Seized property: Complications on the ground likely to affect their return

Even though political parties have agreed to return property seized during the insurgency by November 23, serious complications remain, including lack of reliable data, ownership issue, tenancy rights and differences among the Maoists.
The parties are not clear on how they will deal with issues of land ownership such as land grabbed by squatters, land captured and ‘sold’, absentee landlordism and the parties’ commitment on land reforms as provisioned in the Interim Constitution. The objection from the Maoist hardliners, who have vowed to “stand by the landless people”, could also delay the process. The government lacks credible data on seized property, which has long been a reason for the stalemate in the return process.
“The issue is deeply complex, and I don’t think there will be any significant progress immediately just because the parties struck a deal,” said Dr. Keshav Kanel, a former secretary at the Ministry of Land Reforms, who has been following the issue since the Maoist insurgency started. He said lack of study and alternative arrangement for the squatters who have captured the land on Maoist backing would create a major problem. 
The Nepali Congress (NC) has carried out a study on seized property, but it includes cases only concerning its leaders and cadres and the findings may not necessarily be applicable to other parties. The NC report claims the Maoists seized land, houses and factories belonging to 6,050 families. The party also claimed that the Maoists ‘looted’ property such as gold, silver, crops, cattle and machinery belonging to over 12,000 families during the conflict.
Government bodies in districts do have some data, but they are largely based on complaints and are yet to be verified.
Even if the parties manage to somehow compile the data, the issue of compensation will surface as another stumbling block. NC, for instance, has long been urging that the landowners be provided with proper compensation for the loss they incurred during the period their land were captured. In their calculation, a bigha of land captured for a period of 10 years deserves compensation worth Rs 600,000 to Rs 1,000,000.
Leaders, however, say it is the job of the government to deal with the illegal land occupation. “The Maoist party has sent a circular; the government has already issued a directive. If the authorities cannot return the land to the owners, it is something the Maoists and the government should be answerable for,” said NC leader Krishna Prasad Sitaula, one of the three key members assigned to look into the implementation of the deal on returning seized property.
Sitaula, who is also a key architect of the seven-point deal that drew Maoist commitment on returning the property, said the parties have agreed to form a separate commission to deal with the issue of compensation later.
The demand of the “landless” people who have captured others’ land does deserve some attention, as in the human rights perspective, and the state has the responsibility to ensure its people’s right to food, land and shelter. For a government which has been failing to provide land to over 6,000 former landless Kamaiyas and squatters liberated over a decade ago, it will be another burden if occupants are thrown out to the streets again.
Experts say the parties and the government should tackle this issue not as a separate problem created by a particular party but part of the larger problem posed by lack of land reforms. “The decision to return the property is commendable, but it would be better if the parties apply the policy of land ceiling right away,” said Som Paneru, an expert who has extensively researched on land reforms and related issues. “No one can capture anyone’s property, but while returning the seized property, the parties should not forget that there are issues of absentee landlordism, and there are people who hold hundreds of bighas of land. The government should be able to buy the land above a certain ceiling and provide it to the landless. This will kill two birds with one stone.”
Sitaula, however, rubbished the claim that there are issues of absentee landlordism or land beyond the current land ceiling of 10 bighas. “Claims that people whose lands have been captured by the Maoists have land beyond the 10-bigha ceiling are not true. It is already illegal and that is not the issue. The Maoists must return whatever they have captured. This is the solution.”
Government sources in Bardiya district, however, revealed that most of the landlords who owned land above the 10-bigah ceiling have managed to make their ownership legal by transferring ownership to family members and others in their trust. Yuvaraj Upadhaya, an absent landlord who owned over 200 bigahs of land in Bardiya, sold half of it to locals, who have not been able to use their land for “Maoist threat”, and transferred the rest to 17 different persons, including his family members.
Immovable property seized by Maoists (Number of families)






[Source: Report of a 31-member committee led by NC leader Binaya Dhoj Chand]

Movable property seized by Maoists
Cash: 4,135 families, Crops: 3,750 families, Gold, Silver: 3,921 families. Cattle: 1,745 families, Machinery: 440 families
NC claims the Maoists are yet to return seized property belonging to a total of 6,050 families (immobile property). It also claims loot of movable property belonging to over 12,000 families. The total property is claimed to be worth over Rs 20 billion. (Originally published on November 9, 2011 on The Kathmandu Post, go to archive at

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