Friday, September 24, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Dalit becomes ‘scapegoat' in feud over land


Dalit becomes 'scapegoat' in feud over land

Sudipto Mondal

'He was attacked to send a message to rival faction'

Koragappa wants nothing to do with either of the warring families

Dalit leaders want case be filed against his employer

GUTHIGAR (SULLIA TALUK): A 21-year-old feud in Guthigar, 120 km from
Mangalore, between two dominant 'caste' Hindu families over a piece of
government land has resulted in an attack on an unsuspecting victim –
a 40-year-old Dalit landless labourer, according to police sources.

Used as a pawn to gain the upper hand by one family, he was attacked
by a gang supported by the rival family on September 14, they said.

Koragappa, the victim, sustained injuries in his lower abdomen area
and backbone. He was discharged from hospital on Monday and wants
nothing to do with either of the warring families.

Long-standing dispute

The families of Devidas Gowda and Mundappa Gowda have been having
clashes since 1989 over a 3.5-acre plot belonging to the Government,
said Guthigar Gram Panchayat president Parasaurama Chilthadka.

"Both Devidas Gowda and Mundappa Gowda are now dead and the feud is
being continued by their sons Kiran Buddlegutthu (29) and K. Ananda
Gowda (40)," he said.

Unable to make headway, Mr. Buddlegutthu, the eldest son of Devidas
Gowda, forced Mr. Koragappa, an employee of 25 years, to put up a tent
on the disputed land, police sources said.

Mr. Koragappa told The Hindu that he had been requesting his employer
for some land to build a house for several years. "Recently, he
ordered me to build a tent on the disputed site," he said.

"Supporters of Ananda Gowda's family tore down the tent and attacked
Mr. Koragappa to send a message to their rivals," said Sarwaswati, a
Dalit Sangharsh Samiti leader.

A case has been registered under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocity)
Act. However, Dalit leaders are demanding that a case be filed against
the victim's employer as well.

During a visit to the disputed land recently, persons with influence
in the village, including an elected representative, tried to prevent
this correspondent from entering the land.

The elected representative, himself a Dalit, said over the phone, "We
will not tolerate any interference (from the media) in this matter…."
He later requested anonymity.

"This case is just a pointer. There are several such ongoing feuds
between landowners who belong to dominant castes where Dalits are
being used as foot-soldiers to settle scores," said Superintendent of
Police A.S Rao.

Unable to continue with his former employer, Mr. Koragappa, is now
trying to secure a piece of government land to build a house.

Deputy Commissioner V. Ponnuraj said that a team of revenue officials
would investigate the merits of Mr. Koragappa's petition for land.


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