Tenant’s Movement for Land Rights:
Land has not been responsible for only economic poverty; it has
direct relevance with socio-cultural and political nature of poverty and
most importantly human poverty. Land has been a
prime source of socio-economic and political power in Nepal. Since the tillers and poor people are alienated from the source of power,
they have always been disadvantaged, marginalised and denied of their
basic human rights. As indicated in the preceding section, the tenant
farmers initiated land rights movement before the emergence of democracy in
1950 in order to change unjust and inequitable power relations between
the rulers and ordinary people. The tenant farmers fought and sacrificed
their lives for democracy but the successive government after democracy
could not address the problems though few policy arrangements were
made, like introducing crop sharing system between the farmers and the
landlords in some parts of the country.
This incident further intensified the conflicts between the tenant farmers, landlords and the government. Popular farmer leader Bhim Dutta Panta from Dadeldhura, Asarfi Shah from Rautahat, Bhukhlal Mahato from Bara, Gumraha Tharu from Dang, Aghori Yadhav from Saptari and Bhim Bahadur Sen from Palpa districts took lead in the land rights movement in their respective locations and sacrificed their lives fighting for the rights of the tenant farmers. The political parties were established with the slogan of protecting tenant farmers’ rights over their tilled land in 1940s and kept promising to the people till today without materialising their promises in reality.
There was a growing agitation against the Rana regime in Nepal before 1951. Mr. Bhim Dutta Panta led the land rights movement against Rana regime from Dadheldhura and Baitadi districts. He was very keen to eradicate Haliya and Kamaiya system and fight for tillers’ rights. He raised awareness among the poor farmers by popularising the slogan 'Either you till land or leave it and if it is not heard, now there is no benefit'. All the feudal landlords feared the popularisation of this slogan.
Land reform commission proceeded for the demand of farmers in September 25, 1954. The same year in October, farmers in Kathmandu pressurised the government to fulfil the 6 -point demands.
The main demands included were:
(i) landlords to accept money instead of 4/100 kind payment system, and (ii) dismissing of landlordship system. Farmers sat-in from December 1954, when the government was indifferent to their demands. Farmers organised various kinds of demonstrations against the landlords and government of Nepal. In the agitation, 19 people were arrested and kept in detention even without food for 3 months. Again the next phase of revolution started from March 1957 in which 55 farmers were punished with 10 month-long imprisonment. This movement continued up to 1980 . Mahendra, the then king, with the help of the landlords, staged a coup in 1961 by dismissing the first democratically elected government . As a result, the agenda of land reform was sidelined. All the political parties were banned and the spaces for conducting political activities by the people 24 were prohibited. However, the autocratic Panchayat regime introduced Land Reform Act in 1964 with the aim of "showing a human face" of the regime and establishing its legitimacy. The Act put a ceiling on the land tax, assured loans to the tenants to purchase land, introduced rights of tenants and put a ceiling on landholding. However, the Act was not implemented consistently.
Currently, the tenant farmers' major demands include:
•The process of land sharing with tillers has been closed since 2006. Land Reform Offices in complicity with landlords are not interested to provide tillers rights and keep clearing up their account. The convention opposes such unjust act. Land sharing process between tillers and landlords should come in action immediately in which Government should send their technician team in the field and held the sharing process.
•As mentioned in clause 12 of Land Act 1964, there lies a provision in which Government shall appoint essential officers and form a committee to fulfill the act's objectives. Therefore, the government should form a committee or team in order to keep account of tillers from the field. That team should verify the tillers and provide them their share of land accordingly.
•Tillers should be provided half of their share according to their tenancy rights and government should lend them debts free of interest to purchase rest of the land.
•The provision, which says 'Land lord shall provide tenancy right whomever he/she finds trust worthy', shall be removed immediately. The tenancy right should be given to all the right holders of the concerned tiller. In addition, the tenancy right should not be exchanged with money instead; the landlord should compulsorily provide land only according to their tenancy rights.
•Farmland is decreasing in the name of plotting and commercial farming from which small holding farmers and tillers are getting deprived of their rights. Therefore, a provision should be made where farmland in any cost shall not be used for off-farm purposes.
•The Government shall prepare an account of landlords and tillers within a year. The account should be displayed in local institutions such as VDC and Municiplity, which should also be updated within every five years.
•Local institutions shall keep account of tillers and provide them tilling certificates compulsorily.
•If the landlords don’t agree to receive the shared production/tax with receipt, VDC should provide receipt to tillers and receive the tax/production. In addition, if any tillers are suspended or they are not allowed to plough their land, VDC should receive the complaints and provide them the opportunity of farming according to their tenancy right.
•The tillers shall not be suspended for any cause or cases. The tenancy rights should be provided even in the sharecropping. The provision of tenancy right for yearlong tillers also should be mentioned in Land Act 1964.
•The Law shall clearly declare that landlords should provide the receipt after receiving the production by tillers.
•Only Land shall be provided to the tenancy right holders. Money should not be provided.
•The share cropping should be fixed not according to the production data of agricultural offices but according to the actual production measured.
•The unregistered tillers should be recognized according to their agrarian activities and equal proportion of ownership should be provided to them.
•Tilling land shall not be given to other tillers without the consent of the concerned tillers.
•Law shall declare a provision of Joint Land transfer to the tillers.
•There should be a process of issuing a letter immediately by Land Reform Office to Land Revenue Office in order to ban the land purchase if any complaint is filed regarding the land transfer or sharecropping from the victim tiller.
•An act of purchasing or keeping the deposit of tilling land should be prohibited.
•A provision shall be made in which act of suspending tillers will be considered illegal. In case tillers are found suspended, landlord should provide them crops as compensation and also provide them the same land immediately.