Land rights violations on Dalits
“Land rights violations on Dalits”
• 300 Dalits interviewed………in 13 districts • Caste Hindus seized land from 247 dalits • 5 churches have seized land from Dalits • 25% of lands have been taken from Dalits over the last 10 years • 30 Dalits lost their lands for grains • 46 dalits were attacked due to land issues • Out of 300 land grabbing incidents, only 15 cases were registered • Grabbed lands were illegally transferred for National Highways and corporate buildings __________________________________ No one can deny that social justice can only be fully realized for dalits only 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. Limitation of Research: Our EVIDENCE organization conducted a research study on the topic of land rights-related atrocities against dalits, during the month of April and May 2011. The team visited 13 districts and conducted this research with 300 dalits. The study was conducted in Madurai (22 samples), Dindigul (33 samples), Theni (30 samples), Tanjore (14 samples), Thiruvarur (25 samples), Nagapatinam (17 samples), Namakkal (23 samples), Coimbatore (24 samples), Ariyalur (24 samples), Perambalur (26 samples), Villupuram (20 samples), Cuddalore (21 samples), and Kanchipuram (21 samples). The questionnaire was framed with around 50 questions. 15 researchers conducted this survey. Among the 300 dalits surveyed, 224 were men and 76 were women. Among them 205 belong to Parayar community, 74 Arunthathiyar, 19 Pallar, 1 Kuravar, and 1 Puthirai vannar. Among the 300 dalits, 294 belong to Hindu religion, and 6 were Christians. Among the 300 dalits, 217 gave statements on behalf of their relatives who were affected by land issues, and 83 people gave statements about their personal experiences. Dalits who own lands now: Among the 300 dalit respondents, only 99 (34%) currently own land. 201 (66%) dalits own no land. Of the 99 dalits who do own land, only 3 own over 10 acres, only 1 owns 6-10 acres, 28 own land of 1-5 acres, and 7 own land between 51-99 cents. 48 respondents owned land within 10 cents. Of the land-owning dalit respondents, 50 dalits own housing sites, 13 have Nanjai lands, 32 own Punjai lands. Of these 99 land-owning dalits, 45 dalits owned land which was provided by the government. 12 own panchami lands, 10 own housing plots (Thokkupu veedu), and 12 own land under special schemes. Land rights violation on dalits: All 300 dalits who participated in this study were subjected to land rights violations. Among them, 247 (82%) were affected by caste Hindus, 7 (1.7%) were affected by caste Christians, 21 (7.5%) were affected by private sector actors, 5 (1.7%) were affected by churches, and 19 (6%) were affected by the government sector. Among the 300 dalit respondents, 17 (5%) had lost more than 10 acres, 170 (56%) had lost 1-5 acres, and 53 (18%) has lost land below 10 cents. Year of grabbed land: Of the 300 dalit respondents, 80 dalits land had lost their land before the 1970’s, 59 dalits lost land during 1970-1980, 44 dalits lost land during 1981-1990, 41 dalits lost land during 1991-2000, and 76 dalits lost land during 2001-2010. Our research revealed that during the past 10 years, grabbing of dalits’ land has increased two fold. Among the 300 respondents, government allotted land to 195 dalits, 90 dalits purchased their own land, and others own land which had been otherwise granted to them. What are the Tactics practiced by land grabbers? 93 dalit respondents had been paid an unfairly low price, 42 dalits has lost their land in exchange for property, 98 dalits has lost their land for debt relief, 40 dalits lost their land for paying interest amount, 78 dalits were forced to sell their land due to land encroachment and encircling pathways. 16 dalits lost their land to government establishments. 19 dalits lost their lands to private sector actors. One misfortune is that around 30 dalits have lost their land in exchange for grain. 5 dalits have lost their lands in exchange for alcohol. 