Hakki Pikki and Iruliga Tribal Society
(Reg. No. 648/2002-03)
Regd. Address: 33/1, Thyagaraja Layout, Marutisevanagar Post, Jaibharatnagar, Bangalore 560033 Tel: 91-80-25492783
Office Address: Hakki Pikki Colony, Boothanahalli, Bannerghatta Post, Bangalore
Press Release : Bangalore : 11th August 2015
53 years after being granted land titles, Hakki Pikki and Iruliga Tribals hope to live a dignified life in the environs of
Bannerghatta National Park
An historic struggle to secure Dignity of Tribals, so close to Bangalore:
In a struggle marked with various ups and downs, the resolve of the Hakki Pikki and Iruliga tribals residing next to what is now Bannerghatta National Park, south of Bangalore, has been tested time and again. Their unceasing efforts to secure the land granted to them by the Karnataka Government in 1962 has been frustrated by bureaucratese, lack of political will and deliberate interference from vested interests attempting to break the community and control their land. On the occasion of the International Indigenous Peoples Day, the Hakki Pikki and Iruliga Society of Bannerghatta decided to put away this past and held a Public Hearing on 8th August 2015 at Bannerghatta chaired by their Member of Parliament Mr. D. K. Suresh, who has come forward to support them in their long drawn struggle to reclaim their right over land and for dignified livelihoods.
After patiently listening to several voices from the community speak of the painful and tremendous insecurity that they were facing on account of this long delay in securing their legitimate rights, Mr. Suresh gave a clear and unequivocal commitment that all pending problems would be resolved in the next few weeks so these communities could stop struggling and start living with dignity, sans fear of dislocation. The MP admitted that despite the pathbreaking Forest Rights Act enacted in 2006, it is a travesty that these communities have been struggling to secure rights to land that clearly has been granted to rehabilitate them. Condemning this callous neglect of their fundamental rights by the bureaucracy, he commended the efforts of Vimochana and CIEDS for having been with the community throughout their struggles.
Mr. Suresh declared in the Hearing that he had already instructed the Revenue and Forest authorities to complete the necessary surveys for the demarcation of boundaries after which Title Deeds would be issued to them. He assured the community that 67 acres of the 350 acres parcel of land grant to them which has been appropriated by non tribals through deceit and fraud, would be return to them per Court orders. Cautioning the community against succumbing to any pressures from real estate sharks who would swallow them at the slightest instant and push them back to the streets, he said that the government would put into place relevant legal safeguards that would prevent the granted lands from being alienated.
Centre supports rehabilitation of Tribals:
In this context, it is relevant to mention that Mr. Amarnatha Shetty, IFS, Addl. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (C), Ministry of Environment and Forests (Southern Cell) in his recent letter dated 26th May 2015 to the Centre relays the fears of the Karnataka Forest Department that “the land once allotted to the Tribals, because of the proximity of these properties to Bangalore city, real estate developers may purchase these land from the Tribals and the tribals may gain become landless. To overcome this problem, it is suggested that a condition of declaration of this 350 acres as No Development Zone by the Urban Development Department/Government of Karnataka for the next 30 years period may be imposed, while clearing the proposal of the State”. But arguing this is not Forest Land, though abutting Bannerghatta National Park, Mr. Shetty states that “(o)nce the de-notification is published, the de-notification takes effect from the date of that notification. In this case it was notified on 29/1/1962 and from that date the part of the forest described in the schedule ceases to be part of the Ragihalli State Forest. Hence, the legal status of entire area of 395.96 acres has to be treated as a non-forest from 29/1/1962.” He continues that “this de-notification was done solely for resettlement of Hakki-Pikki Tribal Community, which was not leading a settled life…. Only issue, which still remain unsettled is the transfer of possession of this denotified land from Forest Department to Revenue Department.” He further argues that “the delay in physical transfer has only added to unnecessary conflicts between Forest Department and the Tribal Community.” Allaying all fears of the Karnataka Forest Department, Mr. Shetty records that “(h)uge investment from various Government agencies have gone into developing this colony, which is located in the northern boundary of the park, adjacent to the facilities of Jungle Lodges and Resorts within the National Park. Retaining this colony is not going to make many impact on the wildlife”. (Emphasis supplied.)
Forests are left because of Adivasis:
Chastising the Karnataka Forest department for putting such obstacles in the grant of the land, Member of Parliament Mr. Suresh said that if there are forests left at all, it is because the Adivasis have protected them. He encouraged the Forest Department officials to work with the tribals and utilise their extraordinary knowledge of the ecological landscape in partnership to protect forests for posterity. Acknowledging also that this major restoration of Rights of Tribals is taking place on the occasion of the International Day of Indigenous Peoples, Mr. D. K. Suresh said the Hakki Pikki and Iruliga peoples in Bannerghatta could now look forward in hope of dignified future for themselves and their children. No more begging or going out to sell trinkets to survive, for a people who were not long ago the very “owners of the forest”, he asserted. Stating that just granting land rights would not be sufficient to guarantee secure livelihoods, he guaranteed his support in securing all training, health and education support schemes to ensure that these communities could live a life of freedom without fear of displacement and exploitation.
Voices of Solidarity:
Speaking earlier of the long struggle in securing rights over the land by the Tribes, the former Member of Legislative Council and Trade Union leader Mr. Michael Fernandes, a long time advisor to the Hakki Pikki and Iruliga Tribal Society, warned the community in no uncertain terms that they should remain watchful and united to collectively resist the machinations of the land sharks. He cautioned they would stop at nothing to steal from them their only foundation for a dignified life – land. He stressed the importance of being unified as a community in reclaiming what’s due to them, for, he said, a non-tribal could simply not relate with the intricate relationships tribals have with the forest landscapes.
Several other eminent speakers spoke urging the communities to think long term in a much changed world. Renowned academic and tribal activist Dr. Metry of Hampi University and Dr. Balagurumurthy (President of the Alemaari Budakattu Mahasabha and presently the Administrative Officer of the Ambedkar Research Institute, SC/ST Cell) spoke about the need to organise and struggle to secure Tribal Rights that had been historically denied, both in the colonial and post-colonial periods. They argued the decision to grant land titles to Hakki Pikki and Iruliga peoples is an unprecedented step, and sets a precedent for all other Tribal communities to similarly reclaim their Rights that have been denied through brutal and historical injustices. They called upon Tribals to join collectively with other disenfranchised communities, to organise and struggle to reclaim what’s rightfully theirs.
Revenue and Forest officials present at the Hearing, spared no words in assuring the people and the MP that they would get on with the task of settling the Land and Livelihood Rights without any further delay, which they admitted was the main way in correcting a grave historical wrong that had been committed against the tribals.
Several individuals and organisations associated with this long struggle were present in solidarity. They included Leo Saldanha of Environment Support Group, lawyer Clifton Rozario from Manthan Law, Vinay Sreenivasa of Alternative Law Forum, Reshma, Anasuya and others from Swaraj Network, Kevin Noronha of Action Aid, Rajendra Prabhakar, Dalit activist and Chandramma from Slum Janandolana.
Members of the Hakki Pikki community from other districts were also present including Ms Kumuda Sushilappa from Shimoga who is the first Hakki Pikki woman to have educated herself by completing her Engineering Degree and now works in Jog Falls with the Karnataka Electricity Board.
Hakki Pikki and Iruliga Society
Please contact Ms. Madhu Bhushan for any Press Enquiries and Clarifications: