Dalit women protesting outside Thiruvallur Collector’s office

By Sruti MD

The struggle for house site pattas is a familiar narrative, but 100 dalit families in Tamil Nadu who received the patta documents in 1994 and 2002 are still awaiting the actual measured out land.

In 1994, the Adi Dravidar Nala Sangal (Welfare Association) gave house site pattas to 61 dalit families in Rajanagaram village of R K Pettai Taluk in Thiruvallur district, and 39 villagers received the patta in 2002. However, they claim that they never got the actual land to build the house; they are owners of a piece of land only on paper.

The families have held several protest demonstrations including hunger strike, occupying the Collector’s office and boycotting elections, but the respective authorities have ignored their pleas. Many governments have come and gone, but these villagers continue to struggle for their rightful share of land.

On June 7, 2021, the state human rights commission recognised the grave injustice meted out to these villagers and directed the state government to allot land sites within a three month period. With more than half the period already over, the state is yet to act on the directive.

Dalit Makkal Munnani, the banner under which the families are protesting, has announced that if the 100 villagers are not provided land within the three month period, they would renounce citizenship of this nation.

AUTHORITIES INDIFFERENT

The secretary of Dalit Makkal Munnani, Thirunavukarasu told NewsClick, “We have held hunger strikes. We marched holding black flags. We occupied the Collector’s office and held days long sit-in protest; we were cooking, eating and sleeping there. We even boycotted the local body, Assembly and parliamentary elections. But the respective authorities have taken no action.”

He further said, “Whenever we hold protests demanding land, the state uses force to disperse us,” adding that, “consecutive governments are siding with pro-dominant classes and have been side lining us.”

Over the 27- and 19-year period since the families received the pattas, the respective authorities have not surveyed and allotted the land to the hundred families.

Speaking at the recent protest meeting outside the Collector’s office on July 6, Thirunavukarasu had declared, “There is a new government in the state now, we demand that our demand is met at least now. If not, we will submit all 100 ration cards, voter ids and the house site documents to the Chief Minister and ask him to declare that we are not citizens of this country.”

According to him, the dalit families are frustrated and have taken this decision as a last resort.

More than 100 women participated in the recent protest waving the house site patta document.

DENIED HOUSING

It should be noted that the hundred families were not given the house-sites implies that they were denied a proper house to reside in all these years.

The protesting families are complaining of not being able to gain from government schemes and build a concrete house in all these years. Green house and permanent house schemes of the state government facilitate rural poor to construct concrete houses.

Kalaignar Housing Scheme passed in 2012, which aims at replacing huts with permanent houses, aids in building in-situ houses with concrete roofing for an area of 207 square feet at the cost of Rs 75,000 per house.

Similarly, under the Chief Minister Solar Powered Green House Scheme (CMSPGHS), passed in 2011, houses are constructed for rural poor measuring about 300 square feet at a unit cost of Rs 1.80 lakh with the state government meeting the entire cost of construction.

Of course in both schemes only people with proper title for their house sites will be eligible. The work order to construct the house can commence only after “confirming the eligibility of beneficiaries with reference to title and site by the officials of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department” reads the green house scheme.

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION INTERVENTION

Along with surveying the relevant land and granting them to the villagers, the Human Rights Commission directed the state on June 7 to provide Rs 25,000 compensation for each of the 100 families within a month. This is seen as a compensation for the delay and for forcing the Adi Dravidar people to run after the government for all these years.

A month later there was still no progress, the state government did not pay heed to the directive of the commission. The dalit families under the Dalit Makkal Munnani banner held a protest demonstrated outside the Collector’s office and submitted a memorandum demanding the implementation of the Commission’s orders.

Reiterating that neither were the pattas obtained smoothly, the memorandum read, “Only as a result of the struggles for the basic rights of dalits under the leadership of the Dalit Makkal Munnani founding leader Thangavayal Vanidasan, these house site pattas were granted by the Tamil Nadu government.” Demand for pattas were part of the larger struggle for drinking water, cremation ground and other rights for dalits in the region since 1983.

During both years, in 1994 and 2002, when the house site pattas were granted the state was ruled by All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and J Jayalalithaa was the Chief Minister.

This story first appeared on newsclick.in