5 dalits have lost their land for food. Incident 1: Samynathan (37), a resident of Devinayakkanpatti village at Dindigul District, lost his 7 acre land with the caste Hindu Kulanthaisamy to relieve a debt of of Rs.300. The case is pending in Vedasanthur court. Incident 2: Kamalakannan, a resident of Kodankipatti village at Dindigul district, owned 3 acres and 40 cents of land which was given to him by the government. During the year 1994, a caste Hindu cheated him by providing 8 measures of grains in exchange for his land. A case is pending in Palani court regarding this incident. Incident 3: Chenkeni resides in Melapanthal village at Villupuram District. In 1965, the government provided him with 4 acres of land. This land was been taken in exchange for alcoholic beverages 10 years ago. The current value of that land is 1 crore, 25 lakhs. Incident 4: Munusamy resides in Kuthiraisanthal at Villupuram District. He lost his 4 acres of land 10 years ago in exchange for 5 measures of grains and Rs.100. Similarly, caste Hindus cheated dalit Murugan of his land in this same village. Incident 5: Arumugham (50), is a resident of Chinnakaratupatti village, at Dindigul district. The government provided him with 60 cents of land. 15 cent of this land was seized by Reddiyapatti Panchayat president Chellapa Gounder in 2005. Now this land holds a pathway for caste Hindus. A case is pending in Palani court against Chellapa Gounder. Incident 6: Rajendran resides in Kunnathur at Namakkal district. His grandfather owned 65 cents of land. Caste Hindus cheated him of his land and used it to construct a burial ground. Dalits are denied from burying dead bodies in this burial ground. Due to this restriction, relatives of Rajendran who provided this land are not allowed to use this burial ground. Incident 7: Vadivel resides in Perampakkam village, Thirukalunkundram Taluk at Kanchipuram District. Vadivel was one of 50 dalits who the government provided 2 acres of land to 1n 1963. All of this land was encroached on by caste Hindus. In 2009 some of the dalits intervened and questioned the caste Hindus on the land encroachment. These dalits were subject to brutal attack, and local police even filed a false case against the dalits. Incident 8: Dalit woman Katteriyammal resides in South keeranur village at Villupuram District. She owned 50 cents of land. The caste Hindus Ramasamy, Mudaliyar, and Natesa Gounder cheated her, purchasing her land for an unfairly low price. This case has been appealed to Delhi high court. Incident 9: The government provided land to build houses for 74 dalits during the year 2000. But now still they have been prevented from building these homes. Caste Hindus not only encroached on the land, but they also threatened and assaulted the dalits. Similarly, the government has provided land to 51 families in Chokkadevanpatti village, Usilampatti in 2002. But caste Hindus have also encroached on that land. Incident 10: Baskaran resides in Melaulur village, Orathanadu at Tanjore District. His father Rathinam loaned his land to caste Hindu Dharmaraj for Rs.16, 000. In 1998, after some years of the lease, Rathinam returned the full loan amount and attempted to reclaim his land. But Dharmaraj asserted that the land belonged to him, and brutally assaulted Rathinam. When Rathinam lodged a complaint at police station, village caste Hindus abused him with epithets and taunts–“How dare you, have you developed courage to lodge complaint against us?”- and Dharmaraj lead a violent gang which brutally assaulted Rathinam. Rathinam was taken to hospital, where he died under treatment. Currently a case is pending in Pattukottai court. Incident 11: Ravichandran hailing from Vellipalayam village at Nagai District and Rajendran hailing from Valliyammai nagar also lost their land to caste Hindus for debt relief. In Dindigul district, a dalit purchased tea for debt in the tea shop of a caste Hindu for 2 months. When the caste Hindu asked the dalit to pay the debt amount, the dalit could not pay the amount. The caste Hindu in then took 1 acre of the dalit’s land. If a person drinks tea for 2 months, it will cost only Rs.3000. For Rs.3000, this dalit was cheated by a caste Hindu. In Tanjore district a dalit has asked a debt amount to carry a function with caste Hindu. The caste Hindu has given him Rs.20, 000 and cheated him of his 80 cent land. This incident took place 5 years ago. From our research we identified many such incidents in Tamilnadu. Manipulating the ignorance and poverty of dalits, the caste Hindus have cheated them of their lands by paying amounts from Rs.14 up to Rs.2 lakhs for land. From our research we can clearly understand from the 300 incidents that dalits have lost property worth crores. When our team questioned that whether they received money as compensation, only 27 of the 300 dalits reported that they received compensation. Status of Grabbed land: Among the 300 cases, around 182 dalits’ land has been used by caste Hindus for cultivation, 48 dalits’ land have been used as residences, 5 dalits’ land has been used for industry, land of 4 dalits has been used for government offices, land of 3 dalits has been used for roads, land of 5 dalits have been used for temple construction, 62 dalits’ land is now wasteland, 4 dalits’ land used for construction of commercial complexes,1 dalit’s land is used for an Airport and 1 dalit’s land used for construction of a hospital. Land and violations: When our team enquired whether dalits suffered violations from caste Hindus for having land, 240 dalits say that they were subjected to violations. 