Protest Against Land Grab at Nalanda : Report by a CPI(ML) Investigation Team

On February 8, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar visited Pilkhi village of Nalanda (his home district) along with Ex-President Kalam to show him the proposed site for Nalanda University. Thousands of peasants, angry at the forced acquisition of their land at throwaway prices, assembled there and started raising slogans. It is alleged that the agitated peasants threw stones at the Chief Minister, injuring him on his head. Thus Nitish Kumar became the fourth CM in a row – after KB Sahai, Jagannath Mishra and Bhagawat Jha Azad, to be humiliated by the masses. A CPI (ML) Investigation Team visited Pilkhi to find out truth and understand the reasons behind the agitation and anger of the peasants. The team comprised CPI (ML) CC Member KD Yadav, All India Kisan Sangharsh Samiti President Raja Ram Singh, Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha State Secretary Rajendra Patel, State Committee Member Pal Bihari Lal and CPI(ML) district committee Member Anil Patel.

According to peasants, land is being acquired in 18 villages in the name of setting up Nalanda University. Sale and purchase of land has been legally banned in these villages. And under the area to be acquired fall residential areas as well as the cremation ground, public toilets and other public places. The land to be acquired is fertile three-crop land and apart from wheat and rice, commercial crops like potato, onion, garlic and spices are also produced here. With their hard labour peasants have irrigated the land. For example, there are 70 families in village Mudaffarpur who possess 50 hand pumps and 5 transformers. Obviously the Government’s claim that all land is unirrigated is false. While the market rate of the land is generally nowhere less than Rs. 22000 per kattha, the government is providing only Rs. 7750 per kattha for all types of land.

One more glaring fact was reported to the investigation team that Rs. 38 crore was issued from the Government treasury for compensation to the peasants but instead of distributing it to the farmers, the DM deposited this money in his own account to reap a handsome interest. And when the programme for Ex-President’s visit was declared, a compensation camp was set up in a hurry on February 6. This was also one reason behind the anger of the peasants and the resultant pandemonium. The DM and SP of Nalanda, known as CM loyalists, are also notorious for brutal suppression of democratic movements.

Returning back to Patna, Nitish Kumar said that he was not aware of the peasants’ resentment. This was an obvious lie as the peasants were consistently agitating for the last one year, organizing demonstrations and dharna at district HQ as well as Patna.

The acquisition will result in landlessness of a large number of peasants. In many villages the entire population dependent on agriculture will be deprived of their only means of livelihood. Agricultural workers will be the worst hit, losing their dwellings and employment. However in utter disregard for the popular opposition, the Chief Minister arrogantly declared that the proposed plans in Nalanda will be completed at any cost.

Regarding the official propaganda about ‘planned conspiracy of murderous assault on the CM’, peasants said that it was patently false and fabricated. They said that no stone was thrown as there were no stones at all in the vicinity. They said that it is possible that someone among the agitated villagers threw mud, as the soil was wet there. False cases under Article 307 (attempt to murder) have been lodged against 25 villagers, and this has further angered the peasants. It is interesting to note that the agitating peasants have mainly been voters of JD(U).

Whatever Nitish Kumar may claim, acquisition of so much land in Rajgir seems to be part of the SEZ model of ‘development’, though by the backdoor. Such a large tract of land could not be required just for a university and a police camp. Peasants are also wondering what good the Nalanda University will do for their lives. Why should they accept homelessness and joblessness for a University where their own children won’t be able to study?

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