CPN (Maoist Center) validating war-era land transactions in Rukum

Published On: June 7, 2017 12:00 AM NPT By: Devendra Basnet & Ganesh BK

RUKUM, June 7: The CPN (Maoist Center) has started validating the land transactions carried out under the then 'people's government' run by the former rebels in Rukum district. The land transactions are currently being validated in Banphikot and Sani Bheri rural municipalities of the district and the Maoist Center claims they will do that throughout the district.

After the Maoists started the armed insurgency in 1996, people living in the areas controlled by the rebels had no way of visiting the government's land revenue offices to register their land transactions. They had no choice but to turn to the parallel government run by the Maoist rebels, whose administration provided formalities to land transactions and distributed certificates of land ownership to the buyers.

However, after the end of the blood-soaked insurgency, the country's law refused to recognize the land ownership certificates provided by the Maoists' parallel government during the decade-long conflict era. This encouraged the people who had sold their land during the insurgency period through the parallel government to claim back their sold land, arguing that the land still belongs to them legally. The claims of the previous land sellers have resulted in many families being displaced and homeless.

Even as the constitution has rendered such land transactions invalid, the recently-elected representatives from the Maoist Centers have mocked the country's law by validating the war-era land transactions carried out by its parallel government.

The Maoists have emerged victorious in all six local units of the district, where the first round of local election was conducted. Election offices in the districts are yet to conduct polls in the remaining three local units, which fall under Province 5.  

“As per our first phase works, we are already collecting data on the land transactions made under the people's government,” said Dharma Bahadur KC, the recently-elected chief of Banphikot Rural Municipality. “Ward level representatives have been instructed to collect the data as soon as possible. After that, we will decide what type of land transactions will be validated,” he added.

Although the country's constitution has made it clear that certificates of land ownership provided by the rebel's parallel government cannot be considered valid, the Maoist Center's elected local representatives in Rukum district are preparing to formulate local-level laws and validate the war-era land transactions.

According to KC, there will be a meeting of the rural municipality by including the seller and buyer parties, after which the issues will be taken to village-level discussions. “By following due procedures, we will formulate laws to validate the land transactions which will be implemented by the village council. Every step will be taken by following the laws and due process,” he said.

He further argued that the constitution of Nepal has not invalidated such land ownership certificates. “The government led by the then Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai had decided to validate the transactions. At that time, the Supreme Court only instructed not to implement the decision. It did not say whether or not the certificates will be considered invalid by law,” he said.

Earlier, the government had tried to validate such transactions when Baburam Bhattarai was the prime minister. The move, however, was dropped after criticism from the opposition parties and an apex court order. 

A six-member taskforce has been formed in the leadership of rural municipality member Sarwajeet Gharti Magar in order to validate the certificates of land ownership prepared by the 'people's government'. The taskforce has been instructed to submit its report to the rural municipality by mid-July.

During the conflict period, around 4,000 land transactions in Rukum were passed through the then Maoist government in the district. At least 3,500 of those cases have been highly disputed. The remaining 500 cases were settled after the buyers and sellers agreed to pass the land transactions again through the government's office, according to lawyer Ekka Bahadur Pandey, who has been handling such cases for long. 

Local administrators in the district say they are totally unaware about such development. Chief District Officer Banshi Kumar Acharya said such move should not contradict the Cabinet decision taken last week. Last Wednesday, the Cabinet has issued an executive directive to the elected representatives regarding their rights and responsibilities. 

“The elected representatives should comply with the directive. Otherwise, that will be against the spirit of the constitution,” said CDO Acharya, adding that they will come up with the decision only after going through the recent developments seen in the local units.

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