Accusing the government of eating into their grasslands, the inhabitants of 80 villages in and around Kudapur, Dodda Ullarthy and Varavu have threatened to boycott the Parliamentary elections.
On Saturday, a group of agitators, under the banner of District Amruth Mahal Kaval Struggle Committee, wrote messages on walls of houses, bus stands and hospitals, beseeching the public to protest against “government inaction” by refusing to vote. They said they have no land for grazing their livestock now as the government has granted thousands of acres of the pastoral land to institutions like the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
The protesters said the grasslands, which were donated by the then Maharaja of Mysore, should remain grazing areas. “Despite multiple complaints, the government has not taken action,” one of the agitators said.
The villagers had made a similar threat during last year’s Assembly elections, but withdrew the boycott after the intervention of the then deputy commissioner Shashikumar Senthil.
Dodda Ullarthy Kariyanna, who led the protesters, said the community and its livestock depend on the forest produce and water flowing from the kaval lands, but they have been hit by “these science institutions”. Fodder has become scarce and this has forced villagers to sell their livestock for throwaway prices to butchers.
“If our problems aren’t heard by the administration, what is the need of elections or code of conduct?”
Kariyanna also said the district administration should set up goshalas at Dodda Ullarthy and other villages and the zilla panchayat supply potable drinking water to all households, at least in summer.