Mysuru: The protest by tribals intensified at Diddalli in Kodagu on Tuesday with their leader, Muththamma, whose naked march on December 7 went went viral on social media, warning they would commit suicide if they were evicted from the village.
“We want land in Diddalli and nowhere else. We will commit suicide if the government fails to give us land here. Our ancestors lived here and we have now come back from the plantations where we worked to claim our rights. There are 3000 people ,including over 50 children and a 1000 women, but the district administration has not provided us even tarpaulins or other basic amenities,” she said.
Forest officers, meanwhile, claimed the tribals were evicted from the village as it was in a reserve forest, but they were refusing to listen to reason and accept the alternative land given. Instead, they built seven sheds in the village on June 20 and when the authorities attempted to evict them, increased the number to 574.
DCF A.V. Surya Sen said the tribals, who worked on coffee estates and lived in line houses there, were reportedly treated as bonded labourers. They wrote to the forest department on June 20, saying their repeated pleas to the Kodagu DC and tahsildar for land to carry out farming and a site had not been met. They wanted permission to protest at Diddalli but were denied it as it was located in Devamachi reserve forest area.
The Virajpet tahsildar was asked to provide alternative land to the tribals and their 574 sheds were removed on December 7. Kodagu DC , Vincent D Souza, denied the delay in responding to the forest department had caused the problem.
“It was always our intention to rehabilitate these tribals living on plantations. We were in the process of identifying land for them and have now sought one month to rehabilitate them. We requested them to move to nearby Valmiki community halls in the meanwhile, but they refused. So we have now made temporary shelters for them in the area. Providing them land at Diddalli is ruled out as it is in a reserve forest area,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah directed social welfare minister H. Anjaneya to take immediate steps to rehabilitate the tribal families. “We have already identified land to rehabilitate these families,” he said.