Ranchi, Aug 28 (IANS) More than a lakh non-tribal residents of Ranchi district in Jharkhand are set to lose their homes if an administrative order to restore tribal land to tribal people is executed.
The district administration has this month served notice to people who purchased land from a tribal owner — through a Scheduled Area Regulation (SAR) court settlement — to prove that the deal was not fraudulent or illegal.
Failure to prove the legality of the deal would result in eviction of all non-tribals from the property in question.
Such notices have been served to residents of Vidyanagar, Yamunanagar, Ganganagar, Kishoreganj, Kantatoli, Maulana Azad Colony, Chutia and other places in Ranchi district.
According to official data, about 1.50 lakh of the 2.70 lakh houses in Ranchi stand on tribal land.
The notices have been served as part of a drive to enforce the Chotanagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act 1908, which applies to Ranchi district and prohibits transfer or sale of tribal land to non-tribals without permission of the deputy commissioner.
However, Section 71A of the CNT Act does allow possession of tribal land by a non-tribal in case the latter had built on the land before 1969 and has been staying there ever since.
In such cases, the SAR court fixes a compensation against the land and possession is regularised.
Many tribal sellers of land and non-tribal buyers took advantage of this provision of law to regularise their deals that actually took place after 1969.
Fake documents were used in such deals to establish pre-1969 possession.
After such a deal is signed, the tribal land owner files a fake case in SAR court claiming compensation.
During the court’s investigations, the seller and the buyer claim that the deal took place before 1969. The SAR court then directs compensation to be paid and the deal is regularised.
Many such deals are believed to have taken place in cases where a tribal owner was a willing seller.
Plots of land were thus purchased by non-tribal people from tribals and houses were constructed.
Many non-tribal buyers also got mutation of their land done.
The present BJP goverment, led by Raghubar Das, had taken a decision to end the SAR courts to stop such abuse of the law, but later changed its mind.
It was decided that the SAR courts will continue to function, but with stricter compliance with the law.
The stricter compliance has resulted in the crackdown on those who took advantage of the loophole in the CNT Act.
Many tribal people who sold their land to non-tribals do not want their property back.
Ajay Tirkey, who sold about one acre of land in Argora locality to a non-tribal buyer, said: “I am not interested in claiming the land back as I took money for the land transfer.”
Vinod Kacchap, anther tribal who sold land to more than 50 people, said: “I sold the land through an SAR court settlement. How can Deputy Commissioner cancel the SAR court settlement?”
The residents who face possible eviction have also been protesting against the administration’s move which reportedly has already resulted in eviction of some families.
Earlier this week, more than a thousand people blocked the Harmu road to protest against possible eviction. The demonstration resulted in police lathi charge and many people were injured.
The protestors say that if their houses and neighbourhoods were illegal, why did the government allow a road to be constructed through them and provided electricty and water.
Savita Devi, a resident of Ganganagar, said: “We are the third generation of our family that has been living in this house. We purchased land and constructed our house. We did not grab land. Why should we be evicted?”
In the face of the protests, the district administration on Sunday came out with an advertisement, saying: “In line with principles of natural justice, the parties will be given adequate time for hearing and to submit their documents.”
Ranchi is an important voter base for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Urban Development Minister C.P. Singh represents Ranchi in the state legislature.