice, if our court become shelter of power brokers, then the
oppressed communities will take law in their own hand and destroy
everything that we do in the name of democracy. That would the saddest
day for India as no body would have patience like me in the democratic
values as people today are becoming more and more fed up with the
current structure helping the status quoists and denying the oppressed
their legitimate due to live with dignity.

--
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Visit my blog at
www.manukhsi.blogspot.com

For information on the issues, movements and priorities of Scavenger
community in India please log on to
www.swachchakar.blogspot.com
For information on civil society initiatives on Muslims in UP please log on to
www.rehnumaa.blogspot.com


For Social action, land rights, right to food and hunger issues
support Social Development Foundation at  www.thesdf.org


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1 comment:

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