Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The opening of a Pandora Box By Vidya Bhushan Rawat Uttar-Pradesh state assembly in its shortest ever session of eleven minutes only passed a resolution for carving out four states from Uttar-Pradesh. The resolution has now gone to the Central government for their perusal. However, we all know, that this is not going to happen that easily for which our political pundits are making noises and parties going for and against it. Let me be clear in the very beginning that I have no objection of Ms Mayawati raising the issue for political purposes. In politics you raise the issue in the people’s court and it is up to them how they react. Rajiv Gandhi went for a national poll immediately after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in October 1984 and won with a landslide majority. Gujarat Chief Minister used the same anti Muslim card for his comeback. Ayodhya’s issue raised by Advani and company finally help BJP to take its tally from 2 to 120 in Parliament and converted it to India’s main opposition party. So, political debate in India has stooped so low that we must not expect too much from them. Now let us examine the issue of division of Uttar-Pradesh. One may ask this question as why should we only divide Uttar-Pradesh and reduce it to nothing. Politically Uttar-Pradesh is an important state for every political party and today, if we are witnessing the assertion among the DAlits and OBC political leadership all over the country, the credit goes to Uttar-Pradesh. In fact, Bihar comes second to Uttar-Pradesh as far as Dalit assertion and political understanding is concern. Today, BSP is the only party based on Ambedkarite principals (whether they work on it or not is not the question here but they claim to follow it), which is in power. In Maharastra, the RPIs failed and that too miserably forcing many of them to even form alliance with Shiv Sena. Can we ever imagine a party formed by Ambedkar and on his principals forming alliance with rabid anti dalit and anti Muslim party like Shiv Sena or MNS? Have we forgotten how Shiv Sena opposed violently the naming of Marathwada University in the name of Baba Saheb Ambedkar in the 1980s? For us who have seen the danger of majoritarian politics, secular polity of India is thankful to Uttar-Pradesh and Bihar for successfully able to thwart the designs of communal fascist forces in the country. We all know that the Sangh Parivar and its offshoots are completely helpless in Uttar-Pradesh and Bihar at the moment as their hegemony has completely destroyed at least politically. The Dalits, OBCs and Muslims are building alliances and coming close. Uttar-Pradesh is the biggest laboratory for that. The second phase of Mandalisation process has already begun in Uttar-Pradesh. It is the reemergence of MBCs and Maha Dalits or excluded dalits. Nitish Kumar played a card in Bihar to gain from it but fortunately in UP, it is the emergence of these segments and they can play their own politics. So, it is second phase Mandal process where even the Mahadalits, MBCs and Pasamanda Muslims are joining hand for their political participation. With BSP increasingly tilting as Chamar-Brahmin alliance, the excluded Dalits and MBCs have no other option than to form an alliance and look for their future. In this background comes the news of division of Uttar-Pradesh. There is no proof that smaller states are better governed or bigger states are worst. Why should then we have a huge country which is ungovernable? Should not we say that India is an unmanageable country? But then, every small identity that merges with India also gets benefit of its strength. It happen same to the states. Question is not whether a state should be big or small. The real question is whether the people in the state want to live together or not. Whether there is a cultural difference or a feeling of isolation by one segment of people or not? We all know when Uttarakhand was created, I protested against it for the fear that the majoritarian upper castes will not allow the Dalits and OBCs to live peacefully. We all know how the condition of Dalits in Uttarakhand where no government till date have been able to spend the SCP meant for SC-STs. The money goes unspent. The job quota is not filled adequately and the social ostracisation of the community is enormous even when there is no physical intimidation in the hills. The conditions in Harit Pradesh or Paschim Pradesh are different. This is the fiefdom of the Jats and Gujjars. The Dalits here are predominantly depended on agricultural work. Ofcourse, they have also grown up but the relationship between them and the upper castes is well known here. In the Bundelkhand region Kurmis, Brahmins and Thakurs dominate. Violence against Dalits particularly the Kol tribal go unreported. The Poorvanchal is the region where BSP remained stronger but that too with the help of ‘poor’ ‘brahmins’ so we can understand how will it help them. It is equally important to see how the state of Uttar-Pradesh can merge Faizabad, Pratapgarh and Sultanpur in the Poorvanchal State though historically they have been part of Avadh. In fact, before the capital of Avadh moved to Lucknow, Faizabad was