Friday, January 21, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Three-decade-old struggle by Dalits to retrieve land continues

MADURAI, January 20, 2011
Three-decade-old struggle by Dalits to retrieve land continues
D. Karthikeyan

It has been more than three decades since the land originally meant
for Adi Dravidars of Vandiyur Theerthakadu village were encroached by
caste Hindus. The Madras High Court has twice ordered the eviction of
encroachments and relocation of Dalits in the identified lands.

The 349 Dalit families, who were living on the Vaigai riverbed, were
allotted 9. 73 acres of land (Old Survey No 260/2A, 260/2B New Survey
No.112/2A, 2B) by the Tamil Nadu Adi Dravidar Welfare Department on
March, 3, 1979. The families were handed over pattas on December 12,

However, the land was encroached by caste Hindus and even after a
series of protests, dharnas and petitions by Vidhuthalai Chiruthaigal
Katchi (VCK) and other Dalit organisations, the encroachments were not
removed. The encroachers, meanwhile, formed a residents' welfare
association (RWA) and thwarted all attempts made by the Dalits to make
the administration remove their encroachments. Members of VCK filed a
writ petition in the High Court, which, on October, 30, 2008, ordered
the removal of encroachments within six months and locate the Dalits
in Vandiyur.

The Revenue Divisional Officer's report following the court direction
says that only 11 pattas were purchased from Adi Dravidars and houses
were built on them and kept under occupation. However, 231 houses were
built without pattas and occupied by way of encroachment and the total
extent of land occupied by persons other than Adi Dravidars is 3.03
acres. In the absence of any action to remove the encroachments, the
RWA went on appeal in the Madras High Court. On October 22, 2010, the
High Court ordered the district administration to relocate the
encroachers in the 3.87 hectares of land identified by them at
Sakkimangalam and if they refused to move evict them in accordance
with law. The Principal Secretary and Special Commissioner, Land
Administration, were also issued copies of the order.

VCK has been organising various protests at many places and also in
front of the Collectorate but there is no appropriate action from the
administration. Party president and Member of Parliament Thol.
Thirumavalavan wrote a letter to the District Collector citing the
details of the court proceedings and requested him to take necessary

Members of VCK organised a protest on January 10 in front of the
Collectorate demanding the removal of encroachments. In continuation
of their protests, they have planned to organise a fast unto death
from Thursday. A. Muthamizh Pandian, rural district treasurer and
coordinator of Vandiyur Theerthakadu Land Retrieval Struggle
Committee, said that Dalits had been denied their fundamental right to
have a decent living. He said that Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi
should intervene and retrieve the land meant for Dalits.

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