Gujarat villages encroaching Maharashtra borders?
Dahanu MLA Vinod Nikole recently raised a query in Maharashtra Assembly.
Vinod Nikole, the MLA of Dahanu constituency in Palghar district and leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) alleged that some Gram Panchayats from Gujarat state have encroached upon the land in Maharashtra's border district. While Nikole's allegations might point to another border conflict between Maharashtra and Gujarat, the district administration has stated there is no reason for concern.
On March 18, while speaking during the Monsoon Session of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, Nikole said that villages from Umargam taluka of Gujarat have encroached upon land at least 500 metres inside Dahanu and Talasari talukas in Palghar district. He requested that this issue must be solved earliest.
Vevji, Girgoan, Zaai, Sambha and Achhchad are Maharashtra's last villages in the Palghar district located on the border of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Gowada, Sulsumbha and Achad villages in Gujarat are located on the other side of this border. Nikole claims that the Sulsumbha Gram Panchayat from Gujarat has encroached at least 500 metres inside Maharashtra's Vevji Gram Panchayat and built a railway overbridge 20 metres inside of Maharashtra's village.
However, in reply to the queries, Maharashtra's Revenue Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said that the matter is a dispute between those particular villages only and has nothing to do with the governments of Maharashtra or Gujarat. Patil also assured Nikole by saying that the regional commissioner will visit both of the places soon to look into the matter.
Govind Bodke, Palghar District Collector, on the other hand, refuted claims made by Nikole. "The whole issue started during the Covid pandemic. The village from the Gujarat side has a road that goes through Maharashtra's village. They asked for permission to install streetlights on that road, which was granted to them. But during the pandemic, there were barricades installed to restrict the movement of citizens. As there is no natural landmark to distinguish between the border of Maharashtra and Gujarat, barricades were installed indiscriminately," Bodke said, explaining the background behind the confusion that caused the border dispute.
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"Those barricades made some part of Gujarat's village inaccessible. The confusion arose because of those barricades only, otherwise, there is no border conflict as such," Bodke told Indie Journal.
Bodke was referring to a similar incident last year when a road under Vevji Gram Panchayat was barricaded and blocked by Gujarat. A similar incident had also taken place in April 2020. Following these incidents, the locals had demanded that the administration demarcates the exact border between Gujarat and Maharashtra, the process for which had begun in March last year. But the latest events show that the problem persists.
Palghar is the newest district of Maharashtra. The talukas of Dahanu and Talasari, including six others, are part of Palghar district which was carved out of the bigger Thane district on August 1, 2014. Around 48 percent of the population lives in urban areas and rural areas consist majorly of tribal populations.
Highlighting another such event that occurred last year, Nikole told the assembly that the Gowada Gram panchayat of Gujarat had issued notices to villagers from Zaai Gram panchayat saying that they had built their homes inside Gowada village. He further said that survey number 204 of Vevji village has Mutation entry Number 144 already and that land is almost five acres and 30 gunthas in area.
"We are looking into this claim made by Nikole. The Minister (Vikhe Patil) has promised that the regional commissioner also will look into this matter. It is hard to say anything as of now but we are inquiring about it," Bodke said.
Mutation is the change of title ownership from one person to another when the property is sold or transferred. "Today, this land is in Gujarat's Sulsumbha Gram Panchayat. But in reality, this land belongs to the Vevji village of Talasari taluka in Maharashtra. It is a clear encroachment," Nikole emphasised.
However, BJP MLA from the area Manisha Chaudhary, who spoke just after Nikole, said that the border issue is the outcome of misrepresentation of ground realities on Google map. "There is a playground that belongs to Gowada. The Gowada Gram panchayat has all documents related to it, but Google Maps shows that the playground is located in Zaai village. This is the real point of contention between both villages, nothing else. My request to the government of Maharashtra is to resolve this issue by organising a meeting between the District Collectors of Palghar and Valsad."
Vikhe Patil said that the Palghar District Collector communicated with the Valsad district collector in 2021 but things could not progress because of the pandemic. But on Monday or Tuesday next week, he will personally speak with the Balsar Collector and will invite both Nikole and Chaudhary to that meeting to resolve this issue at the earliest.
Explaining actions taken by Vejvi Gram panchayat, Nikole said the Panchayat has issued notices to Sulsumbha Gram panchayat many times. "About a fortnight ago, villagers from Zaai came to visit me saying that this dispute is growing aggressively between these two Gram Panchayats," said Nikole.
He requested Maharashtra's government to pay immediate attention to this matter and solve the border issue by settling border issues with the Gujarat state.
The border disputes are not new to the Maharashtra and Gujarat border. About six months ago when there was a border dispute going on between Karnataka and Maharashtra over Belgaum, 55 villages from Surgana taluka of Nashik district submitted a memorandum asking to be merged with Gujarat, as they wanted to taste development.