This would explain the journey of sixty one year old Sukumaran Menon K, a former BEML (Bharat Earth Movers Limited Bharat Earth Movers Limited) employee (he was a senior draftsman) over the last one year and ten months. After running pillar to post and getting entangled in a battle over the 'illegal' acquisition of his land, this man has taken the route of Satyagraha.
Menon started his protest, what he calls 'Samadhaana Upavasa Satyagraha' near the Mahatma Gandhi statue on March 23, 2011. Come rain or shine, he religiously comes to the venue in the morning and leaves at dusk. Since no protests are allowed inside the park housing the MG statue, he sits on the footpath all day long though he admits that when it gets too tiring he rests on the park bench. "I sit on the footpath and at times beggars sit along. I can't ask them to go away since it is public property.” He has five demands from the government of which one is to get his land back and the rest he claims is to ‘safeguard our country’.
A native of Kerala, he came to Bangalore in 1969. Narrating his tale, he tells us that how after working for forty years with BEML, he purchased 1. 75 acres of land at the 16th kilometre of Hosur Main Road in 1993 and built a house which took over three years to complete. Then started the nightmares for Menon and his wife and two sons.
“Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board had earmarked my land for acquisition as part of the Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor project. Though the acquisition process started in 1996 itself, I did not get a single notice until 2004. And when I finally got it, I got three at once. In fact, they acquired my land without any intimation in 1998 itself. The landlord asked us to leave within six months of me purchasing the land. He was not even willing to pay the advance money back. And over the years they destroyed my house thrice. I filed a case in the court and got a status quo after which the landlord held back. In the process, he made our lives hell so that we vacate the house on our own. But we stood our ground and continued staying there,” says he.
Menon tells that they spent almost four years in knee-deep water, as their landlord diverted water to his compound and blocked all entry points. And finally in 2008, his house was immersed in water and he was forced to vacate. According to the RTI filed by Menon, he claims that the initial blueprint mentions that the land at the 17th kilometre was to be acquired, which even the court pointed out later (his land is on the 16th kilometre). But the damage was already done. He is certain of foul play and says that the RTI clearly states the 17th kilometre belonged to a wellknown owner of a Bangalorebased IT conglomerate who along with other MNCs operating in the area paid a huge kickback to seven ministers following which he became the scapegoat. “I also filed 13 police complaints against my landlord and the KIADB officials, but no action has been taken by the police, because they are all hand in glove. I also sent 150 registered letters to the Central government, state governments throughout the country including Sonia Gandhi, but the only man who bothered to reply was our former president APJ Abdul Kalam. He asked the Chief Secretary to look into my case, but nothing was done later,” Menon said. When asked if he will be fine with compensation, he assertively replies, “I want my land back at any cost, not any compensation. No money can replace the trauma my family and I went through.” He hopes to build a world class animation studio someday on the land besides his house and he says that he got this idea from his artist son. His day starts at 3:30 in the morning which is followed by yoga, prayers and his breakfast consisting oats and milk. Once he leaves home at 6:30 am, he is back only by 9pm which is again followed by a light meal. About concerns relating to health at this age, he says, “My family doctor is upset with me for not having even a drop of water during most part of the day.”
He laments that not a single politician or a public figure ever visited him during the course of his protest, but he is still hopeful that his efforts will bear fruit.