its capital. Is not it a travesty of truth? Similarly, Agara, Kanpur and Allahbad should be nearer to Bundelkhand rather than Avadh Pradesh or Pooravanchal Pradesh. It would have been great if the serious issue had discussion in the beginning so that people are well equipped with knowledge about the act. Secondly, do we hate Uttar-Pradesh that much that we want to eliminate the very name of Uttar-Pradesh itself. Third, why should only Uttar-Pradesh be divided? Why not other big states like Madhya Pradesh, Maharastra, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Bihar? It is important to understand the dynamics of our political class. Even when the state can be divided for administrative reasons, let there be a state reorganization commission. There are a lot of unfulfilled agenda of the past. A place like Belgaum creates violence on the issue of Marathi verses Kannada in Karnataka. Why should a Marathi speaking town such as Belgaum be part of Karnataka? Similarly, the issue of Abohar and Fazilka in Punjab became bone of contention between Punjab and Haryana. We all know the issue of Naga areas in Manipur for which the state is still facing the blockade. Jammu and Ladhakh have nothing in common with Kashmir valley and have distinct cultural identity of their own. India needs small states to govern efficiently. Ofcourse, India needs to increase its size of parliament too. India requires radical changes including that in our parliamentary structure. Problem is not just with the governance of state. Our states or parliament is not really representative of our communities. Despite sizeable presence in Uttar-Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the Tharus, one of the most celebrated tribes of our country, have just one member of assembly in Uttarakhand. Communities like Balmikis, Khatiks, Kols, Doms, Nais remain unrepresented. Many of the most marginal communities remain outside the realm of our parliamentary politics. So what will these new state offers to them? Frankly speaking, the new state might reduce the already diminishing Dalit-OBC representation so chances for the most marginalized one would be difficult to come. It needs to change India’s parliamentary system. If we see the state of Chhatishgarh and Jharkhand, both are Adivasi dominated yet have been dominated by the non adivasis in political leadership. The least said about Jharkhand’s political leadership the best. In one night, Madhu Koda signed more than 300 deals which could never have happened in a state like Bihar. A big state is a challenge for officials as they fear mass protest if the political leadership is sidelined. A state like Uttar-Pradesh is bigger than many countries and therefore the chief minister of the state is respected and is relatively powerful. No official or bureaucrat can take her for granted but all these small states are being run by the coterie of bureaucrats or the chamchas of the political class. The experience shows that they are ruthless in tackling dissent and opposition. Economically, most of these states are dependent on the Centre for financial support. Creation of new state poses great economic stress. Not only does it need new infrastructure, legislative assemblies, governor’s houses, bungalows etc. Our political class will not live in ordinary areas. In the fifties it was easier for new states to be developed as places like Lucknow, Hyderabad, Madras, Banglore, Thiruvnanathpuram had already had infrastructures for everything. But now the new states will be more burdens to people. Most importantly, in the new state, we will not have new leaders but the same old ones who have been sucking our blood all the time. Example from Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Chhatishgarh and north east clearly indicate that they have become police state. It is also true that big corporate find is easier to tackle the political leadership in these states easily than in the bigger states. While, I do not believe in the argument whether smaller states are better or big states are useful. The question should be addressed according to local demands, cultural issues and most importantly economic viabilities of such states. It would be better if Centre comes out with a specific time frame for a State Reorganisation Commission which should look into all aspect such interstate issues such as Bundelkhand and Poorvanchal which cannot be created just out of Uttar-Pradesh but will have to be carved out of Madhya Pradesh too. Lot of issues but if the petty politics takes over then the whole exercise would be too dangerous for the unity of the country. A country like India can accommodate more state and bigger parliament but for that we need serious discussion and a time found agenda and framework of SRC so that we can address the issue in the utmost national interest. Let the political parties not whip up passion and create a frenzy in the name of ‘small is best’, as it could prove contrary also because at the end the political leadership as well as the working class of each state in India will emerge from ourselves only. Hence , whether it is small or big, at the end of the day, it is we the people of India, who will provide leadership to these states. It is not