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The struggle for retrieval of panchami land in the district has received a fresh impetus with the district administration declaring that 2,843 acres of land were indeed allotted to the Dalits during the British rule. This information was extricated by K. Meyyer, a Communist Party of India (CPI) functionary, through a Right to Information Act petition.
“We wanted to know the extent of panchami land in the taluk. The details also revealed that benefits of the land were not enjoyed by the Dalits but by caste Hindus,” said CPI district secretary P. Kalidoss. “The poor Dalits depended on caste Hindus for their urgent expenses during marriages or deaths in their families. And the small and big loans they received over a period of time led to Dalits losing hold of their land,” he added.
Eventually those Dalits were reduced to landless labourers. “Panchami lands are meant only for Dalits. It can neither be sold nor re-classified. However, over the years, the lands have been registered in the names of others and even pattas transferred by officials,” Mr. Kalidoss said.
P. Murugan (55) of Tiruvadavur said that three acres of land cultivated by his grandfather had been usurped by a caste Hindu family 20 years ago.
Awareness of panchami land among Dalits have gone up in the last few years and they have stepped up the retrieval fight. “Knowing the extent of the panchami land and the locations is our first victory. However, it will be a Himalayan task to retrieve them,” Mr. Meyyer said.
Meanwhile, the district administration has declared that panchami land in Melur taluk had been taken over by the government and pattas issued against them were cancelled. “In the process, pattas of lands that were in the possession of Dalits were also cancelled. At least 25 Dalit families have been rendered landless,” Mr. Meyyer said.
P. Murugesan of Muthusamypatti complained that 16 cents in his father’s name had been taken over by the government. Many farmers came to know about the government taking possession only when they applied for agricultural loans.
However, Melur Tahsildar S. Manimaran refuted this and said corrective measures were possible if proper documents were produced.
The government should identify the heirs of original Dalit allottees of the panchami land. “Ownership of land will free them from bondage and the Dalits can become landlords. It will also ensure their social and economic independence,” Mr. Kalidoss said.
The CPI would fight it out in the streets and court to retrieve the panchami land. “We know that vested interests might instigate caste clashes. But, the government should remain steadfast and ensure peaceful distribution of the land,” he said.
From: The Hindu