Karnataka

In poll-bound Hunsur, tribals feel ignored

There are nearly 14,600 Adivasis spread across 54 hamlets in Hunsur constituency.

There are nearly 14,600 Adivasis spread across 54 hamlets in Hunsur constituency.   | Photo Credit: M.A. SRIRAM

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The Adivasis of Hunsur are peeved that the burning matter of forest rights that is critical to their existence and way of life, and other tribal-related issues, were not raised during the campaigning for the Hunsur byelections, which concluded on Tuesday.

The nearly three weeks of hectic campaigning saw leaders of the BJP, Congress and JD(S) making a whirlwind tour of the constituency to reach out to voters. But not one of them raised issues related to Adivasi communities, though general assurances were issued from the pulpit that the “interests of the Adivasi brothers and sisters” would be upheld.

As a result, there is a perception among the tribes of Jenu Kuruba, Betta Kuruba, Soliga, Yerawa and Hakki-Pikki, among others, that issues critical to them were ignored and did not matter to the political outfits who are in the fray. M.B. Prabhu, a tribal activist from Hunsur, said only caste and class equations come to the fore during election campaigning.

There are nearly 14,600 Adivasis spread across 54 hamlets in the constituency and they are distributed across 23 polling booths. They have their own issues related to the implementation of the Forest Rights Act and rehabilitation, but no political party seems to be interested in their plight as collectively they do not constitute a “vote bank”, according to Mr. Prabhu.

What was clear during the campaigning was the tendency of political leaders to focus exclusively on their own communities to swing votes.

BJP leader and Minister for Health B. Sriramulu toured Hunsur extensively, but there was a perception that his focus initially was on villages with a high concentration of Valmiki and Naika community members, said Mr. Prabahu. But subsequently, there was a general outreach, and yet he did not speak on Adivasi issues.

This was a view endorsed by other activists, who pointed out that Anekal Narayanaswami, the BJP MP from Chitradurga, had toured a few villages where the concentration of Madigas was high and left without visiting any other villages. J.K. Thimmaiah, convenor of the Adivasi Vyavasaya Andolana, said caste-based campaigning reached high proportions this election and forest-dwellers were left high and dry.

S. Sreekanth, who has been fighting for tribal rights for decades, said though Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa addressed a rally in Hunsur, there was no word on the Forest Rights Act or on the revision of applications under FRA rejected in the past.

Frustrating treatment

The frustration stems from the fact the tribal hamlets are hardly a few kilometres from the town and are easily approachable. “What is dismaying is that the tribes, along with NGOs fighting on their behalf, met the Chief Minister and submitted a memorandum on their demands before he addressed the public rally. Yet, not a word was stated about it in his speech,” said Mr. Sreekanth.

Other tribal-specific issues include the upgrade of ashrama school for Adivasis, the rehabilitation of nearly 3,400 tribals as per the Prof. Muzaffar Assadi Committee Report, the establishment of a university to study tribal culture and their way of life, among other things.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 6:42:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/in-poll-bound-hunsur-tribals-feel-ignored/article30152819.ece

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