The sufferings of freed bonded labourers of Gangooru in Arkalgud taluk refuse to end though they have got land after a decade-long fight. The irony, however, is that the land allotted to them was taken away from poor ‘bagair hukum’ cultivators, who are now unwilling to give up rights over the land.
It was recently that the State government granted 3 acres land each to 24 families who were freed from bondage in the early 1990s following protests by Dalit Sangharsh Samiti and other organisations. Among the 24 families, eight were granted land at Hosagadde in Sakleshpur taluk.
However, since the land allotted was till then cultivated by poor ‘bagair hukum’ cultivators, they did not allow the freed labourers to take possession of the land. Mahadev, son of Sanna Mogaiah, one among the freed bonded labourers, said they were able to do nothing except erecting a tent on the land. “The officers say that their job is over once they gave us the letter of sanction. Now it is our job to claim ownership of the land and cultivate it,” he said.
On the other hand, ‘bagair hukum’ cultivators blame the officers for all this. “There are rich planters in and around our village who have been cultivating vast acres of land illegally for many years. Revenue Department officials came to our village with earthmovers and dug trenches to mark and identify land for freed bonded labourers. We poor people with maximum of 2 to 3 of acres of land became their target,” said an angry Sarojamma, whose land has been taken over. The family had applied for grant according to provisions of the Land Revenue Act.
“We are not against grant of land to freed bonded labourers, but not at the cost of our lives,” said Mani, another woman of the village.