For nearly 20 years now one man has been agitating against the land mafia with that undying wish of one day getting back nearly 4000 bigas of encroached land. Master Vijay Singh a multiple record holder for the longest dharna that one has done sits quietly in front of the District Magistrate Office in Prabudh Nagar, which has been recently carved out of the Muzaffarnagar district.
A small area covered with cement bag material which serve as curtains, Masterji’s world comprises of two mats, a gas stove, a vegetable tray, some utensils, a trunk and a string to hang white clothes. With age Masterji is now reminiscent of an old sadhu with long silky white hair and a beard.
A typical day for Singh includes making breakfast, heading to the land records department and meeting a stream of visitors till evening.
In what seems to be positive news, Singh’s two decade long fight has borne fruit. The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister has directed officials to setup a team which will work on removal of encroachments from public lands.
In 2012, when the UP government changed hands, Singh managed a 30-minute meeting with Yadav. The CM ordered a committee be set up to look into the matter.
The committee came into being but did no work.
Some land mafias have illegally occupied thousands of acres of public lands for their personal interest, Akhilesh Yadav said after meeting Guinness Book and Limca Book of Records holder Master Vijay Singh.
During a meet, Singh apprised the CM about 800 acres of public land at Chausana village having been encroached by land mafias. He says if set free, the land could be used for developmental works.
Master Vijay Singh had walked down to Lucknow from Muzaffarnagar on April 18. He left Muzaffarnagar on March 30 and had reached here after 20 days. He managed to meet with Yadav after 10 days of struggle.
But tragedy for Masterji as he is popularly known does not end there. Abandoned by his own, even the government thus far had refused to do much for his cause.
Masterjis demand is return 4,000 bighas of land in his village Chausana, in Shamli district, UP, from the mafia to the government.
His son and two daughters shunned him. They live on Singh’s 23 bighas, but do not want to be part of his struggle.
Singh’s story began on a hot summer day in 1994 while on his way back from an Economics class. Walking past a poor part of the village, he heard a boy tell his mother, “Please borrow aata from someone so that we can eat roti today.” That changed Masterji forever.
He could not sleep for days. His efforts undertaken showed that over 4000 bighas of land were in illegal possession of land mafias. While the musclemen of the village stood exposed, Singh shot off aarop patras to the Muzaffarnagar DM, the UP home secretary, and the Centre. Surviving bullets and the wrath of the mafia the man continued his fight.
In 2008, 300 bighas were confiscated from the mafia, and the CB-CID and the Muzaffarnagar ADM filed 136 cases — civil and criminal — against various musclemen.
Suprisingly till now, not a single hearing has been held in any of these cases.
Other than this, in Muzaffarnagar district, there were 1250 bighas public land in the purquazi area and 50000 bighas in Ramraj and Bhopa area also freed from illegal possession. Nearly six revenue employees are in jail for involvement.
In 19 years, I have written more than 1,500 letters to the authorities—from the DM [district magistrate] to the PM [prime minister]. Some action was initiated, but a lot more needs to be done says Masterji.
Singh, however, has no regrets. And vows to continue his struggle.