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A Place for the Living and the Dead

There are two major victories for the Adijan Panchayat Movement in Tumkur District of Karnataka.

Victory One: In the year 2013 the Revenue Minister of Karnataka was invited by REDS to Tumkur for a public function. 8000 people from villages assembled in the Library ground. Our main demand was on land. The Minister was highly edified by the way we organized and conducted the meeting. After the meeting, he promised to fulfil seven of our demands, in a Press Conference. One of them was the grant of burial ground for the Adijan (Dalit) people. Being an Adijan, he knew the woes of the people who were/are not allowed to bury their dead in the village burial ground. We had substantiated our demand by a survey of many taluks in Tumkur District where we work and a few other districts. Armed with our findings the District Administration started working seriously.

Jyothi, Raj, and Rangaiah met the District Collector along with the former Information Commissioner of Karnataka one day. When we entered the office of the DC we saw him with a heap of files. They were all burial ground files. He was signing them one by one. It was October 2, Gandhi Jayanti Day and he was working in the office on a holiday.

Today we are very proud to announce that we have official information of the actual grant of burial ground in three taluks. These are Pavagada, Madhugiri, and Koratagere. A total of 269.37 acres has been allotted for burial grounds to Adijans in 169 villages. We have yet to get information on other taluks. We are proud that while the process of allocating land for burial ground is now only a question of time, we claim that the success in the taluks in which the Adijan Panchayats work belong to us.

Victory Two: Side by side we unearthed some hidden land issues at Gundarlahalli of Pavagada taluk. Actually, it was one of the youth from that village who raised the issue in one of the Adijan Darshan at Booshakthi Kendra. All our Coordinators of the Taluk got into a serious business. This village is given one acre of land for burial ground after much struggle and negotiations with the Caste people of the village. The Tahsildar and the MLA had to personally come for the negotiation. Much bigger was the issue of housing sites for the Adijans of this village. In the year 1954, the government granted land for the housing sites of the Adijans. Since there was no possibility of constructing houses on their own, the Adijans kept quiet. Making use of their ignorance and silence the caste people of the village occupied the said land and today they have coconut and areca nut trees.

After much struggle and negotiations, yesterday the government along with our leaders did an official demarcation of 30 Guntas (¾ acres ) of land for housing sites for the Adijan people. The caste people asked for compensation and the Tahsildar has promised them to initiate the process. There is one more acre of land that has to come to the Adijans for housing in the same village. The total measure of land is 5 acres. The caste people made an on the spot demand to the Tahsildhar that they should be given the rest of the land for their housing sites. He asked our leaders if a little more than three acres can be given to the caste people of the village. Our leaders and young people of the village clearly said that they only want their rights and not impinge on the rights of other people. It was decided that the rest of the land would be given to the caste people.

When such negotiations take place, the Adijan Panchayat leaders do not even speak to Jyothi and Raj by phone. They take their decisions all by themselves and later inform us. We are very happy and proud to see these ordinary village chums standing as leaders at the District level now. What more can we ask for? We ourselves are ordinary people and when our leaders achieve such things there is an inexplicable feeling inside us that stirs us for more action. We grow old in age but our people make us feel younger and younger through their success.

The total reclamation of land that REDS and Adijan Panchayats have achieved till now comes to 11,672.35 acres of land in 407 villages. This includes mostly agricultural land but also some housing sites and burial grounds. For us, this is a lifetime achievement indeed.

Jyothi and Raj with all the Staff and Coordinators