Sunday, 28 March 2010

Telangana agitation - part III: Emotional attachment to land down the ages

Emotional attachment to land

By Syed Akbar
Bhoodhan or land donation has always occupied a pride of place in India. Down the centuries emperors, kings and local nobles donated cultivable lands to the landless poor. Land donation was considered one of the best means of providing sustenance and livelihood to the have-nots. This ancient philosophy continues even to this day. The democratically elected governments have assumed the role of kings, donating lands to the landless poor.
Andhra Pradesh leads India in terms of land donation by the State. In the last four years, the State government has distributed five lakh acres of land to the landless poor under its "land for the poor" campaign. Incidentally, land distribution to the poor was one of the contentious issues during the peace talks between Maoists and the AP government during 2004. The talks failed, but the State government took up the land distribution campaign.
Indian kings and nobles distributed lands to religious places too. There had been instances of Hindu kings donating lands to Muslim charities and Muslim kings offering lands to temples and Hindu endowments.
India, where land is often equated with mother (Bhoo mata or Zameen Ma), is perhaps the only nation in the world where people came up with voluntary donation of millions of acres of land. Acharya Vinobha
Bhave, through his Bhoodan movement in 1951, could inspire people holding lands to donate to the landless poor. In all five million acres or 20,000 sq km of land (a little larger than Anantapur, the biggest district in Andhra Pradesh) was donated as part of the movement.
Political parties, particularly the Communists, have launched a number of movements with the argument that land belongs to the tiller. The BJP too made it a national issue some time ago.

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