Watan Land (Awarded Land) was honored by the Mughals and the British Rule for the services provided by the people from new Buddhas (Ex Atishudras) community. There were near about 3000 hectares of land has been distributed among Dalits in states of Maharashtra.
The Bombay Inferior Village and Watan Abolition Act 1958 has been specially made for people those who were performing the services for village peoples which were called Dalit family (current new Buddha community) as Watandars. These lands have been given to such persons by fixing purchase price in equal installments. Act has protected all the persons who were performing their services to the villagers and by which their economic conditions have been developed to some extent. In some cases, the landlords have encroach these lands or have purchased the same lands on a very low price and thus, provisions were made in this Act to return back the possession of such lands to the original Watandar or his heirs. In some cases even after continuous cultivation of the land, the persons were not aware about the legal ownership because of illiteracy.
Since the population has increased, the land distribution has proven unrealistic for the families cultivating particular land patta. Dalit communities cultivating this land have becoming concerns in many villages; the land title has been registered in the name of the whole community and not as per the families, which creates disputes in some places. In some villages, the Watan land has been illegally transferred to the sugarcane factories, cotton mills, hospitals by the local goondas. On top of it, in many cases government itself has infringe the land for minor irrigation projects, road widening process, running govt. schools etc. As a result, Dalit people are carrying double burden of owning barren land at one hand and striving with drought situations on the other…
Therefore, ASVSS highlighted these Land issues in front of Dalits. It has resulted in self mobilization of 350 families within 10 villages of Sangola Block. They have formulated their Vatni Jameen Sangharsh Kruti Samiti and initiated various advocacy interventions through filling reclaim forms to raise visibility to Mahar Watan Land & create pressure on government authorities. As the time is passing this people’s organisation on Mahar Watan Land is getting stronger and stronger and with their continue struggle it will help in reclaim land right to sustain livelihood & live dignified life.