5 dalits were murdered due to land disputes, 1 dalit woman was sexually assaulted, 146 dalits were abused with caste epithets, 45 dalits have been subjected to brutal assault, 124 dalits have been intimidated by caste Hindus into selling their lands, 59 dalits were unable to live, 68 dalits lost their education, 35 dalits have lost their jobs, and 38 dalits were subjected to khap Panchayat. Legal actions against land rights atrocities: Though many dalits have been affected, only in 65 incidents have those involved lodged complaints in police stations. Of these 65 incidents, only in 15 cases has FIR been registered. Only in 3 cases has SC/ST Act been registered, and only in 2 cases have the accused been arrested. Currently, 38 land related cases are pending the court. Of these cases, 2 cases have been pending in court for about 30 years, and 18 cases have pending in the court for about 5 years. In 1892, District collector of Chengalpattu Mr.J.H.A.Thiramanheer stated that dalits are not provided with good food, clothing, and that many are suffering from dangerous diseases such as leprosy. Caste Hindus force dalits to do menial jobs. Dalits live in an unhygienic situations. Hindu religion dictates that they live in a degrading way. Mr. Thiramanheer deeply believed that only education and land could bring full freedom for these people. He has acted as a role model for the retrival of dalit lands. The caste Hindus and landlords have undone his work and delayed his dreams. Land discrimination still exists. Dalit lands are taken now just as they were 120 years ago, only the tactics have changed. This research clearly points out that dalits who owned lands worth crores now live landless, working as laborers. We can clearly understand from the 300 incidents reported how dalits lose their land. This research is merely a small sample. If we conduct a full-fledged research study all over Tamilnadu we will find thousands of such lost lands. It is very sorrowful that even in the past 10 years dalits have lost their land to caste Hindus and their cases are still pending in court. Our government proudly announces that it has provided lands for dalits. But the situation of these is in fact dalits worse than before, having not only lost their lands, but now also spending their time and resources in courts. 300 dalits lost their land, and 240 of these dalits were subjected to violations. Only in 15 incidents has FIR been registered and only in 2 cases have the accused been arrested. From these incidents we can clearly understand that police departments and administration have failed to retrieve the lost lands of dalits. Dalits murdered for land Incident 1: Latha (30), hailing from Kuravar community, resides in Thathaneri at Madurai. The caste Hindus from their area threatened her that it would be a sin for her to reside there, and often abused her and assaulted her family members. Despite this, she continued to reside there. On 31.8.2009, the case Hindus brutally murdered Nayagapandi (20), a relative of Latha. Sellur police had registered FIR in Cr.No.1982/2009 under section 147, 148, 341, 302 IPC r/w 3(2) (5) SC/ST Act. Incident 2: Dalit woman Kamsala (53), a resident of Pappireddipatti village at Dharmapuri District, had her land encroached on by a caste Hindu. When she questioned the caste Hindu regarding the land encroachment, he brutally murdered her on 13.6.2010. Pappireddipatti police had registered FIR in Cr.No. 153/2010 under section 302, 307 IPC r/w 3(2)(5) SC/ST Act. Incident 3: Chellammal (55) resided in Narasinganallur village at Tirunelveli district. Her land was taken for lease by a caste Hindu without her knowledge. When she came to know this, she intervened and questioned the caste Hindu. On 10.4.2011, a caste Hindu gang brutally murdered her. Suthamalli police has registered FIR in Cr.No.118/2011 under section 307, 506(2), 302 IPC r/w 3(2)(5) SC/ST Act. Violation against dalits for lands: Aside from murder, many other atrocities have been committed against dalits. Incident 1: The government provided 4.5 acre land for dalits of Velapparkoil village at Theni District. 