Gujarat Pogrom












Contact Us


Denial of land drives Dalits to Islam

by R. Ilangovan

Dalits of Chockadevanpatti hamlet in Madurai district have been waging a battle since 1981 against powerful caste Hindus who refuse to vacate the land assigned by the Government for constructing houses for Adi Dravidars.

To register their protest against the district administration's "failure'' to secure the land, 51 Dalit families, identified as beneficiaries of the scheme, have announced their intention to embrace Islam. They have set a Deceember 6 deadline.

The Dalits, who were allotted two cents each to build houses, also accuse the district administration of confining its role to erecting a warning board on the disputed land, which says it belongs to the Adi Dravidars. Sixtyfive-year old Vellaiyan, who has taken up the issue, says he has exhausted all his savings to sustain the fight against the powerful `occupiers.' He has already mortgaged his piece of land.

The Adi Dravidar Welfare department, he says, identified 1.95 acres on East Street to allot house site `pattas'. The Social Welfare department issued a notification under Section 4 (1) of the Land Acquisition Act in 1981, and was published in the Tamil Nadu Government Gazette, dated January 5, 1982. Later the administration distributed the `pattas' to the beneficiaries and even served an eviction notice on the land occupiers.

But the caste Hindus, predominantly Piramalai Kallars, strongly protested.

"Even after the culmination of a long drawn-out legal battle, the tenacious hold of the caste Hindus over the land has not slackened a bit,'' says Vellaiyan. During the last local polls, the issue snowballed into caste violence, which left many injured. Since then many Dalits have left the village.

K. Baluchamy, former president of the Chockadevanpatti Cooperative Milk Society, says nearly 69 families, including himself and a few Dalits, have been living on this land for the past three decades.

Houses have already been constructed. They claim they have been paying all taxes to the authorities including the Valanthur village panchayat, under whose jurisdiction the hamlet falls. Despite agitations and protests, the issue remains unsolved.

The Dalits still wait, after 21 long years, to get possession of the allotted land. The village is situated near the Pappapatti, Keeripatti and Nattamangalam reserved village panchayats, where local polls could not be held since 1996


November 14, 2002