Land is the not only the source of livelihood, it is the source of liberation and dignity for Dalits in Tamil Nadu. The land struggle is Tami Nadu has begun in the last 2 decade and the struggle is still on. Here is the live struggle of Dalits in 6 villages to reclaim their own land ; their longstanding struggle of 7 years in 6 villages drew the attention of Government and agreed to provide 278 acres of Panchami land in 6 villages in Villupuram district.
Poster for the protest on 14th April (Note : this poster is posted in all 300 villages, government walls and other public places)
IRDS, is a partner of CCFD and Action Aid working on the issue of Land rights for Dalit women since 2002 in Villupuram district. Recently with the support of IRDS the activists had identified some of the villages where Panchami Land is avilable and underwent a detail study of the 300 villages for the past one year. As part of the programmatic intervention, IRDS provided intensive training for Dalit women and capacitate them on various leadership skills and land literacy workshops. IRDS had also linked them up with other activists of TNLRF which is working on the issue of land rights among the marginalized communities in Tamil Nadu. With the support of Village Action Committee Members and Animators, Women leaders had collated Panchami Land details of the 6 following villages - Soriayapattu, Karadi, G. Ariyur, Appananthal, Vadakaraithazhanur and Velakulam in Vilupuram district. The information reveals that in Soraiyappatu 42 acres had been found and there are 79 beneficiaries. Among the 79 Dalits, 3 Dalits have patta on their name and the remaining pattas are in the name of upper caste members. In velakulam, 17 acres had been found out with 52 beneficiaries. All the pattas are in the name of Dalits, but it is controlled by upper caste people. There are 120 acres available in Karadi which were given to 57 Dalits. All the lands are occupied by 5 caste hindu land lords. In G. Ariyur 41 acres of Panchami Land are available ,but controlled by 4 caste hindus. In Appananthal village, 7 acres land had been identified , but 5 upper caste men occupied the land and among and 2 Dalits have patta on their names. 51 acres had been identified in Vadakaraithazhanur given to 51 Dalits. The pattas are in the name of the other caste members. Politically influential persons and former Government Officials are controlling the Panchami Lands in Karadi and Vadakaraithazhanur villages. Adangal or land title copies for all the lands had been collected from the concerned revenue department officials.
Peace meeting with sub-collector on 11th April 2012
Women leaders with the support of animators from IRDS submitted petitions to various government authorities to reclaim the land. Totally 330 dalit women landless workers have submitted petitions to reclaim the lands in all these six villages. However, the Government did not taken any serious position on the restoration of Panchami Land to the Dalits. Finally, in the beginning of January 2012 women leaders decided to launch a massive campaign and protest on 14th April and to plough the land which legitimately belongs to them. On March 8th, during the women’s day celebration, Women leaders formally announced that the protest shall be lead by the Women leaders and the women shall plough the land. They have announced that they would plough the lands with the support of TNLRF,Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front, Womens Front and other Democratic forces. They have decided to mobilze 3000 people from 180 villages and to demand their rights. Immediately after the announcement, the women leaders and the animators rigorously worked to mobilize people and sensitize them on land issues. Posters, pamphlets were issued and pasted everywhere to announce the protest.
On 11th April, Mr. Anand, Sub collector and Mr.Shankar Deputy Superintendent of Police called for a peace meeting with the village leaders and IRDS team. The village leaders provided all the information and well explained about the laws and judgments regarding panchami land during the meeting. It was an exceptional negotiation by the village leaders to reclaim the land. The collector was very much convinced and he promised that, within a month he will assure to provide the panchami land based on the government rules and laws. In the initial discussion, he requested 2 months of time to do the process, the people were not convinced for 2 months and he agreed to do as soon as possible (within a month). They also demanded that, if government fails to proceed further, the protest will move on and they firmly said that “We will plough the land which belongs to us”.
As a victory for the peoples struggle, the very next day, 12th April, Sub collector had announced to provide the land to Dalits in Soraiapattu village in Villupuram district during the Annual Land Tribunal to be started on 25th of April.
"Sensitization on land grabbing is critical among the Dalit community. It is time for the community to understand the political economy of land grabbing rather to look land as form of survival or livelihood. The leaders need to be politically sensitized rathar than just gathering information” says Mr. Nicholas, Convenor of Dalit Mannurimai Kootamaipu. He emphasized that “This is the success of the people’s struggle and the struggle will continue”.
M.Vijaya and the women Leaders.