Gajapati and Rayagada
Waves of Land Struggle in South Orissa
In South Orissa districts of Gajapati and Rayagada bordering Andhra Pradesh, illegal transfer of land from the rural poor, particularly adivasis, has become a growing phenomenon. Also there are many cases of landlords, moneylenders and the mafia illegally controlling ceiling surplus or other government lands and reserve forestlands. In its attempt to revive peasant struggle in this bordering region in the spirit of Srikakulam struggle, our Party has concentrated on developing land struggles of the rural poor and tribal people on these issues and this has been instrumental in our advancement in Orissa.
On the other hand, certain anarchist outfits have misutilised the land question as well as other aspirations of the tribal people in the recent times to increase conflicts between tribals and dalits. In order to counter this trend, we decided to organize land struggles along the proletarian class line through mobilizing broad masses of the rural poor. For this purpose, a campaign for identifying illegally occupied and ceiling surplus lands was undertaken. On the basis of our investigation, last year we were able to seize 75 acres of land in Rayagada district, which we defended against landlords’ attack. We also ensured their cultivation by the rural poor.
In the current year, particularly in the month of June, land struggles have further expanded particularly in Padampur block of Rayagada district. On 6 June 2002, 3 acres of ceiling surplus land was seized in Khomapodar village from a landlord. On 11 June, 12 acres of land was seized in two places in Laruguda village of Indupur Gram Panchayat in Padampur block from a local BJP leader Sura Phadi and 12 acres of land was seized from three other landlords.
On 12 June, 6 acres of land was seized in Indupur village from a landlord. The same day the police went to Laruguda village and threatened the people and removed the flags hoisted on the seized land. To resist this around 500 to 600 people got mobilized and protested the police harassment. The police returned the flags.
Undaunted by the attack the next day, the same villagers occupied another 3 acres of land. On 21 June, 10 acres of land was seized in Koelkota village from a landlord who happens to be a Congress leader and an ex-MLA. On the same day in Koel Patalu village, 14 acres of land seized from a landlord who is an advocate.
All the seized lands belonged to the category of illegally occupied and ceiling surplus lands. In every case of seizure around 200-300 people were mobilized and a new trend was witnessed: poor people of other villages are also coming in support of land struggle in a particular village.
On 29 June Sura Phadi, landlord and BJP leader, went to Laruguda and tried to recapture the land by creating a split among the people. Our supporters immediately assembled and united the people to maintain possession of the land. Then the landlord tried to mobilized outside people and attack Comrade Tirupati Gomago, Party’s Rayagada district committee secretary. As the news spread, around 600 people got mobilized in protest.
After this the police took over the repression drive and on the night of 6 July they raided the dalit tola of Padampur village and arrested 7 persons. Even a pregnant woman was not spared of their torture. The names of the arrested persons are Karuvu Naiko, Rushi Dandasi, Bhagirathi Savora, Syam Naiko, Nando Naiko and Lobbo Dandasi.
The next day on 7 July, 800 people got mobilized with traditional weapons and assembled outside the police station. They demanded release of the arrested people, punishment to the concerned police officials and withdrawal of false cases against our comrades. However, the class struggle had taken a complicated turn and after this the landlords implicated some 60 persons in false cases.
Around 200 acres of land was identified as illegally held in the name of a “Trust” of a temple in Kairini village of Ramannaguda Block of Rayagada district. When CPI(ML) started mobilizing the rural poor of adjacent villages, the administration tried to persuade the villagers to capture only 52 bighas of the land which has already been identified as government land. But all this land belonged to the category of dry land, people were not satisfied with the proposal. The administration invited Party leaders to have another round of talks at Padampur Block office. After the discussion three of our comrades, Tirupati Gomango, secretary of Party’s Padampur Block Committee Ramchandra Das and member Proloy Behara were arrested outside the office on 24 July under a number of false cases. Comrade Tirupati was implicated in 7 cases including sections 307 and 395 of Cr.P.C.
Immediately after the arrest, more than 500 people, armed with traditional weapons, came to the streets and assembled before Padampur police station. There they came to know that the arrested leaders had already been taken to Gunupur court. They rushed to the court and when the leaders were being sent from the court to jail, people in a militant mood blocked the road and then, shouting slogans moved towards the jail. Before the angry mood of the masses the police and administration had to bow down and they brought Comrade Tirupati Gomango from the jail to address them. Comrade Tirupati congratulated the people and urged them to raise the movement to new heights. A call for observing Gunupur Bandh on 25 July was also given in the meeting.
The bandh was highly successful with the active participation of the people in important places like Gunupur, Padampur, Ramannaguda, Gudari, etc. Shops and markets were closed and transport came to standstill in Gunupur subdivision.
During the bandh a people’s court was held in Padampur to try police officials and selected landlords, in which around 2000 people participated. On 26 July, more than 500 people once again staged a militant demonstration before Padampur police station with traditional weapons and continued it for 5-6 hours. A 5-member Party delegation met the Collector and the SP and demanded the release of arrested comrades.
On 29 July an impressive rally was organized at Gunupur, culminating into a mass meeting in front of the sub-collector’s office. More than 3,000 people with flags and traditional arms participated in the rally. The meeting was addressed by secretary of Orissa State unit Comrade Khitish Biswal, Ex-MLA Radhanath Sethi who has recently joined our Party, Central Committee member Comrade Malleshwar Rao and state Party leaders Bidyadhar Patro and Dandapani Mohanti. Speakers demanded immediate release of Comrade Tirupati and other leaders and withdrawal of false cases against them. A call was issued to intensify the just land struggle launched by the rural poor and tribals.
After one round of resistance struggle, our emphasis is on Panchayat level mass mobilization in the present phase so as to expand the land struggle in a more organized way and to develop mass resistance against terror of police and administration. In addition, a signature campaign has been undertaken to compel the MLA of Gunupur take a clear-cut stand siding with the recent land struggle and police terror, or face the popular campaign of recall of the people’s representative.