Feb 5, 2021, 06:24 IST
AHMEDABAD: Balu Makwana, 68, still remembers the day of year 1989 when she, along with 50 other Dalit women of Vautha
village in Dholka, had first hit the wasteland with her spade. Infested with gando-baval, a locally notorious wild shrub that
renders land (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/land) infertile, the women united under the aegis of Jai Bheem Mahila
Kheti Mandal, had taken up the challenge to make the land cultivable and find a firm socio-economic footing for themselves in
After slogging for eight to 10 hours daily, it took the women 10 long years to finally got the land rid of shrub prosopis juliflora.
Since year 2000, they have been growing groundnut, castor, and even cotton earning an annual income of Rs 8 lakh. Infact, the
state government had also feted the unprecedented resilience shown by the women for their productive endeavour.
Nearly 30 years later, the sword of the recently passed Gujarat Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 2020 now hangs on the heads
of these women. They allege that men from dominant castes in their village, who were not very happy with them tilling the wasteland, have started issuing threats to them to vacate the land or face action under the newly passed law for illegal
possession of government land.
Women threatened by village leaders, cops
The land grabbing act is being used to threaten us and take away the land which we have cultivated with our blood and sweat
from us. Dominant members of the village are colluding with local cops to evict us from the land. We will give our lives but not
give up this land,” said Baluben.
Maniben Vaghela, 65, who also works in the land for 30 years said, “Strong-headed people in the village have started to
intimidate us with threats to book under the new law. After we made the land cultivable, upper caste men have started tilling
part of the land,” said Vaghela.
In 2017, the then agriculture minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasma, also MLA of Dholka assembly constituency, had put his weight
behind the women and shot off letters recommending to local revenue officers that the wasteland be transferred in the name
of the women’s collective.
The wasteland spans over 100 acres of which the Dalit women cultivate some 25 acres.SP, Ahmedabad district Virendra Yadav
said the women can approach his office if any help is needed. “We will stand by the women in case they are being issued any
threats,” Yadav assured. Chudasama assured justice for the Dalit women.