People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 44

October 31, 2010




Dalits Fight to Redeem Their Lost Lands




IT seems a long wait for the dalits may come to an end soon. The Tamilnadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF), All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU) have taken up cudgels to retrieve the panchami lands (conditional lands for depressed classes). These lands were distributed to the dalits in Tamilnadu during the colonial rule, during the period 1918 to 1931. But a substantial amount of these lands are in the hands of vested interests, as caste Hindus usurped them. There has been a long time demand to verify the title transfers based on the records available with the Registration Department so that these lands may be handed back to the actual owners. This exercise, if successful, will initiate the necessary legal steps to redeem these lands.


The consecutive governments have never shown any interest in solving this issue and hence these lands never remained with the original owners.


The panchami lands in the hands of non-dalits today are not confined to a few acres. The total amount comes to around 3.5 lakh acres. The TNUEF and other organisations have collected the information about these lands through RTI petitions in order to bring out the real picture. As a first step, the information collected was compiled and released during a conference. It was about the northern districts of Tamilnadu, namely Kancheepuram, Villupuram, Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Cuddalore and Tiruvallur.


The TNUEF, AIKS and AIAWU then resolved to organise a conference to decide the next course of action to retrieve the panchami lands. The conference was held at Chengalpattu in Kancheepuram district on October 21. Initially, the idea was to hold the conference on September 30. But due to the fact that the Ayodhya verdict was to come on the day,  the organisers had to postpone it. It is to be noted that Kancheepuram is the place where dalits made a brave attempt to retrieve the panchami lands on October 10, 1994. The administration then sided with the caste Hindus and the resistance claimed two lives. Two youth, John Thomas and Elumalai, were killed in police firing.


TNUEF president P Sampath presided over the conference and Pastor John Suresh of the CRDS welcomed the delegates. AIKS state secretary K Balakrishnan, AIAWU vice president S Tirunavukkarasu, TNUEF general secretary K Samuel Raj, former IAF officer V Karuppan and dalit organisations’ leaders like M Krishna Parayanar, G Karunakaran, Udaya Kumari, Maamallan, M James, M G Dhanapal, N Dhanapal and Fr Raimond spoke during the deliberations. CPI(M) district secretary G Mohanan, TNUEF district convenor Bharathi Anna and AIKS district secretary S Baskar also spoke.


The concluding speech was delivered by AIKS general secretary K Varadarajan. He urged upon the people to join the struggle to retrieve the panchami lands. He lamented that the political parties are not daring enough to take up the dalit issues. Even the claimants of Periyar’s legacy keep mum when it comes to the question of social justice. They fear of losing the caste Hindu votes, K Varadarajan charged. He also reminded that the call for the movement to retrieve the land is not an election-time slogan; it is for redeeming for the dalits the lands they have lost.


The conference asked the state government to bring out the real picture on panchami lands and hand them over to the actual owners. If no fruitful action from the government comes, within a month or two, direct action will be carried out. The organisations will directly hand over the lands to the title holders. For this purpose, Kancheepuram, Madurai, Tiruvannamalai and Krishnagiri districts have been identified for the first phase of agitation. Left organisations, democratic movements, dalit organisations and NGOs will be taking part in organising the movement.




Whenever mediapersons find a wall or a fence that segregates dalits from the caste Hindus, calling it as "Another Uthapuram" has become very common for them. This has happened many times in the recent past and the media again used it as a caption when a team of the CPI(M) and TNUEF leaders visited Edamalaipatti Pudur in Trichy.


The team found yet another Untouchability Wall hetre in Edamalaipatti Pudur which falls in Ward No 40 of Trichy corporation. Around two thousand dalits are residing in Mariamman Koil Street here, and the land where they reside was given them by the government. Their place is adjacent to the Madurai-Trichy Highway, and it was enough for them to cross the Sakthivel Colony to reach the highway. However, the caste Hindu residents of Sakthivel Colony cooked some bogus reasons to bar the passage of dalits through their colony and built a wall across the road that the dalits used. This happened in the year 1986.


Numerous petitions were sent to the district administration, but to no avail. A clear-cut case of practice of untouchability was visible here. This wall, 15 feet in height and 80 feet in length, prevented the dalits from reaching the highway through the Sakthivel Colony. But CPI(M) city secretary  K Annadurai took up the issue and sent a letter to the chief minister, urging him to take initiative to end the injustice being meted out to the dalits. A team of the party, DYFI, AIDWA leaders and councillors also visited the spot. Dalit residents showed them the map of the area in which the path was clearly mentioned.


On October 23, TNUEF president P Sampath visited the area and assured the people that the TNUEF will stand by them in ending the untouchability. He also appealed to the state government, district administration and the local body to remove the structure immediately. But no response was forthcoming from these bodies. CPI(M) state secretary G Ramakrishnan also wrote a letter to the chief minister, explaining the reasons for urgent demolition of the wall. He pointed out that the wall was constructed across the common path 25 years ago to prevent the dalits from entering the caste Hindus’ colony. However, while the district administration did not bother to redresss the grievance, patta was issued to the very person who had constructed the wall.


On October 27, a demonstration was organised in which dalits took part in good numbers. Momentum has picked up and now the mood is against this case of untouchability. The leaders referred to the untouchability wall in Uthapuram in Madurai district and Periyar Nagar in Coimbatore, which came down due to the powerful movements organised by democratic forces.


As the government has not taken any action to date, the city unit of the CPI(M) has given a call to demolish the wall on November 9. P Sampath will lead the movement in which hundreds of volunteers from various organisations are expected to take part.