Hari Gautam in Himal Khabarpatrika, 15-21 May (Centre for Investigative Journalism)
AFTER WAR: After being evicted from the land that he had bought under the so-called ‘People’s Government’ of the Maoists, Dhan Bahadur BK now lives in Khalanga, Rukum.
After the end of the Maoist war, most displaced familes returned to their villages but Dhan Bahadur BK had to abandon his village in Rukum district, not because of the war but because it ended.
One morning in 2010 four years after the ceasefire, BK was harvesting his wheat crop when his neighbour Tauke Kami stopped him, claiming to be the rightful owner of the land BK had been tilling for the last six years.
In 2004, BK had bought the land for Rs 173,000 from Rane Kami. The sale was not registered at the local Land Revenue Office, but at the local Maoist parallel government. With the signing of the peace deal in 2006, all the land transfers authorised by the Maoist government became invalid. Rane Kami was still the owner of the land he had sold to BK, and he sold it again to Tauke Kami. This time, the transfer was duly registered at the government office.
When BK refused to leave the property, Tauke Kami lodged a case against him at the Rukum district court. The court declared Kami as the rightful owner, and BK left the village. He now lives as a landless squatter in Khalanga.
BK repeatedly requested Baburam Bhattarai, who was the chief of the Maoist government, and Janardan Sharma, a top Maoist leader from Rukum, to help him regain his property. “But they did not understand my problem,” he says. “I regret trusting the Maoists.”
In Rukum district alone, at least 3,500 families are in danger of losing their land titles of property bought during the war. “The court doesn’t recognise land titles given by the Maoists,” explains advocate Yakka Bahadur Pandey.
People throng the local Maoist party office every day, complaining that they have lost their land titles. Gopal Sharma, a local Maoist leader, admits that people are suffering because land ownership certificates distributed by their war-time ‘parallel government’ are not considered valid.
The fifth of the nine points of a deal that Prime Minister KP Oli signed with UCPN (M) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal early this month is about this issue. In return for Dahal’s renewed support for his government, Oli has agreed to validate land transfers made during the war.
Says Sharma: “The party failed its people. It is up to the leaders at the centre to find a solution.”
The District Development Committee of Rukum formed an all-party taskforce to solve the problem, which failed because most of those who had sold their property during the war denied the transactions.
In January 2012, the Maoist government led by Baburam Bhattarai decided to validate the registration of conflict-era land transactions his party made. But the Supreme Court, acting on a writ petition, quashed the government’s decision. Ironically, the UML, which has now agreed to validate conflict-era land transactions to save its government, had disrupted Parliament to oppose the Bhattarai government’s decision back then.
Says UCPN (M) district member Birkha Bahadur Bista, who was one of the chief land transfer administrators of the Maoist parallel government in Rukum: “The locals who trusted us are now in big trouble.
It is the fault of our leaders who took the decision and are now unable to implement it.”