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Tribals, Dalits Reclaim Land After Protests in Tamil Nadu

Neelambaran A |
The struggles led by TNUEF have resulted in dalits and tribals reclaiming around 60 acres, which was encroached by individuals and wrongfully taken back by government authorities.
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Protest held to reclaim panchami land in Tiruvannamalai district.

A spate of protests held by the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) has led to dalits and tribals reclaiming more than 60 acres of their land after decades. The statewide land reclamation protest was organised on September 30, wherein the Communist Party of India (Marxist), All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and Tamil Nadu Tribals Association (TNTA) took part.

The TNUEF has demanded that the state government and revenue department ensure the identification of encroachment of land allocated to members of Scheduled Castes and Tribes under different schemes.

The struggles of the dalits and tribals continue while the TNUEF has called upon the state government to be proactive in giving back their rightful lands. 


The land reclamation protest was organised on September 30, the death anniversary of veteran communist leader B Srinivasa Rao who led various struggles in the delta districts against atrocities on agricultural labourers who were primarily dalits. Panchami Land was distributed to the dalits in the 1920s to bring them out of poverty and ensure the supply of basic food requirements. 

One such land allotted to dalits in Oddanchatram in Dindigul district was encroached by members of intermediate caste. The affected people rallied under the leadership of TNUEF and decided to plough the land and sow the land as part of the encroachment


Members of the Arundhathiyar community ploughed the land with tractors in protest against the encroachment

“The people decided to plough the land and sow corn. The police stopped the tractor which marched to the land, but the people stood firm and completed sowing. Then the revenue department was forced to verify the documents submitted by us and assured to hand over the land legally,” said Samuel Raj, general secretary of TNUEF.

The seven families belong to the Arundhathiyar community, one of the most suppressed among the dalit community. 


Three families of Irular tribes at Kadambankuttai in Sathanur panchayat of Tiruvannamalai district lost 7.5 acres of land to two individuals who encroached upon it illegally. The complaints given to the police and revenue departments did not bear fruit for long.

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TNUEF, CPI(M), TNTA and DYFI members in the land reclamation protest in Tiruvannamalai

P Shanmugam, state general secretary of AIKS led the protest along with leaders of CPI(M), TNUEF, TNTA and Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI).

“The 7.5 acres were encroached and the three families were left helpless. The two individuals were farming on the land belonging to the tribals. We could reclaim the land and the same was approved by the revenue officials immediately,” Shanmugam said. 

In Billakuppam hamlet in Gummidipoondi taluk of Tiruvallur district, the TNUEF and TNTA successfully claimed the house lands allocated to dalit families. The organisations announced an indefinite sit-in protest at the site following which talks were held by the revenue authorities.

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A march was taken out by TNTA anf TNUEF to the land allocated for the dalit families in Tiruvallur district

Former CPI(MP) MLA and state president of TNTA, P Dillibabu led the protest here. The revenue authorities have assured in writing to measure the land and issue pattas within 30 days.


Twenty three dalit families in Rajan Nagar in Sathyamangalam of Erode district got copies of pattas issued by the revenue department immediately. 

Land was allocated to the families in 2006 by the state government for carrying out agricultural works with government-funded borewells and drip irrigation facilities. 

“But the pattas were subsequently cancelled by the sub-collector in 2013, claiming that the beneficiaries were not continuing agriculture works in the land which was not true,” Samuel Raj said.

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TNUEF took out a protest march during the indefinite sit-in protest in Sathyamangalam

The affected families appealed to the district administration and received a favourable response in 2019, but the land was not given back. The CPI(M) and TNUEF announced an indefinite sit-in protest at the Sathyamangalam taluk office, seeking the administration to hand over the land to the families.

The revenue department handed over the pattas for 38.82 acres to the 23 families, bringing an end to their eight-year struggle. 

In Thoppur village in Sathyamangalam, 23 families involved in sanitation works also received pattas for 40 acres of farmlands. The families have been struggling to receive the pattas since 2013.


The dalit and tribal people continue to be deprived of their right to land despite being allocated the same by the government. The successive governments and administrations have shown little interest in retrieving the land snatched away from the original beneficiaries.

“Even in this struggle, TNUEF and the affected people have spent several days accessing the land records. But the government has all the records with it and can easily identify the right owners. The government must invite applications from those who lost the panchami lands and hand them over as early as possible,” Samuel Raj demanded. 

TNUEF and TNTA have called for proactive action from the government to address the land rights issues faced by the dalits and tribals, who continue to suffer due to caste discrimination. 

“The organisations leading the struggles of dalits and tribals must be incorporated in the decision-making bodies of the state government. The experiences from the ground would help the government in framing policies and programmes in a better way,” Samuel said.

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