No one can deny that social justice can only be fully realized for Dalits once they can obtain land, assets, education, and power. The Dalits’ confidence and courage depends on the eradication of the grave injustices they have suffered through untouchability and atrocities. Land is a resource with the potential to rebuild confidence and courage.
Land is not only a mere economic resource, but it is also an instrument for the affirmation of personal dignity. The power of land has led to agreements that land even as small as a grain of sand requires freedom. Yet those who hold control over land, such as landlords, affluent farmers, and village heads often audaciously use their power to strengthen their caste at the cost of others. Caste discrimination has historically dictated the difference between those who profit from the land and those who labor on it.
“Land is the platform for the liberation of caste system.’’– in 1892, Mr. J.H.A.Tremen Heere, District Collector of Chengalpattu realized very much with this statement. Based on his effort, on 30.9.1892 under the RD order: 1010, around 320,000 Panchami or D.C. land plots were distributed to dalits in Tamilnadu. Following this model, around 1,200,000 land plots were assigned to dalits at the national level. When Panchami land was assigned to the dalits, they were urged to wait 10 years to sell, pledge, donate, or give their land for lease; and that after 10 years, they should only sell, pledge, or donate that land to another dalit. Yet over time, these lands were seized and illegally transferred to caste Hindus. At present, 126,113 Panchami lands in Tamilnadu and around 3,000 acres of land are in the hands of dalits.
Panchami lands allotted to Dalit people are now being seized by the government, cultivable land taken through government special schemes and housing plots (Thokkuppu veedu).Why? The caste Hindus are taking land from the dalits who maintain it through their toil. It is pathetic to see how dalit lands are now transferred to national highways, multi-story buildings, and private establishments.
How are these lands being seized? What tactics are used to seize these lands? Who is stealing this land? What is the present status of these seized lands? Have any cases been registered against those who seized dalit lands? Have they been punished? It is necessary to find answers for such questions.
Though protests against untouchability and atrocities in Tamilnadu experienced a surge in the 90s, no action was initiated by the state to establish dalit land rights or to restore dalits with their stolen resources. In response to many atrocities, Dalits and other people lead revolts and resistance. Why then has there been no strong move to resist the land discrimination so present in the state? It is necessary to find out answers for this issue…