Andhra Pradesh: Dalits Mount Land Struggle in Dosapadu Village
AWU protest in Dosapadu village
In Andhra Pradesh's Dosapadu village, 105 acres of land were allotted by the government to 45 families belonging to landless dalit communities for their social upliftment between 1956-1995.
Subsequently, rich landlords took over the land and converted parts into ponds for aquaculture business. In 2007, the victims initiated a land struggle with the help of the Agricultural Workers Union (AWU) of the CPI(M).
However, despite repeated attempts to get their lands back through official channels, the union members haven't been provided with any response. As a result, they plan to take over the lands.
The union members allege that the lands were illegally transferred in violation of the Andhra Pradesh Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) Act, 1977. The AP Assigned Lands Act is similar to the PTCL Act in Karnataka and seeks to protect land grantees from having their lands grabbed by dominant communities.
As per the act, no person can acquire any assigned land in Andhra Pradesh, nor can an assignee transfer the lands by lease, purchase, mortgage, exchange or otherwise. In 2019, the Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government brought an amendment to the act, which allowed the transfer of the land upon completion of 20 years from the date of assignment.
In 2007, with AWU's help, dalits took up the land struggle but were attacked by goons sent by the landlords.
Venkateshwarlu, the state secretary of AWU, said, "The aquaculture business is netting a revenue of Rs 4-5 lakh/acre yearly. The landlords do not want to part with this lucrative business. The land struggle was then moved to the courts, and a complaint was filed with the Lokayukta."
In 2014, the Tehsildar in Dendaluru identified 13 lands illegally transferred in favour of one Devineni Baji Prasad. The union members say that Prasad is a rich landlord from Vijayawada and the brother of former minister Devineni Nehru, who was also a member of the TDP. The Tahsildar had recommended that the government take possession of the land and dispose of it as per section 4 of the AP Assigned Lands Act, 1977. However, these orders pertain to only a small portion of the transferred lands.
In 2015, the Lokayukta passed an order for the government to take possession of the land that had been illegally transferred in this case.
The alienees (people who took possession of transferred lands) appealed against these orders to the Revenue Divisional Officer in Eluru, who also ruled against them. Subsequently, they filed an appeal in the Court of the Joint Collector in Eluru.
On August 12, 2022, AWU members staged a protest in Dosapadu village for the return of lands to the original assignees or their heirs.
A Ravi, a member of the AWU in Eluru, said, "Since 2019, the case has been ongoing in the Joint Collector's Court. We held dharnas outside the Tahsildar and DC offices. However, since there is no response, we plan to take over the prawn and fish farms (cultivated in those lands). We are also planning to approach the High court and pressure the revenue authorities for our cause."
The AWU has demanded that the government immediately identify all the assigned lands and return them to the original assignees. The union has also demanded the rollback of the 2019 amendment made by the TDP.
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