Ramdayal, now a sixty year old Saharia Adivasi, got involved in the mills of justice in 1990, in a struggle that was to be continued for the following 20 years. With his wife and his sons he lives in Sillarpur, a village in Shivpuri district of Madhya Pradesh. For forty years he cultivated about 10 acres of land, which allowed his family to earn their living. Half of the land was in his possession, the other half he occupied. As he didn’t have the money to cultivate that occupied land, he decided in 1990 to share the work on the field as well as the crop with Devlal Lodhi, a neigbour he had known from the village. What he did not know at that time, Devlal Lodhi had already managed to get entitlement to that land in the name of his wife and used the sharecropping as a tool to get access to the land and to keep Ramdu working on the field. While Ramdu and his family still believed that they were cultivating their own land, they dug out a well and put a fence around the land which Devlal Lodhi just had slipped away under his feet.
The betrayal came to light when Devlal Lodhi’s wife, passed away in 1996 and the widower tried to get the rights to the land himself. But the lower court of justice at Karaira as well as the District Court in Shivpuri rejected his demand. In their opinion the land belonged to Ramdu Adivasi, because he had been cultivating it for the last 40 years and had been paying taxes on the land. According to the Forest Rights Act in India, Adivasi have the right to claim the ownership of land if they have been working on it long enough .
After the decisions of both the courts Devlal Lodhi went to the Gwalior Bench of Jabalpur High Court and made another appeal in 2005. The sentence of the High Court has still not come. Until then, the ownership of the land remains a matter of legal disputes and Ramdu continues to work on the field. He still doesn’t know if it is his own and he is able to withstand the threats from others. Ramdu Adivasi has the support from Ekta Parishad which raised his problem at several forums and attempted to render him the rights that he deserves.
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Shri Ram Prakash Sharma Dated: 5th August 2010