Champaran – here Mahatma Gandhi started his first mass movement. Land inequality is sharper in Betiah area because of land erosion by the Gandak river. The problem begins from both ends; either land has been eroded or a new piece has come out of the belly of the river because of the change in its course.
Usually, the latter type of land is forcibly occupied by big landlords. If a landless peasant (who had probably lost his land in erosion) tries to get a piece, officials backed by landlords act against him.
An enormous number of applications from landless peasants and sharecroppers are pending in Government offices, demanding Government land. But bureaucrats are indifferent. But farms of big people are opening daily on the Government land called “Kaiser-e-Hind” land.
Naxalite or no Naxalite, Champaran, which consists of 40 per cent landless peasants cannot remain peaceful for ever.
In Lakhaura police station the main problem is seizure of land by the village moneylenders. Seventy percent of the land has slipped into the hands of the moneylenders, who are gradually turning into landlords.
In regard to settlement of cultivable waste land belonging to the Government, it is known that 70 percent of it goes to big landlords.
So, it happened one day. A crowd, suspected to be Naxalites, attacked the Commissioner of Tirhut division who was on a tour of the area. Police opened fire, killing one person.
Thousands of acres of such cultivable waste land are available, but due to an ‘unwritten agreement’ between bureaucrats and big landlords, land distribution is in abeyance.
The Left parties had started a movement for distribution of 1,100 acres of land among landless peasants in Rajahwa-Rajhi area. About a thousand agricultural workers occupied a piece of waste land, but instead of land settlement to them, 200 are facing prosecution in courts.
Monopoly of land
A handful of persons sometimes have monopoly of land in Betiah area. Bilaspur Estate, which tops the list, uses tractors and other modern machinery for farming. Then there are owners of sugar factories, who have occupied 40,000 acres of land during the last five years.
In Darbhanga district the police have announced awards for capturing fifty so called Naxalites. A Mahant in Bishol village near Jainagar, who owns 700 bighas of land, has instituted several cases in court against his share-croppers. 60-70 persons were arrested.
There is violence. The Mahant of Rajnagar owns 800 acres of land. Earlier this year, he sent armed men to look after his crops. One share-cropper was killed in a scuffle. In Tegachha village under Kusheshwar Asthan block, a mob of 500 carrying red flags looted crops last year.
Students of geography know that Kosi is the river of sorrow in Bihar. Students of political science should know that Kosi is an area where worst forms of exploitation are practised.
The Santhals of Busanhi village in Saharsa are up in arms demanding “land to the tillers”. In Dhanchonha village there was a firing. One person was killed, 15 injured.
In the rural areas of Purnea district share-croppers and agriculture workers live a life of insecurity under the dark shadow of landlords and bureaucrats. Purnea courts have 4,500 cases registered against share-croppers.
In 1968, when the non-Congress UF Government tried to make an amendment in the share-croppers’ law, lakhs of them were evicted by landlords.
Nakshatra Malakar, the Robin Hood of Bihar
Malakar, a member of the CPI, has spent 12 years in British and Congress jails. For as long as 22 years, Nachatra has proved to be a headache for the ‘law and order’ authorities.
It is said that he has never committed any dacoity for his own gain. In the villages of Kosi area, you can hear folk songs about him. He is the most powerful peasant leader in the area.
Khagaria is one of the main Naxalite centres in Bihar. BK Azad, the Che Guevara-style Naxalite, lives nearby. A businessman of Khagaria owns a farm at village Ramunia, five miles away. Last December, an armed mob of about 500 peasants, most of them his share-cropper, looted the harvested paddy and fertilizers from his farm.
In Nathnagar near Bhalgalpur, a large number of landless peasants have pitched red flags on cultivable waste land and started ploughing it. In nearby Gauripur village, 100 tribals armed with bow and arrows, forcible harvested standing crops in about 40 bighas of land, last year.
Ranchi is full of Naxalism, but no Naxalite. The only activity of Naxalites in Ranchi is now fixing wall posters.