BENGALURU: After more than half a century, Hakki Pikki and Iruliga tribals will finally reclaim their rights over land granted to them in 1962.
The tribals, who were living on the edges of Bannerghatta National Park (BNP), had been granted the land as part of a resettlement programme.
With the state government deciding to grant title deeds for 330 acres, a committee comprising Ramanagaram Deputy Commissioner, and forest, revenue and social welfare officials has been set up to take the process forward for allotment of non-forest land to 180 families in the next six months.
Bengaluru Rural Member of Parliament P D K Suresh, who has taken the initiative to resolve the long-standing dispute of regularising the land granted to them, said, “The issue comes to a close after all these years.”
Suresh said the relevant land has been inspected, and surveyed but it will take another six months for the process to be completed. The problem was that the survey numbers were once under Bengaluru South, were later shifted to Bengaluru Rural and now are in Ramanagaram.
“The district committee will complete the necessary surveys for the demarcation of boundaries after which title deeds will be handed over,” he said.
Each family will get around 3-4 acres of agricultural land which is on the Bengaluru-Kaggilipura main road, Suresh said.
“Another 20 acres, which form part of this allotment, are caught up in a boundary dispute with the Forest Department and for this we have to seek the Centre’s opinion as it falls in the Ragihalli reserve forest. We are also looking into the identification of families as many of them have expanded to two or three more families in the last 50 years,” he said.
Abandoned by successive governments and slipping into poverty, the tribals organised themselves with the help of an NGO and formed the Hakki Pikki and Iruliga Society and strived for their land rights in Bannerghatta, says Madhu Bhushan of Vimochana, who has been working with them since 1990s.
She says, “It is an old battle. However, lot of bureaucratic bottlenecks have been cleared and we hope for the best.”
The Hakki Pikkis have been reduced to selling flowers and plastic items, and were often picked up for questioning in case of robberies or other disturbances.
With the urban landscape changing, they were no longer welcome in the city, were seen with suspicion and their petty businesses had to be wound up. “They had reached a stage when they wanted to go back to the forest and live life their own way using their traditional hunting skills,” Madhu Bhushan said.
Hakki Pikkis are nomadic, traditional hunters and experts in survival techniques while Iruligas are forest dwellers, more settled and have taken to agriculture, she added.
Cautioning the families not to fall prey to real estate sharks as the land is prime property today, Suresh said the government will soon come out with legal safeguards to protect the rights of tribals.
“They should not land on the streets once again as vested interests have been targeting the community and this land,” MP Suresh added.
The Tribals Plight
In 1962, the then Mysore government created a Hakki Pikki Colony in Bannerghatta area and rehabilitated the tribe so that they could lead a new life and gain a source of livelihood.
About 350 acres of land in Survey No 1 in Ragihalli Reserve Forest was released to them for cultivation with each family getting four acres.
However, title deeds were not given as they were either hunting or hiding in the forests.
As time passed, the authorities turned indifferent to the plight of these people who were reduced to begging and doing odd jobs.
The granted land was not regularised as districts were bifurcated, and land records shifted from district to district and finally disappeared.
Recollecting their travails, the community leaders at a public hearing held recently said, “The delay in getting the title deeds of our lands has affected each one of us. In the last 50 years, our life has undergone dramatic changes ... Not owning the land that was granted to us we have led a miserable life.”