Friday, March 8, 2013


Mariam Dhawale
CPIM Maharashtra State Secretariat member

On March 4, 2013, a large and angry rally of thousands of Adivasis led by the CPI(M) marched to the Talasari police station and tehsil office in Thane district, demanding strict action against the land mafia and its corrupt agents who were trying to fleece the poor Adivasis of their land. The rally also demanded immediate withdrawal of the false cases against CPI(M) activists who were fighting this corrupt land mafia, and action against the police officers responsible for these false cases.

In another basic demand, the rally insisted that the land of the absentee landlords and also forest land which is being tilled for generations by the Adivasis be vested in the names of the tribals. To ensure that land became more productive, the rally demanded immediate irrigation facilities from dams that had been completed with funds from the tribal sub-plan, but the water from which was being denied to the tribals and was being sent to the urban areas instead. It is a shameful fact that only two per cent of the agricultural land in Thane district is under irrigation as against the state average of 18 per cent (which is itself abysmally low!), in spite of the district having some of the largest water reservoirs in the state.

Well aware of the anger of the tribals, the police headquarters had specially deputed Additional SP Nishandar to meet the CPI(M) delegation in Talasari. The tehsildar of Talasari was also present during the discussion. The administration and the police were warned to solve the long-pending land issues at the earliest and to keep a strict check on the land mafia and its agents. They were apprised of the truth in the numerous false cases registered against CPI(M) activists. The Additional SP promised to immediately review these cases and take corrective steps. The delegation also demanded stern action against all the accused in cases of atrocities against women and girl children.

The public meeting was addressed by Dr Ashok Dhawale, Mahendra Singh, J P Gavit (ex-MLA), L B Dhangar, Lahanu Kom (ex-MP), Rajaram Ozare (MLA), Mariam Dhawale, Barkya Mangat, Edward Vartha, Ratan Budhar and Rasila Dhodi. Among those in the delegation were Ladak Kharpade, Hemlata Kom, Sangeeta Ozare, Shankar Umbarsada, Radka Kalangada and Rajesh Sadgir.

The rally also gave a call to make a big success of the Sangharsh Sandesh Jatha, which will be taking three public meetings in Thane district on March 9 at Dahanu, Jawhar and Talasari. Folders of the Jatha published by the CPI(M) Maharashtra state committee were distributed. Over 1000 copies of the CPI(M) state committee weekly ‘Jeevanmarg’ were sold in the rally by a team of DYFI activists.


During British rule, taking advantage of the illiteracy and backwardness amongst the tribals, the landlord class usurped their lands in Dahanu, Talasari, Palghar, Jawhar and Wada tehsils of Thane district. The Adivasis were forced to work as bonded labourers on the lands which they once owned. It was against this injustice that the historic Warli Adivasi Revolt was organised by the Communist Party and the Kisan Sabha under the leadership of Godavari and Shamrao Parulekar in 1945-47. Fearing the wrath of the tribals who had suffered immense cruelty and exploitation for decades, the landlords fled these areas. Most of them did not return. Godavari’s book ‘Adivasis Revolt’ clearly brings out this sordid saga of landlord tyranny and the glorious liberation struggle of the Adivasis. The tribals took possession of thousands of acres of land, thus ending a life of torture and misery.

Thus, Adivasis are in possession of, and are cultivating, large chunks of such land for the past 65 years. For many, this is their only means of livelihood. The CPI(M) has been organising regular struggles to get these lands registered in the names of the tribals, since they are still in the names of the absentee landlords who have fled the area long ago. 

Thane district has a large tribal population. Eight tehsils of the district have a majority tribal population. These tehsils also have a large forest area. Due to the sky-rocketing land prices in the neo-liberal era, land has become a precious commodity today. The builder lobby, in collaboration with the land mafia, is eyeing this land and has become very active in Thane district, especially because of its proximity to Mumbai. In connivance with the revenue officials, they are operating a racket to cheat the tribals of their land. Bogus land records are prepared showing some ‘heirs’ of the earlier landlords. The tribals have absolutely no means of verifying or challenging any of these documents. The local land mafia gets in touch with this ‘heir’, gets a buyer (probably a builder or contractor) for this piece of land and strikes a deal. Then this ‘new owner’ employs the land mafia to clear his land of ‘encroachments’ and to erect a fencing along the boundary of the land he has purchased. The tribals who are in actual possession of the land are totally unaware of all these dealings and come to know of them only when attempts are made to put up the compound fence and evict them from their land. The police jump in the fray to protect the criminals, to corner their own share of the spoils. The land mafia belongs to the NCP, BJP or Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (the notorious outfit known for forcible eviction of tribals using muscle power and usurping their land).

Kurjhe is a village in the Talasari tehsil of Thane district. The Kurjhe gram panchayat, along with most other gram panchayats in Talasari tehsil, is controlled by the CPI(M). During the gram panchayat elections held recently, the NCP and BJP used all kinds of threats and inducements, but they did not succeed. Here in one of the padas (hamlets) called Gavitpada, a surreptitious land deal of the above mentioned kind took place. Tribals of Kurjhe village protested against the takeover of the piece of land in Gavitpada and broke down the fence. They did not allow the land mafia led by Kiran Dhamode, who is the tehsil president of the NCP, to evict the poor tribal family there. The sarpanch and upa-sarpanch of the Kurjhe gram panchayat intervened to protect the tribal family. A fight took place with injuries to both sides. The police let off the land ‘dalals’ and slapped false cases of dacoity and rioting against the sarpanch, upa-sarpanch and 11 other comrades, including two women. This triggered an uproar amongst the tribal community all over Talasari tehsil.

During the last Assembly elections in 2009, the CPI(M) won the Dahanu (ST) constituency with Rajaram Ozare being elected MLA. This seat was earlier held by the NCP MLA Krishna Ghoda who is known for shielding corruption in food grains and land deals. The constituencies were re-organised before the last Assembly elections. The CPI(M), through tremendous hard work and struggles, won this seat. The Party has been waging a continuous struggle in Thane district against the onslaught on people’s rights. Hoarders and black-marketeers of ration food grains have been exposed. Forest department officials have been prevented from evicting Adivasis from forest plots, with the agitation for implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) continuing. Demand for work under the MGNREGA is being regularly raised. Issues of water, health, education, Anganwadi and Asha workers, contract workers, violence against women, etc. are taken up by the mass organisations.


Unable to break the stronghold of the CPI(M), vested interests in Dahanu and Talasari led by the NCP and BJP have started using the help of the police force and are lodging false cases against CPI(M) activists. Blatantly false cases of murder and dacoity are being registered so that bail is not granted. The police force is so corrupted that even in incidents of atrocities on women and girls, they shield the perpetrators of the crime. After prolonged struggles and determined follow-up by the AIDWA and DYFI, these cases of atrocities against women could be registered. In the last three years, around 100 main activists of the CPI(M) have been implicated in various cases through such false complaints. On February 27, 2012, a CPI(M) and AIDWA woman tribal activist, Mathi Ozare from the Vasa village of Talasari tehsil, was murdered by BJP goons because she worked sincerely for the victory of the CPI(M) in the just-concluded Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samiti elections. She was the 60th martyr of the Communist Party in Thane district since the famous Adivasi Revolt of 1945, and the first woman martyr in the district. Anger among the tribals against this corrupt NCP-BJP-land mafia-police nexus was growing. This anger erupted after the incident in Kurjhe village. The large and spirited rally on March 4 was its result. The rally vowed to further strengthen the struggle.

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