The protesters had gathered under the banner of Ghar Bachachao Samiti (Save House Committee).
In August the district administration had served notices to people who had purchased land from tribal owners — through a Scheduled Area Regulation (SAR) court settlement — to prove that the deals were not fraudulent or illegal.
Failure to prove that will result in the eviction of all non-tribals from the property in question.
These notices were served to residents of Vidyanagar, Yamunanagar, Ganganagar, Kishoreganj, Kantatoli, Maulana Azad Colony, Chutia and other places in Ranchi district in Jharkhand.
If these notices are executed more than one lakh people will be rendered homeless.
Speaking to IANS, the protesters expressed their anguish and helplessness.
“This fight is for the poor — tribal or not, doesn’t matter. We purchased our land by spending our entire life’s savings and now we are being made homeless,” said Malti Devi, a resident of Ganganagar who participated in the dharna.
Echoing her view, Kunti Singh said “This is our fight for survival. Where will we stay? We invested our entire capital in this land.”
According to official data, about 1.5 lakh of the 2.7 lakh houses in Ranchi are on tribal land.
The notices have been served as part of a drive to enforce the Chotanagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act 1908, which applies to Ranchi district and prohibits transfer or sale of tribal land to non-tribals without permission of the Deputy Commissioner.
However, Section 71A of the CNT Act does allow possession of tribal land by a non-tribal in case the latter had built on the land before 1969 and has been staying there ever since.
In such cases, the SAR court fixes a compensation against the land and possession is regularised.
Many tribal sellers of land and non-tribal buyers took advantage of this provision of law to regularise their deals that actually took place after 1969.
Fake documents were used in such deals to establish pre-1969 possession.
However, after such deals were signed, the tribal land owners filed fake case in SAR court claiming compensation.
Many such deals are believed to have taken place in cases where tribal owners were willing sellers.
Many tribals who sold their land had come out in support of the people facing evacuation. Many tribal landowners who sold land to non-tribals did not want their land back.