More than 8,000 women and men belonging to Dalit and other marginalized communities from across Bihar came together in the state capital, Patna, on March 10, asking for a legislation on homestead land ownership. Facilitated jointly by Dalit Adhikar Manch (DAM), ActionAid Association and other social networks working on Dalit rights, this state-level public meeting saw issues affecting Dalit communities being strongly raised, including landlessness and the question of dignity.
Shri Kapileshwar Ram, State President, DAM, spoke about the historical marginalization of Dalits. He said that even after over 70 years of independence, Dalits continue to stay deprived of their rights, and are leading a life of exclusion and indignity. Addressing the gathering, ActionAid’s Sandeep Chachra addressed the issue of dispossession of natural resources and the situation of landlessness among Dalits in the state that is compelling them to migrate to other states. He further encouraged all community leaders to keep up the momentum of their struggle for land rights and dignity for Dalits through participatory and collective leadership.
The primary demand emerging from the meeting was the enactment of a strong legislation on homestead land rights and ensuring at least 10 decimals of land for all homeless Dalit households, with ownership in the name of women. Other demands included the redistribution of ceiling surplus land and Bhoodan land among the landless Dalits; keeping an effective check on the atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis and ensuring justice to victims through speedy trials; and an effective legislation on the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (SCSP) and the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) to ensure proper planning, adequate fund allocation and its proper utilization in a transparent manner. Subsequently, community leaders present at the meeting as well as representatives from the various social networks collectively resolved to stay united in their efforts to further the advocacy on their issues.
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