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From: Rajeev Khedkar [mailto:rajeev.khedkar@gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, 2 December 2015 2:59 AM
To: John Seed
Subject: Land rights issues of Katkari

Hello John,

I am writing to you after a long time to convey a wonderful news. The Gaothan as well as the Dalli land issue affecting Katkari Adivasi community is being resolved favourably. The Governors in states with Schedule V Areas have always had powers to address these issues but since independence not a single Governor had taken the initiative to do something meaningful for Adivasi people. When new Governments assumed power in Delhi as well as Maharashtra in 2014, a new Governor was nominated and he has started using his powers to address land right issues amongst Adivasi communities in Maharashtra. Dalli and Gaothan have been the most pressing and long-standing issues.

Our work on Dalli and Gaothan rights has been an important source of contribution influencing these decisions. In March 2015 a delegation of Katkari women from the Gaothan Rights Action Committee met the Governor during his visit to Adivasi villages in Raigad District and submitted to him a petition explaining the problem and requesting sanction of legal Gaothan land for Katkari villages. Acting on the petition, the Governor consulted the Block Tehsildars, District Collector, Assistant Collector and the Divisional Commissioner for feedback on the issue. Given the continuous process of filing of Gaothan claims and follow up at various levels by Katkari people, all the officials agreed that Gaothan for the Katkari was an issue that had to be addressed somehow.

The Governor has now constituted a committee to settle the Gaothan issue in Katkari villages of Raigad, Thane and Palghar Districts, where over 75% of the Katkari live. The positive action by the Governor will help resolve the insecure village land issue in at least 600 – 700 Katkari villages. The decision is also likely to have a positive effect on the Gaothan issue affecting other Adivasi, Pastoral and Dalit communities in Maharashtra. At this stage we still do not know what the decision of the committee will be but it is likely that all the affected families will atleast get housing rights. Even this will ensure security of tenure for a large number of Katkari families.

Similarly for Dalli land, we have been able to mobilise a large number of individual as well as community claims under the Forest Rights Act from Karjat, Khalapur and Sudhagad Blocks during the past 7 years. With pressure mounting on the Government to find a solution to the problem, the Governor has once again taken positive action and the Dalli land issue too is being resolved favourably. The Government has put up huge hoardings at many places to declare grant of ownership of Dalli land to Adivasi communities and the Governor is scheduled to distribute land deeds to Adivasi families in Karjat and Khalapur on 3rd December.

The credit for this achievement goes to all the civil society groups that have been engaged in the land rights process in the Konkan region of Maharashtra. We feel that during the past 7-8 years, when most of the campaigns and groups had lost momentum, local communities have played a key role in sustaining the process. My colleague, Bansi, has perhaps played the most important role in bringing about this positive change by working night and day on land rights issues of Katkari for more than 25 years!

We take this opportunity to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your generous support and encouragement at crucial times and through all kinds of ups and downs. Your support has meant a lot to us.

We invite you to Raigad District to visit some of the Katkari families who will soon have security of tenure. Your visit is long overdue.

Warm regards.