CHENNAI: Many things can change in 25 years. But not for the Narikuravar community in the neighbouring Tiruvallur district. For them, the struggle to get back the lands that the government donated them has been on, then and now.
Their story of ‘great hope’ began in 1963, when the then Member of Parliament donated 45 acres of land to the Narikuravar community to set up a colony at Karudalapuram village at Orakkad near Sholavaram.
The colony was inaugurated on February 26, 1964, by then finance minister M Bhaktavatsalam. A board announcing its inception could still be visible near the dilapidated structure.
Things went smooth until one P Raghupathi, who incidentally also faced several criminal cases over the years, managed to register a transfer of patta for nearly 15 acres of the Bhoodan land in the name of a society registered as the South India Schedule Tribes Welfare Association.
“He came in the guise of helping us and took control of our land by floating a society as majority of the Narikuravars were uneducated. He is also facing several criminal cases, including that of child trafficking,” said P Devadoss, son of one of the original patta holders for the land.
When contacted by Express, Raghupathi said he has been cleared of all criminal cases and that the land was mistakenly donated to the Narikuravars in 1960s. “Then local MP Govindarajulu by mistake donated the government land as Bhoodan Movement land. The land was given by the government to the Narikuravars for a period of 10 years,” Raghupathi claimed.
But the official records said otherwise. The documents available with Express showed it as Bhoodan land. The proceedings by the government highlighted how the land, which was donated in 1963, was divided into nine parcels and given to the Narikuravars.
The land was given as a joint patta for nine persons from the community. But of the nine original patta holders, eight are no more and the surviving one is living in Andhra Pradesh.
K N Ramesh Babu, Assistant Commissioner, Land Reforms, told Express that the lands, donated as part of the Bhoodan Movement, could not be acquired, transferred or rented out as per the Tamil Nadu Bhoodan Yagna Act, 1958. “We have converted Bhoodan Movement lands as zero value lands so that it cannot be registered with the Registration Department,” he said.
But many times, Raghupathi had tried to register a sale deed transferring the land to others. Only after protests by the Narikuravar community, the move was aborted. There have also been attempts by Orakkad village president to transfer the land to Schedule Tribes. “We have passed a resolution to give pattas to 27 members of the Scheduled Tribes,” said the village president. But how? According to Indhra Gandhi, the sister of Devadoss, the land could be allocated only to Narikuravars. “How could it be allotted to Schedule Tribes,” she wondered.
“The only way to safeguard the rights of Narikuravars is to fence the colony and we request the government to do so,” said Devadass, who leads the struggle to save the Bhoodan land.