Politics, Power & Police in the Village of Amarpurkashi
In 1970, an integrated development project was set up in the village of Amarpurkashi, near Bilari, in the district of Moradabad, U.P., India. The aim was to bring sustainable development to the villagers and empower them so that they could stand on their own feet.
The implementing agency was the Society for Agro-Industrial Education in India, which was registered in 1969 as a charitable society (Volunteers for Rural India) and it is this Society that oversees all the programmes that have been established over the years and are now running in Amarpurkashi. These include a primary school, secondary school and degree college as well as a health centre and free eye camps. The Society’s work has transformed the village and many other villages nearby, bringing education and health facilities to what was once a very poor and backward area. For example, from 1972 until 1980, there was only one girl studying in the secondary school. Today, in the degree college, 50% of the pupils are female.
Some years ago, the village council gave 2.33 acres of common land to the Society. Half of this land is cultivated and the other half is used by students of the secondary school to hold their daily assemblies or ‘secular prayers’ as they are known in India. These multi-faith prayers are a mandatory requirement for all schools.
On 23rd October, this year, members of a prominent family in the village took over this part of the land and prevented students from holding their prayer assemblies there. They brandished large, heavy sticks and threatened the students with them. They also herded their cattle onto the land. The police were called but they did not do anything to remove these people from the land. The Society showed the police the legal documents giving them the right to the land; the other people had no proof that the land was theirs; they are trying to claim it under the Consolidation of Land Act but further inspection by the police revealed that these people had already received the land due to them under this act and are not entitled to any more.
These people are still occupying the land but despite many calls to them, the police have done nothing. This particular family includes a number of men who have criminal records and are bound under their bail conditions not to commit any criminal acts. However, they have money and influence and this seems to be the reason that the police are not taking any action. The students and staff are frightened and feel increasingly powerless.
Can we do anything to help them?
Article By: Jyoti Singh