Tillers must fight their battle on their own

Indigenous Voice
Indigenous Voice26 Nov 2015, Thursday
Tillers must fight their battle on their own


                                                                   Sarswati Subba

                                                                   General Secretary, National Land Rights Forum

Indigenous people are sons of the soil. But most of them are landless. Limbus' Kipat was seized by the state. Rais were defeated by Prithvi Narayan Shah's force, and most of them lost their lands. Tharus cultivated lands in Nepal's southern plains for ages. But when Bahuns and Chhetris descended from the hills, Tharus lost their lands and became Kamaiyas.

Land plays an important role in one's status. Without lands, indigenous people were treated like second-class citizens. They were excluded by the state.

There are many people who have been living on public lands. Yet, they do not have land ownership certificates. Haruwa, Charuwa and Kamlaris served landlords for generations, but they still did not get land ownership certificates. Political parties always promised to address tenancy rights issues through their manifestos. But when they grabbed power, they just backed off.

Land plays an important role in one's status. Without lands, indigenous people were treated like second-class citizens. They were excluded by the state

Nepal has witnessed many struggles and campaigns for landless. Many are confused as to what the real land issues are. They need not be confused. The bottom line of tenancy rights movement, though carried out by any organizations under any names, is lands should be owned by those who actually cultivate them. Those who live in cities and do not cultivate lands should not be allowed to occupy lands. But landless are powerless, and the state has always been dominated by land owners. So, issues of land rights movement remain unaddressed. Nevertheless, we are not tired. We will fight till the tillers get their dues.

If landless people want their rights, they should fight by themselves. They should be aware and be able to consistently build pressure on the state. If they just keep waiting for the state to give them their rights, they will always be landless. Political parties certainly represent them, and they should pressurize the parties they voted to power to fulfill electoral promises. Political parties and civil rights organizations are key agents of change. They should be pressurized. 

If landless people want their rights, they should fight by themselves. They should be aware and be able to consistently build pressure on the state.

It is good that we now have a new constitution. The constitution is never able to fulfill aspirations of each and every individual. It is even more impossible in an ethnically, religiously and culturally diverse country like ours. There are not protests over the new constitution. They say the constitution treats them like second-class citizens. I do not think so. People are treated as second class citizens because they are poor, landless and literate. The constitution has guaranteed rights to land and habitat. We now need to put pressure on the state o implement these rights.

Of course, there are some flaws in the constitution. But these flaws can be corrected through amendments. We must put pressure on the parties to amend the constitution without resorting to violence. I think people are now being manipulated by some parties. They have not read the constitution. If they read and understand constitution, there will not be violent protests. 

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