John Peta Society land issue in Kolleru: A Struggle for Justice to Dalits.

In 2006, a significant land dispute unraveled within the 60-acre territory belonging to the John Peta Fishermen Cooperative Society ( John Peta Society ) nestled in the John Peta Village near the Kolleru Wildlife Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh. This dispute centered around a 30-acre tract of land situated within the +5 Contour boundary, and it stemmed from the negligence of forest authorities during Operation Kolleru in 2006. This negligence resulted in encroachments on this 30.21-acre piece of land, which rightfully belongs to 114 individuals from the John Peta Dalit community. Presently, we are vigorously pursuing legal avenues to reclaim this land, as it falls under the oversight of the forest authorities.

Kolleru’s lush green fields, located in the Krishna and Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh, are renowned for their unspoiled natural beauty. However, over time, political leaders and opportunistic land speculators cast covetous eyes upon the abundant lands within the Kolleru Reserve Forest. These encroachments and land seizures posed a grave threat to the delicate environmental balance of the region.

The situation escalated when foreign birdwatchers began flocking to the Kolleru region to observe a diverse array of bird species, totaling 180 categories. Encroachments continued to proliferate, jeopardizing the fragile ecological equilibrium of the area. In 2006, concerned environmentalists petitioned the Supreme Court for intervention.

In that same year, Collector Lav Agarwal spearheaded an operation aimed at reclaiming the +5 Contour region from unlawful encroachments, particularly targeting unauthorized fish ponds. This operation effectively dismantled these encroachments, restoring the land to its rightful state.

Following this operation, disputes emerged concerning land boundaries within the +5 Contour area. Surveyors delineated the boundaries, and forest authorities marked the borders to distinguish lands within the jurisdiction of +5 Contour from those outside of it.

Regrettably, the authorities limited their actions to merely marking the boundary pillars within the +5 Contour area, inadvertently allowing them to continue to neglect the land under our society’s control. They failed to transfer the encroached 31 acres of land, which lies outside the jurisdiction of +5 Contour and belongs to JFCS, thus leading to further disputes.

The root cause of this problem lies in the 60-acre land owned by the John Peta Fishermen Cooperative Society, which is bisected by the +5 Contour boundary. When the authorities failed to decisively address this issue, our society’s land became vulnerable to illegal encroachment by forest officials.

In 1970, during Chief Minister Jalagam Vengal Rao’s tenure, the government allocated 60 acres of fish ponds to the John Peta Fishermen Society. This society, consisting of 114 Dalit villagers from John Peta, was the sole proprietor of this 60-acre tract, with no other land assets to the entire village.

This issue endured because the authorities neglected to transfer the 31.21 cents of land outside the +5 Contour boundary to our society. The delay in marking the pillars between +5 Contour and the John Peta Fishermen Society’s land left our village’s rights unresolved.

Subsequent to Operation Kolluru in 2006, an application was filed in 2011 with the Deputy Surveyor, Forest Authorities, and Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) to resolve the dispute. A survey was conducted in collaboration with forest officials, and the official report unequivocally affirmed our village’s entitlement to the 31.21 cents of land located outside the +5 Contour boundary.

Despite numerous efforts, the authorities have yet to grant us possession of this land.

Today, we persistently implore authorities and policymakers to rectify the injustices endured by our Dalit community due to the protracted delay in granting us control of the land located outside +5 Contour’s jurisdiction. Our commitment to pursuing justice and equitable land distribution for our community remains unwavering.

In conclusion, we are actively engaged in the fight to reclaim the land held by the forest department through the John Peta Youth Association, which is the sister organization of Project Navayan Ambedkar Knowledge Center (AKC) and Buddha Vihar. The saga of +5 Contour’s struggle for justice stands as a testament to the enduring resolve of those who strive for a just and equitable society.

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NOTE: Unfinished Article

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