“Beke beku, bhoomi beku”, “Pratek kudumbak aithu acre bhoomi kodake beku kodake beku” with these slogans, about 500 men and women, mostly women, marched to the Tehsil headquarter of Athani in Bellary district on the arrival of Jansatyagraha Samwad Yatra in the district. The rally was followed by a public meeting and it submitted a memorandum to the Tehsildar demanding land, housing, BPL card, withdrawal of false cases, water supply, entitlement on forest land, antyodaya card, employment and health facilities. Smt Yesoda, the Secretary of Karnataka Dalit Mahila Vedika spoke about land acquisition, police harassment, displacement and delay in implementing welfare schemes to the poor. The majority of the women were Muslims. Addressing the public meeting, Rajagopal spoke about the increasing migration of rural population to towns and cities in search of employment and said they finally end up in slums where the living condition is very poor. On one hand, the government is acquiring land and not providing any share of development to the poor and on the other hand, all the programs benefit only the rich and middle class. Rajaji urged people to fight against this discrimination and for equal rights. Representatives of Drishti, a voluntary organization working in Bidar district also participated in the program.
Meeting at Belgam
In the evening, the team had an evaluation meeting with the Karnataka group at Athani. A detailed introduction and working of Dalit Mahila Vedika activists were done. Smt. Sunita gave an idea of Bidar district:
- The dispute between revenue and forest departments had blocked issuing land title to tribals and dalits.
- In spite of the High Court order issued in 2003, no title was given so far.
- The issue of Enami land in Gulbarga, Bidar and Belgaum district is not yet solved. Land given to dalits was not given entitlement.
- They strongly feel that there is no need of Village Forest Rights Committees because they were dominated by powerful and higher caste people of the village.
- Many dalits occupy forest land since last few decades.
- People are not aware of the legal issues of land titles.
- The Administration is harassing the poor
Shri Vijay of Karnataka Dalit Mahila Vedike pointed out that they would intensify their activities in villages and sensitize people about land rights and exploitation. He said that now people’s organizations like Ekta Parishad are getting involved in dalit rights and it is a good sign that all the movements are integrating across the country for uplifting poor and marginalized. Smt. Yesoda extended support of her organization and the Federation for National Dalit Rights Movements in which she is the National Convener in Jansatyagraha 2012. In the coming months, they would form a cultural team to go around in villages to propagate the land struggle. She requested Rajaji being a member of the National Council for Land Reforms to take up the issues of Karnataka.
In conclusion, Rajaji suggested that at the state level they have to follow up the issues constantly and strengthen advocacy. He advised them to get in touch with the intellectuals and retired bureaucrats in Bangalore and also establish a land help line to expedite land disputes. He reminded the members of the importance of keeping nonviolent struggle active throughout.