Statement Condemning Arrest of Dayamani Barla

The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) strongly condemns the arrest of Dayamani Barla from Jharkhand, National Co-Convener of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and Executive Committee Member of the India Social Action Forum (INSAF). Dayamani has been a leader of various people’s movements and campaigns across India and has been repeatedly threatened for her democratic protests against land acquisition in Nagari, Jharkhand.

The police have reopened an earlier case registered in 2006, when she spent fourteen days in Judicial Custody, after being charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including Section 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon). She was participating in a protest demonstration, which blocked the road, demanding job cards for rural laborers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). She was arrested again this month, and when granted bail on 19th October by a local court of Ranchi, was immediately arrested in a new case, the details of which the Jail authorities refuse to disclose due to ‘technical reasons’, and remains in jail as of now.

This intimidation is due to the peaceful peoples protest against the acquisition of fertile agricultural land at Nagari, a village situated a few kilometers from Ranchi, supporting 500 tribal families. The land was acquired in 1957-58 for building a seed farm for the Birsa Agricultural University, which did not get built, and was later allotted, to IIM and NUSRL by the Jharkhand Government.

A Right to information (RTI) application filed by the villagers has revealed that in 1957 (in the then unified Bihar), of the 153 families whose land was acquired, only 25 took the compensation at a rate of Rs 2,700 an acre. The remaining families declined the compensation offered. Further, the land was then acquired under the urgency clause and there has been no work for 50 years. There is also a 1,900-acre wasteland nearby in Kanke, which the villagers suggest be used instead.

The protest against this land acquisition has been going on since April, when a group of women and Dayamani Barla sat on dharna. Their case was lost in the High Court, with the court failing to take cognizance of its own constitutional law whereby agricultural land, especially under the Fifth Schedule, and in Jharkhand as per the Chotta Nagpur Tenancy Act, should not be acquired for non-agricultural purposes. The Supreme Court too has dismissed the villager’s petition. The villagers are not allowed within one kilometre of the project land as Section 144 has been imposed. The construction site is manned by the Rapid Action Force (RAF) of Jharkhand police.

This is not an isolated case, but part of a larger series of intimidation tactics used by the State to silence peaceful, democratic protest by people asking for their rights and exercising their civil liberties. We demand that Dayamani Barla be released immediately, and there is a full review of this acquisition process, with due compensation to be given and process to be followed.

Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Lal Singh, Bhanwar Meghwanshi, Narayan and Shankar Singh, (for the MKSS )
30th October 2012

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