Burhigara and Kasiadih is twin villages standing as witnesses to a long and bloody struggle for ownership of 1100 acres of land spread out in 22 villages. Though the fight was completely armless, the opposition (the land lord and the Maoists in connivance with the police) succeeded in killing 4 village leaders to suppress the struggle. But the dance of democracy by over a thousand villagers on 26, Feb. 2017 was adequate proof that the bloodshed of the leaders has given new life.
In the year 1991 in Hunterganj Block, Chatra-Jharkhand, a people’s movement had begun lead by Mr. Vinay Senger, to overthrow 3 absentee land lords. These men falsely claimed/ owned about 2500 acres of land, most of which was government land. This land was owned by the Raja of Ramgarh during the British rule. After independence the Indian government did not bother to take the land under land reform. The Raja left the land under the care of the land lords who made the people as work force giving them pittance.
Vinay Senger and his team spent almost a year studying the true nature of the land and convincing the people that the land belonged to them. They had to begin the process with the government under land rights law. But the people were fearful of the land lord and also could not believe they could confront such a tyrannical person. Numerous meetings were conducted in organizing the people; documents were studied minutely to make sure that the land really belonged to the government. Many petitions were submitted to the revenue department but the government turned a deaf year to the people and continued to entertain the land lords.
By now there was a strong organized people’s force that was determined to fight the battle for land ownership. They saw the futility of continuous request to the government. They had secret meetings and by force claim the land. Finally on a particular day before dawn the men with 40 pairs of bullocks began ploughing about 50 acres of land as a signal to the land lords that the people had laid claim over the land. The women, particularly the Bhuia community braced themselves by standing in a huge circle surrounding the men ploughing, armed with stones and dried clay lumps to attack the intruders. Thus the signal had gone out to all 22 villages that the struggle against the land lord had begun which encouraged other villagers to begin the process of land capturing.
Immediately the police and land lord sprung into action taking the support of the Maoists. There began a series of attack, arrest, harassment of women, etc; they also succeeded in murdering 4 prominent leaders of the struggle and accused the movement for killing their own leader. This was very hurting for all the people and so it was decided to start a hunger strike demanding the government administration to find the killer. And so in less than a month the landlord was put behind bars under murder case.
The people kept up the struggle; they laid bare the huge store house and the bungalow of the land lord and the body of the slain leader was cremated in the land lord’s house. But the constant threat and intimidation forced the men go underground. The women stepped in and continued the struggle but the government termed the people as terrorists and the Maoists accused them of being the agents of the police. To escape from both accusations and to work freely the people were forced to register an N.G.O, Chetna Bharati and continued reconstruction of the villages; later a women’s organization was formed in the name of Mahila Mukti Sangharsh Samiti.
Now came the crucial period of land distribution. This in a sense was the most difficult part of the struggle. Here the selfish nature of human being raised its head like a snake with its fangs. But it was done in a most democratic process with every one’s satisfaction. It took almost 6 months to come to consensus. There were 2 prominent castes-Maha Dalits and Backward. The Dalits (Bhuia) got more and better land because they were landless.
Now after about 25 years of land capturing and reconstruction work of the villages the idea of Gav Gana Raj (Village Republic) was floated and there was good response. To initiate the idea the issue of illegal opium cultivation was taken up which destroys forest and cultivable land. Children, women and men (over 200 in numbers) entered the field secretly destroying about 30 acres of cultivation. There was good support from the police and began the destruction process and is going on. But the mafia lost no time to counter attack. Just before the founding ceremony of village democracy the leader of the anti opium campaign was man handled by the mafia and a non bailable arrest warrant was put on him. But this did not hinder the ceremony- in fact it was like fuel over the simmering fire. And so as was planned, on 26th February 2017, Village Republic was officially and solemnly established by hoisting the national flag and taking oath on a burning fire by over 1000 people. At the same time the book named India verses Bharat, written by Vinay Senger was released. India stands for the government and the ruling elite and Bharat constitutes the marginalized people in the villages/ slums. This solemn act was witnessed by the national leaders of Bharat Jan Aandolan –a people’s movement and Sister Manju, the national secretary of the FORUM.
Thus the seed of Village Democracy (”IN OUR VILLAGE WE RULE’) has been planted in 2 villages and one knows the mountainous efforts needed to establish the same in all the 7 lacks villages of Bharat, but without which there is no way to rout the foreign/national powers working to destroy the people, communities and environment-our own Nation.
Joel Urumpil, SCN