A 30-year-long dispute between two communities over cultivating a grazing land (gomala) at Hosa Rangapura in Chitradurga reached its peak recently when members of one community let a herd of cattle to graze on ragi sown by the other.
While the Madigas (SC) who cultivated the land are worried about the crop loss, the Nayakas (ST) maintain that the former had no right to till the grazing land.
After the Nayakas allegedly let their cattle to feed on the crop on July 26, the Madiga families staged protests in Chitradurga. The district administration has intervened and deployed police to avoid clashes in the village, as it had happened over the same issue in 2010. The issue has a history dating back to 1990 when 22 SC families began to cultivate 15 acres and 32 guntas of grazing land in the village. They had submitted applications seeking grant of the same land repeatedly. However, their pleas were rejected by the Taluk Bagair Hukum Committee in 2010. They were also allegedly assaulted by Nayakas in the same year, leading to a series of protests under the banner of Swabhimani Dalit Shakti in October 2010.
S. Shivalingam, the president of the organisation who led the protest then, told The Hindu, The SC families have been cultivating the land for 30 years as they have no alternative land to till. Then Revenue Minister Karunakara Reddy told the families to give up this land assuring them grant of an alternative land. We said we would continue to till the same till the alternative was granted, he said. Noted writer and thinker Anand Teltumbde had visited the village during the protests.
The Revenue Ministers promise was not fulfilled. Meanwhile, the Taluk Bagair Hukum Committee was reconstituted and the new committee allowed the families to cultivate the land, but did not grant them land, citing that it needed clarification from the government. This was challenged by the Nayakas.
Chitradurga DC Vinoth Priya, in her order in February 2019, withdrew the permission citing that the said land was required for the cattle. The issue went to the land tribunal, which also upheld the DCs order. Now, we have taken the issue to the High Court. The matter has not come up for hearing due to the lockdown over COVID-19, said Mr. Shivalingam.
As they have done over the years, they sowed ragi and incurred the wrath of the Nayaka community. We appealed to the police and district administration to protect our crop, but that did not happen. All these years we have been growing ragi, which is our food. For the rest of our needs we work in others farms as daily wage workers, said S.T. Maruthi, one of the youth who led the protests. Mr. Maruthi and other families agree that they do not own the land, but ask what gave the other community the right to destroy their crop.
Bhanu Prakash, an advocate and resident of the village from the Nayaka community, argues that the families had no right to cultivate the land. The DC has rejected their appeal and the same has been upheld by the tribunal, he said. There are around 300 head of cattle in the village and they require grazing land, he argued.
Chitradurga tahsildar J.C. Venkateshaiah maintained that the land belonged to the government and nobody would be allowed to cultivate it. The families had no right over the land. The police have booked a case against those who cultivated the land, he said.