In Kanchiwaram, Tamil Nadu, Dalits are fighting to get land that had been donated to them.
Mani recently found a poster on the walls of his house calling for a demonstration, against the grabbing of land that belonged to a Dalit community. “Being a Dalit myself, I felt connected with the protest, and I decided to report on the fight that takes place to reinstitute this land to Dalits,” said Mani.
Panchami land in Kanchiwaram was donated in 1893 to Dalit community, but till date they haven’t been able to use it, because real estate agents or higher caste people have monopolized it. Panchami land is 11,000 acres, and it would enable around 400 farmers and their families to make a living by cultivating their own products, thus rising above their status of casual labourer, of exploitation and impoverishment.
Some Dalits have attempted taking the case to court, since they possess the official documents attesting to their ownership over the land. But because the majority of them are poor and illiterate, they hardly receive any support from the tribunal, and are treated with contempt.
But today, several NGO’s and activists have started fighting for the resinstitution of the land to Dalits. Shiva Kami, a retired IAS Dalit Officer, and the Untouchability Eradication Movement have stepped in the struggle, and are determined to support the cause of Dalits.
Mani deeply hopes that Dalits will get land back: “It is a big issue in Tamil Nadu now… It could bring tremendous change in the lives of Dalits here!”