Karnataka 2018

Sindhanur settlers: Strangers in their land

At a rehabilitation camp for refugees in Raichur.   | Photo Credit: V Sreenivasa Murthy

In the rehabilitation camps housing settlers from Bangladesh and Myanmar in Sindhanur town in Raichur district in north Karnataka, there is little enthusiasm for the elections. They boycotted the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, but it did little to wake up the politicians. This time around, the settlers believe neither a boycott nor their votes matter.

The reasons for the 2009 boycott persists: lack of land rights and caste certificates. “Everyone has become desperate. We are tired of asking for help,” says Bimal Mondal, 67, who escaped persecution at Khulna in Bangladesh and entered India as a refugee in 1971. “Bengalis and Tamil settlers together have more than 11,000 votes in the Sindhanur constituency, which is a major factor in the elections. Yet our problems remain,” he says.

Prasen Raptan, whose father Abinash Raptan too escaped from Khulna, says hopes were raised when the district administration surveyed two of the five camps. “We hoped formation of maps would help us get the title deeds. The district administration dropped it suddenly ... Without a survey, no division in the family can take place,” he says.

The camp’s origin was in 1969, when 204 Tamil families fleeing Burma (Myanmar) were settled here. After the 1971 Bangladesh war, the camp was expanded to accommodate 705 Bengali families. While both communities face a common issue on land, Bengali settlers are fighting for caste certificates. “Ninety per cent of the settlers are of the Namo Sudra caste, which is recognised as a Scheduled Caste in West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram. However, in Karnataka, we are yet to get the status,” Mr. Raptan, 42, says.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2021 7:36:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/karnataka-2018/sindhanur-settlers-strangers-in-their-land/article23816222.ece

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