going to come from anywhere else. There is no denial of fact that people today aspire for more decentralized power structure but at the same point of time, also look for safe guards of communities who have never got representation. So, India need a reorganization of not only its state, but its political system in entirety otherwise, these so called new states or small state will have the same elite dominating with much bigger brutality over minorities as they have been in the past. The issue of creation of states have to be based on demands of people and should not be imposed by the political leadership from the above. An empowered State Reorganisation Commission should be asked to look into it and till then we can make a moratorium on the issue, except the already decided issue of Telangana which need to be created based on popular demands of the people of the region. Denying that in the name of unity and integrity of Greater Telangana will be an injustice to the entire struggle of the people. Such generalization can damage the cause of unity of people. Uttar-Pradesh government’s issue is different as there is neither a mass movement nor a public revolt for creating so many states out of Uttar-Pradesh. Ofcourse, it is good that Ms Mayawati has given it a serious thought but it is equally important that the issue be debated widely and should not be resolved without a State Reorganisation Commission as the stake holders are not just in Uttar-Pradesh but also in other states.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A letter to Chief Minister of Uttarakhand..

How long will you deny justice to Dalits in Uttarakhand.... Mr Bhuvan Chandra Khanduri, Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Chief Minister’s Secretariat, Dehradun November 5th, 2011 Re: Honouring the Nainital High Court’s Judgement in the Escort Farm case Sir, We write you with great concern and anguish for the failure of Uttarakhand state to provide justice to nearly 150 Dalit families living in and around village Harinagar and Kundeswari, in Kashipur block of district Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar, who have been waiting for land redistribution for the land declared ceiling surplus under the UPZALR act in 1990s by the commissioner of Kumaon. This was upheld by Allahabad High Court in 1992 which was again challenged by P.N.Mehta of M/s Escorts Farms Ltd yet the Supreme Court in its historic judgement upheld the Allahabad High Court Order in February 2004. After the Supreme Court upheld land ceiling, we thought that the state of Uttarakhand will implement the court order which was clearly meant according to ceiling laws but very unfortunately without caring the human aspect and the issue of social justice as well as the claims of the Dalit families who were actually tilling the land during the time in 1990 when M/s Escorts Farms Ltd of Mr P.N.Mehta in active connivance of administration mercifully dislocated the 150 landless Dalit families who created a new world of their own by dint of their hard work. The administration from the day one was hell bent to deny the Dalits a right to have their land. The dismal state of Dalits and their isolation in Uttarakhand is well known to be described here. The antipathy of the political parties to raise this issue in the past 15 years is an example of how our polity take up the issue of Dalits in the region. Yet, we have fought the issue with great conviction in rule of law and our constitution. After the Supreme Court judgement too, the Uttarakhand authorities were not ready to take over the land from the farm house which used every trick to circumvent the rule of ceiling act by creating fictitious companies and group of people which were clearly described by the Supreme Court as people who should be shown no mercy. In fact, on February 5th, 2001, Shri Bansidhar Bhagat wrote a letter to district magistrate Udham Singh Nagar, ( letter number 831/vip/2000 dated 5.02.2001) on our complaint to investigate the activities of the land mafia in the region who with active connivance of the district administration were allotting the land declared surplus under Ceiling Act, to the people from Punjab without providing any papers etc. In fact none of the residents of the area would have any paper of land but they would claim having been there for ‘years’. On January 2nd, 2006, the State Chief Minister Shri N.D.Tiwari under pressure of violating Supreme Court order asked the state administration to take the possession of the said 1126.67 acres of land. The way the entire issue was dealt showed the farce in the entire exercise. The government demolished various houses of the ‘farmers’ who were declared encroachers by the Supreme Court and later on redistributed the same land to nearly 200 families. Hence the illegal owners have now been legalised by the state government. Ofcourse, the politicians from Punjab, Akali Dal and BJP were in the forefront of fighting for the ‘rights’ of the ‘farmers’. We all know all the land ceiling act has been mercilessly and violently violated in the Tarai region of Uttarakhand. The shocking aspect of all these is the continuous neglect to the issue of the Dalits in the region. Why have the government