Bengaluru: Kodagu district is witnessing one of the coldest nights of the year with the temperature touching 14 degree celsius. In this chilling night, around 3,000 people including kids, women and the aged people belonging to around 577 tribal families are living under the open sky since last one week in Siddapura, a small town in Kodagu district. These families were evicted from their tents set up on the forest land last week in a joint operation conducted by the forest department and police. With revenue department failing to provide temporary shelters for these displaced families, they are forced to spend their days in the open.
According to the locals, these families belong to local tribe communities-Soliga, Jenu Kuruba, Betta Kuruba, Paniyarava and so on. A few months ago, all these families started demanding land from the government to build their own homes. When revenue department did not honour their demands they set up temporary tents on the forest land. But with the eviction now, these families have nowhere to go.
According to the sources in the revenue department, these tribal families launched their struggle for land around six months ago. “These families were staying inside the coffee estates till last summer. But following the awareness drive taken out by activists over their rights they started demanding land for themselves. When government did not heed to their demands they encroached upon the forest land and ended up on the streets. “Forest land encroachment is rampant in Kodagu by the rich but the department is inactive against them,” he explained.
Interestingly, one of the activists spearheading the tribal struggle for land is Sirimane Nagaraj, a former naxalite who had surrendered to the government two years ago. The activists are now planning to hold a rally from Bengaluru to Siddapur to raise the issue with the state government.
Bhaskar Prasad who led the Udupi Chalo in the month of October 2016, on Thursday announced in his social media page that he would launch Siddapura Chalo if state government failed to ensure justice for these tribal families.