Beltangady: Malekudiyas caught between government apathy and 'Red Terror'
By Deekshith DV
Daijiworld Media Network - Beltangady
Pics: Jivendra Shetty
Beltangady, Dec 10: There are many underdeveloped villages in Beltangady taluk of which a few are branded as Naxal-infected areas. Kuthlur is one such village. In Kuthlur region there are places like Alambe, Panjal, Baradaje, Manila, Barangadi, Nangaje, Erdadi, Perincha, Anjorottu, and Kotiyanadka which lie in Kudremukh National Park.
Mainly, the Malekudiya community dwells in this region and its history dates back 300 years. As they live in the interior reserve forest they have to depend on nature and the forest. These Malekudiya families live in villages between the reserved forests of Kudremukh National Park and do not have electricity or proper road facility. Although they have made demands to the government for electricity and road, they still remain a distant dream. They have managed to generate electricity from waterfalls and use kerosene lamps.
The peaceful life of these Malekudiyas was disturbed after the intervention of the government and Maoists. The government wanted to evict them while the Maoists came for shelter. Today, there are 19 families in this forest. Although the government is seeking to evict the Malekudiya families from Kudremukh National Park, a few have stubbornly refused to come out. But, a few families agreed to leave the National Park after the government provided them proper land valuation.
Lingappa, honorary president, Adivasi Malekudiya Seva Trust, said, “Government wants to evacuate Malekudiya families from Kudremukh National Park. But what land valuation will be provide to the evicted families? Those who were evicted earlier are today facing problems. Will the government provide agricultural land? No families in the forest have done damage to nature. What has the government done while mining barons exploited several hectares of forest land? Are the forest acts and wildlife sanctuary rules applicable only to the poor? Families may wish to leave the forest but the government should provide suitable, proper, compensation according to the families’ demand.”
There people are in confusion. While the government wants them to leave the forest, the police wants the Maoists. The Maoists want these families in the forest to help their rebel groups with their agenda to overthrow the Indian republic with an alien ideology. Either way, it is the Malekudiyas who are suffering.
Dejjamma, mother of Dinakar, who lost his life in Naxal combat , grieving about the death of her son, said, “When he came home after joining the Maoists, I told him not to agitate with arms as it will be a problem for us. But, refusing to listen he told me that “my fight is for our problem”. It was the last I spoke to him and then his dead body arrived.”
There is confusion within the community as a few families are willing to move out and allege that they are fed up with the lack of facilities in the forest.
Speaking to Daijiworld, Vasanti (name changed), said, “From the past 23 years I am living here and no development has taken place. Already I have suffered a lot; I don’t want my children to suffer like me. The government is ready to provide good land valuation for our land and hence, we are living this village. We want to be free from all chaos and confusion”.
Projects for the Naxal areas
In Beltangady taluk, nine gram panchayats have been identified as Naxal affected areas. The government has also granted Rs 500 lac to implement various projects in these areas. An amount of Rs 437.50 lac has been released out of which only Rs 141.68 lac has been spent on various civil work.
In Kuthlur, a 2.5 km road has been tarred from Kukkaje to Alamba but the interior mud road from Alamba to Panjal which is about 11 km has been not tarred. Officials claim they cannot tar it because of the Forest Act.
Here, quite a few families want to quit the forest due to Maoists and government’s lack of facilities. Some have already done so and settled in towns and cities but most of them want to live here. Evicting the families from the forest is not an end to the problem. Question is does the government provide proper land valuation to the families which are willing to leave the forest? Almost all families depend on agriculture; does the government provide agricultural land?
The government should consider this issue as a serious one. Officials who talk about forest laws should visit particular places, study the problems, instead of assuming the conditions of Malekudiyas. The NGOs should play an active role in keeping the Malekudiya families in the mainstream. The government should also provide solar lights and construct roads after discussions with the forest department.
Moreover, government officials and NGOs should always maintain good relations with those and try to solve their problem. When the problem is solved, there will be no space for revolution or can any alien ideology to be planted in the minds of poor innocents.