The struggle of as many as 130 families, including 73 Dalit families, from Posalige, for a road access to their colony has come to an end, as the reconstructed road was inaugurated on October 17. The access to the Posalige colony, a remote village in the BJP-ruled Bellur panchayat in Kerala’s Kasargod district, which lies close to the Karnataka border, had been blocked by a feudal landlord Naveen Kumar long back, allegedly citing “curse from the God.”
The landlord, also known as Posalige Pattar, and his family own a major share of land in the Bellur panchayat, and they have been allegedly been a dominant and powerful family in the village. Plantation corporation possesses 40 percent of the land. Though the Dalits owned parts of the land initially, their land had been allegedly grabbed by the Pattar family.
At present, Naveen Kumar is the head of this Pattar family.
According to the locals, Naveen’s mother, former leader of Jan Sangh and former vice president of BJP-ruled Bellur panchayat, had become bedridden due to paralysis a while ago. Back then, the family reportedly approached an astrologer, who had said that the road nearby was the “real issue”, as it was used by “untouchables”. Apparently, Dalits carrying meat and fish via this road were also a reason behind the “curse from God”, according to the astrologer.
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after this, Naveen blocked the initial 179-metre patch of the three-kilometre-long road. Though it was a public road, he refused to open it for the families who were living in the Posalige colony. This led to a complete isolation of the villagers. The Patter family reportedly also tried to spread a superstition that if somebody crosses the road, they would be affected by the curse from God. The family allegedly manipulated the documents, and convinced the authorities too to claim ownership of the land.
“For generations, we were employed in Pattar’s land. That family owns more than 100 acres of land. Women and men from the colony had worked in their fields, and our work varied from collecting areca nut to ploughing the farming land. Though we worked from morning to late evening, we earned a meagre amount. Moreover, they never allowed us to come near their house,” said Lingappa, an old man from the village, who narrated how the Pattar family – a Brahmin family – had played the trump card of the caste and untouchability.
“The villagers had been struggling for long. But, the Pattar family had always got the support from the local administration. When the panchayat was ruled by CPI(M), they had initiated construction of a road crossing Naveen’s land. The road was built too,” said Siji Mathew, Karadukka area secretary of CPI(M).
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When the then panchayat had tried to renovate the road, Naveen moved to the court saying that outsiders had encroached onto his land. The following BJP governing body supported him reportedly, and they did not even submit the documents before the court, according to the locals.
“This May, we started our struggle again. We marched to the district collectorate, seeking an intervention of higher authorities in this matter,” said Siji.
By this time, the group that led the struggle had obtained the documents of the land, and they had learnt that the road was a public property as against the claims made by Pattar family. Further, it came to light that from 1962 itself, the record of the road could be found in panchayat’s documents. The panchayat then had to take a stand for the villagers, and it was forced to submit a report favouring the villagers. Following this, the ADM convened three meetings. Naveen, however, was not present for any of these meetings.
“For Naveen, it was hard to digest that the lower caste people will be passing by his home. It is, of course, the practice of untouchability,” Siji pointed out.
Eventually, the district collector directed the panchayat to rebuild the road. The panchayat, however, tried to postpone the work citing lack of funds. Learning these are the tricks to block the work, CPI(M) leaders have reportedly initiated the work.
“We had not made the decision public. On September 30, at 5’o clock in the morning, all gathered together for the work.
CPI(M) members, Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) members, residents from the colony, and others nearby were there for the work. We had set the 179 meters long part with JCB, and then we concreted the road. On that day, we all were there at the site,” said Lingappa.
Later, on October 17, the road was inaugurated by CPI(M) State Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.
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