Another instance of alleged police atrocity against a couple from the Koraga Scheduled Tribe community surfaced at the monthly grievance meeting for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes held at the Police Superintendent's office here.

Saraswati, a Dalit leader from Sullia taluk, complained to Superintendent of Police A.S. Rao at the meeting on Sunday that on July 12 four caste Hindus berated and grievously injured Chukru (50) and her husband, Doja, Koraga (55), before tearing down their tent in the Kochumuley forest in Sullia. But what enraged Dalit members present at the meeting was the alleged police response to the episode.

“Sub-Inspector Umesh Uppalige, who is from the same caste as the attackers, tried to bribe the injured couple with Rs. 5,000 to drop the charges,” Ms. Saraswati alleged. Ms. Chukru, who was also present at the meeting, told Mr. Rao that she was still unable to use her arm that was injured in the attack. She said that since the attack, she was not able to weave baskets, which was her only occupation. She said that since they had to collect yew from the forest to weave baskets, they had built a small tent for themselves in the forest.

On July 12, Giriappa Gowda (32) and his brothers Lava Gowda (28) and Madhava Gowda (40), and their mother, Krishnaveni (62), asked the couple to vacate the tent, claiming that the land belonged to them. However, the records showed that it was government land, said Ms. Saraswati.

“It was raining heavily and we were cooking a meal. Hence, we asked for a day's time to vacate. But they did not listen, and destroyed the pot in which we were cooking,” Ms. Chukru said. When they protested, the four persons assaulted them with staves and chased them away, she added.

Several Dalit leaders at the meeting alleged that the police were reluctant to file cases under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Some leaders complained that the police tend to treat land disputes involving SC/STs as a civil matter and ask them to go to court. They said that most often the victims could not afford to move the court as they were poor and uneducated.

Mr. Rao told his officers that encroachment of land belonging to SC/STs by caste Hindus was a serious crime under the atrocities Act.

Several leaders asked whose responsibility was it to restore the land to SC/STs. They complained that both the Police and the Revenue departments pointed fingers at each other whenever they were approached to restore the possession of land to SC/STs. Mr. Rao assured that the police would henceforth extend all the support in such cases.

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