Dalit families to get back land papers after 25 years

- Weena Pun, Kathmandu

Jun 17, 2013-

Thirty-five Dalit families of Martadi, Bajura, are about to get back their land ownership certificates held by the local branch of Nepal Food Corporation (NFC) as collateral for the past 25 years.

“My father, like many others, trusted a trader named Dil Bahadur Karki with the papers. The NFC took in the documents and allowed Karki to transport rice from Achham to Bajura in 1988. Karki, however, ran away with the goods and the NFC retained our papers,” said Binod Bishwokarma of the village.

With the whereabouts of Karki unknown, the Dalit families then fought a court battle with the NFC and lost, added 27-year-old Bishwokarma. The NFC refused to hand the papers back until it received the payment of the rice, which amounted to Rs 537,736 with interest.

“The Dalit families could not collect that amount. Consequently, they were barred from carrying out land transactions. They could not even sell any agricultural produce. Because land is the only source of food for the Dalits, we decided to take up their cause,” said Suman Piya, an official at the Food-first Information and Action Network (FIAN) Nepal, an organisation which works to ensure right to food.

According to a press statement issued by the FIAN Nepal, discussions between the Dalit families and the concerned stakeholders began in late 2011. The Ministry of Local Development was the first government body to design a construction project worth Rs 300,000.

The villagers participated in the project and handed the sum they earned to the NFC. In late 2012, the NFC itself agreed to write off 50 percent of the interest. Then in May this year, the District Development Committee agreed to design a project worth Rs 150,000 to help the Dalit families pay the remaining amount.

“In a few days, we are holding a big ceremony to mark the return of our land documents,” said Bishwokarma.

Despite repeated attempts, the Bajura-based NFC officials could not be reached.

Published: 18-06-2013 09:01

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