23 dalits built houses on 2.5 acres of that land. The other 2 acres are used for other purposes. The caste Hindus encroached on these 2 acres of land. When the dalits lodged a complaint regarding this encroachment, the caste Hindus assaulted and threatened dalit women including Veluthai and Kalaiyarasi. Based on this incident, Rajathani police had registered FIR in Cr.No.158/2010 under section 294(b), 506(1) IPC r/w 3(1)(10) SC/ST Act. Incident 2: Neyveli Middle Street is situated in Orathanadu at Tanjore District. The caste Hindu VAO cheated 10 acres and 76 cents of land from local dalits and created a fake document that the land was given to dalits. Then, he registered all the land in the names of his relatives. When the dalits lodged a complaint against him, dalit Karuppaiah (37) was subjected to a brutal attack with deadly weapons by a caste Hindu gang. He required treatment for over a month. Though the dalits lodged a complaint with Vattathikottai police, the accused have still not been arrested. Incident 3: Dalit Mahalingam (57) resided in Thalikottai village, near Mannarkudi at Thiruvarur District. He owned 30 cent of cultivable land. The caste Hindus demanded Mahalingam to sell his land to them, but he refused. On 17.11.2009, a caste Hindu gang brutally assaulted him after tying him to a coconut tree. Paravakottai police registered FIR in Cr.No.348/2009 under section 147, 148, 448, 294(b), 323, 324 IPC r/w 3(1)(10) SC/ST Act. Many such incidents still occur in Tamilnadu. It has become usual to hear of Dalits being subjected to assaults, dalits being murdered, and dalits being chased out of their village for land issues. Though some cases have been registered under IPC and SC/ST Act, these cases are not registered as land acquisition cases. The unjust acquisition of dalit land is a cruel violation. True social justice would not only require the arrest of the accused, but also the retrieval of the lost land. Our research revealed that due to the many burdens of dalits working as laborers in agricultural lands, factories, and industry, they were unable to concentrate on the retrieval of their lost land. Many gangs paid but a tenth of the land’s real value. Many dalits do not even realize they are being cheated, not understanding the full value of their land. Caste Hindus use many techniques common for real estate owners to seize land from the poor. Our research revealed that caste Hindus seize land on a caste discrimination basis as well as an economic one. Real social justice would provide not only double the amount for lost land to land discrimination victims, but also consolation between caste Hindus and dalits. Should this action be taken constructively? If not done constructively what should the civil society group do? Based on these questions we would suggest some recommendations. Recommendations The Tamil Nadu government should undertake an extensive study to find answers to the questions: where Panchami lands in Tamilnadu? Who possesses these lands? When were these lands illegally transferred? The study report findings should be brought out as a white report. The government should provide proper justice and take necessary action for the affected people after conducting a thorough enquiry through a grievance committee throughout Tamilnadu to look into the illegal transferring and taking of Panchami land, land assigned by government to dalits, and land owned by dalits. In the future, the government should take the appropriate steps to measure and register all the land assigned to dalit people. The government should take severe action against the persons who grab, purchase, or pledge land assigned to dalits. The government should pass an order to cancel all the registrations made in the name of the lands assigned to dalits. There should be a continuous monitoring over the cultivable lands assigned to dalits. The Tamilnadu government should create special schemes to link these cultivable lands with the Agriculture department to undertake agriculture work. The government should take necessary action to introduce dairy farming, and cattle feeding products based on the resources available in the lands of dalits. The government should pass an special order to register cases under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocity) Act 1989 section 3(1)(4) against the atrocity group illegally grabbing the land of dalits.