officials, political parties continue to deny the rights to the Dalits in the region. We filed a petition with the Lokayukta Justice S.H.Raza who declared in his final report that the state of Uttarakhand has violated the Supreme Court order. The attitude of the government officials in Uttarakhand was clearly caste-ist in nature and thoroughly anti Dalit. We wanted to know under which category the land was given to these 200 Sikhs after the government took over the land. We can understand that your government was not there during the period but your party has a role in thwarting the Supreme Court judgement. Land Ceiling Act is clearly design to provide social justice to all the landless people particularly Dalits, addivasis and women but definitely the government officials had other ideas. They felt that the government has enormous rights over their land and can redistribute it to whoever it feels. This was challenged by me in the Uttarakhand High Court on October 19th, 2010 under PIL No 75,2010 about which Justice Barin Ghosh, Chief Justice of High Court of Uttarakhand said “ The petitioner contends that the land acquired under UP Zamindari Abolition and Land Reform Act, 1950 can only be dealt with in the manner provided in Section 198 of the said Act In other words it is the contention of the petitioner that the land, which has come in the possession of the State, in view of the provision contained in the said Act, can only be settled in favour of the persons named and in accordance with the preference specified in Section 198 of the said Act and the State Government has no authority to utilise the said land for any other purpose.’ The state counsel said that the state government has unfettered rights of deciding about the acquired land to any one. On 26th October 2010 Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court Justice Barin Ghosh passed the order accepting our position and asked the state government to redistribute the land according to the provisions Section 198 of Uttar-Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reform Act, 1950. We however want to mention shocking details here and completely lack of coordination between the standing Counsel of the government of Uttarakhand in the High Court, who did not know anything happening at the ground. The standing counsel suggested that the government has not done anything with the acquired land while the government’s own records suggested that over 200 people were already redistributed land which violated the basic principle of the land ceiling act. The officials were unable to convince the Lokayukta that time whether their act was according to the provisions and spirit of Supreme Court order. The court however accepted the contention of the Standing Counsel that the government has not acted there because of various problems, while the fact is that the government on January 1st-2nd and 3rd, 2006 distributed about 450 acres of land to nearly 200 families who were actually declared encroachers by the Supreme Court of India in its judgement in 2004 and suggesting that no mercy should be shown to them. We felt that finally the Uttarakhand government will act and provide relief to the Dalit families hence we did not insist on our charges against the standing counsel for openly misguiding the court about the said land. It is over one year now since the High Court Order came and it is with deep sense of regret that we are approaching you that the government’s in Uttarakhand have not shown any will to implement the Supreme Court order despite a clear guide line from the High Court in Nainital as how should the land be redistributed. We are enclosing all the main documents including the high court order in this regard in the hope that your government will soon take and action. In case it is not done, we will have to approach the High Court and Supreme Court for the clear case of contempt of the Court order by the state of Uttarakhand. We are looking forward for a speedy action from your side so that the Dalits in Uttarakhand may feel that government has honoured its constitutional obligations. It is rare that despite so much of miscarriage of justice by the state authorities the Dalits of the state still are looking for constitutional means to provide them justice. We congratulate for passing a Lokpal bill though without ensuring participation of Dalits and OBCs in it, yet we hope you will find time to read Justice S.H.Raza’s scathing indictment of Uttarakhand government officials for violating the spirit of Supreme Court order. It is therefore not important whether you bring this law or that, but the implementation of it. We hope that your government will act on it and provide justice to the displaced Dalits of village Harinagar and Kundeswari who fought against the might of the land mafias and still opted to believe in the constitution of India and did not pick up guns to get speedy justice. That need to be appreciated by you and your government if it want peace and prosperity in Tarai region as social inequalities and mafia raj on land will only precipitate the matter and no action for the sake of vote will create a big distrust between different communities. Thank you, Yours Sincerely, Vidya Bhushan Rawat