Dispossessed farmers cry for grabbed land

Maoists refuse to part with seized property

Sankhuwasabha, December 16:

A team of 30 farmers, belonging to two village development committees in the district, arrived at district headquarters Khandbari to press for return of their seized property.

The ruling Maoists had allegedly forcibly occupied their land in Sabhapokhari and Barahabise village development committees during the height of insurgency around six years ago.

Altogether, 115 families in the district are believed to be victims of Maoists’ land-grabbing.

“Though Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ has pledged to return seized property to their rightful claimants, his commitment is yet to translate into reality,” said Govinda Rai, a victim.

“The Maoists had seized several farmers’ property during the conflict. Despite repeated reminders, they aren’t returning it,” alleged Badri Sapkota, a district committee member of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist).

The victims’ are deservedly angry at the Maoists’ reign of terror.

“They indulged in arson at my house. To add insult to injury, they are harvesting cardamom from my plots in Sabhapokhari village development committees for the past six years,” alleged Netra Kumari, another victim.

The dispossessed farmers, who have formed an ad-hoc struggle committee to redress their grievances, plan to stay put in Khandbari till their demands are met.

“We won’t return home till a decision is taken over this long-drawn dispute. The Maoists are now threatening us with dire consequences if we press for our demand,” said Surya Kalakheti, a member of the ad-hoc panel.

Local UML leader Badri Sapkota has been at the receiving end for voicing his concern for the hapless farmers.

He was held for four hours by the Maoist cadres on December 12. His fault: he had intervened in the dispute over return of the seized property and distribution of paddy during harvest season.

The visiting team is also planning a slew of protest programmes to drive home their demand. The aggrieved farmers have found support from human rights’ activists, who have thrown their support behind them.

“It’s shameful that the party, which is ruling the coalition, is indulging in such nefarious activities,” alleged Khadga Rai, a human rights activist.

Dibya Baral, a Maoist district member, trumped up the newly-formed Land Reforms Commission (LRC) as an alibi not to return the seized land.

“It is not an appropriate time since the Commission is yet to begin its work,” Baral argued.

The district chapter of the UML and Nepali Congress had organised a press conference on Sunday to rally behind the deprived farmers.