Mahadalits’ Protest Against Land Grab in Patna

Tired of repeated and futile pleas to free 10 katthas of mahadalits’ shmasan (burial) ground in Siddharthnagar coming under Airport thana of capital city Patna, the mahadalits and poor of Jagdev Path, Ashiyananagar, and neighbouring mohallas expressed their strong anger against the district administration and State government by blockading Bailey Road on 16th June.

Thousands of mahadalit and poor families living around the western part of Patna’s Bailey Road in Jagdev Path, Ashiyananagar, Konhara, Rukanpura and Mahua Bagh have been burying their dead in the burial ground located at Siddharthnagar (Murlichak). But a company of builders, namely Mssrs. Jainiwas Constructions have started enclosing this land with the intention of capturing it. This is a total of 24 katthas of land out of which a portion of 14 katthas has already been captured by land thieves.

The builder company and its so-called partner Amit Kumar Poddar had tried to capture this ground about 3 years ago on 5 April 2011 and had shot dead Buti Devi, a mahadalit woman who was opposing them. Several others were injured during that protest including Maliya Devi, Surti Devi, and Ramji Manjhi.

After the incident the then DM had announced that the family of deceased Buti Devi would be paid a compensation of Rs 2 lakhs, the culprits guilty of firing and murder would be arrested, the disputd land would be ensured to remain in the custody of the mahadalits and would be fenced in at government cost, and a community hall and toilet would be constructed in the name of Buti Devi in the mahadalit tola at Jagdev Path. The police had even arrested builder Rajiv Kumar and two of his associates Rajesh Kumar and Kumar Gaurav. In addition, Airport thana in charge Mithilesh Jaiswal, SI Ramnarayan Thakur, and 3 home guards were suspended.

After lying low for 3 years, recently Mssrs. Jainiwas Constructions again resumed the work of putting up boundary walls on this land. The mahadalit community organization Shahri Garib Morcha (Front of Urban Poor) and CPI(ML) have in the past few days submitted written applications to Patna DM, Police SP, as well as to CM Shri Jitan Ram Manjhi requesting removal of the builders’ capture of the shmasan ground. However, seeing that the State government and administration have not taken any steps, the people today took recourse to blockading the road.

From 9 in the morning on 16th June, hundreds of men and women from mahadalit and poor mohallas in Jagdev Path, Ashiyananagar, Konhara, Rukanpura etc., gathered near the Jagdev Smarak at bailey Road. The 80 ft. broad road was blocked in several places and from several directions with bamboo poles. Tyres were also burnt in several places. The blocking of traffic started near the Ashiyana turning. Blockades were also put up at more than 3 places on the Jagdev Path-Phulwari Road. Traffic also came to a standstill between Jagdev Path crossroads and Saguna turning and no vehicles were plying including auto rickshaws and buses.

The protestors demanded the removal of the builders’ capture of the shmasan ground and also demanded that the announcements made by the DM after the incident 3 years ago should be implemented. They carried placards demanding compensation of 3 lakhs, land and housing to Buti Devi’ family, and a community hall in her name. They also demanded cleaning up of mahadalit bastis, water, toilets, drainage, pucca streets, and anganwadi centres and schools for mahadalit children.

The road jam was carried out under the banner of Shahri Garib Morcha, led by mahadalit community local leaders along with CPI(ML) leader Murtaza Ali and Shahri Garib Morcha city convener Ashok Kumar, and others.

The local residents were fully aware of the injustice to the mahadalits and poor in this matter, and so they gave their full support to the road jam. Groups of local residents were seen at various places requesting vehicle drivers to turn back. The road block continued unobstructed for over 5 hours.

Arriving at the spot, Patna Sadar SDO Pankaj Dikshit, local CO ad area DSP spoke to the protestors, took stock of the construction site, and put an immediate stop to the construction work. They assured the mahadalit community leaders and Shahri Garib Morcha leaders spearheading the protest that the procedure of burying their dead on the disputed land would continue as before.

The officers assured the protestors that they would convey their demands to the Chief Minister Shri Jitan Ram Manjhi who would soon be meeting the protestors and listening to their complaints.