Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Dalit Bahujan protests against the neo colonization process in Andhra

Polepally struggles against Special Exploitative Zone

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Hyderabad vs Banglore, says an advertisement of Congress Party for the Karnataka elections and the mascot is S.M.Krishna, the original feel good man of the Congress Party. Chandra Babu Naidu’s became the darling of English media for his ‘revolutionary’ role in changing the lives of millions of people in Andhra Pradesh but his dream to rule India was shattered the people defeated him in the subsequent elections. Unfortunately, the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh refused to learn lessons from the defeat of Telugu Desham Party and continue to feel good that ‘Hyderabad’ city has turned hi-tech and big investment keep coming in the state. In the loud noise of hi-tech Andhra, Chandra Babu forgot that farmers were dying and agriculture was facing stiff challenge from the corporate and strain from the new zamindars of the land such as powerful builders, a majority of whom have turned to be politicians or have strong political affiliations. Rajshekar Reddy came in the aftermath of that defeat of Telugu Desham in the hope that he would do something for the farmers, though, many of us who have been constantly following the Congress’s economic policies understand that the party of Zamindars of the past is fast turning to Party of the new liberal econocrats and it goes by the advice of the English media which is mostly urbanized and has deep disdain for rural India and agriculture sector.

Hence after the defeat of Chandra Babu Naidu, followed by Congress’s much touted liberal regimes, it was expected that the government would understand the crisis looming over the farm sector and would not involve itself in the loot. But it looks that the politicians are happy to be a part of this loot of the nation which is called SEZ. Land Acquisition anywhere is becoming a highly charged issue and political parties and governments are only opposing it where they find it political correct. For ruling parties SEZ and land acquisition under any name is becoming another instrument to loot and fill their coffers.

Just three hours drive from Hyderabad to Mehboob Nagar district present the irony of current phase of development that is taking shape in our country. Over 1240 acres of land has been acquired from 350 families in Polepally, a majority of who belong to Dalit Bahujan communities. The land has been acquired three years back and compensation has been much below the normal standard. The Dalits and OBCs who got government land several years back for their livelihood have been given a paltry sum of Rs 18,000 per acre. Those who had their own land or purchased land several years back got Rs 50,000/- per acre. Yahiya, who owned 6 acres of land was compelled to take the compensation for Rs 3,00,000/-. ‘ If you want to take the compensation, take it otherwise we would put in your bank account’, said the government officials. Yehiya was threatened much time. He says that this land is gold. We do not need anything. Such a fertile land today would fetch a price of Rs 30 lakh per acre. That is the market rate today, as the land is very much on the highway.

‘ We had every product like Rice, Jowar, cotton and vegetables. One acre of land would produce about 15-20 quintal of cotton for a market price of Rs 2,500-3000/- per quintal. Tor dal would go for Rs 1,600/- per quintal and an acre would easily produce 10 quintal.

Ramesh Gowda is an anguished person as ‘no body takes interest’ for the cause of the farmers, he says. Ramesh had a total of 8 Acre of land. 2 acres of land was acquired in 1998-99 by the TDP government for Rs 24,000 per acre, to redistribute the same to the Schedule Castes. The rest 6 acres of land have been acquired by the government for the SEZ purposes. He has got Rs 3,00000/- for a land which could have easily provided him nearly Rs 90,00000/- ( Rs Ninety Lakh Only). ‘ We have lost our land. We lost our touch with the earth. It was gold, as we were able to fetch our family. My elder son is doing MCA. I put my daughters in best schools. How am I going to serve them? I have got Rs 3 lakh as compensation. What can I do with that? I do not have work to fetch my family.’ says Gowda.

Dalits are one of the biggest affected communities apart from the other bahujan communities. Out of total 41 deaths in the past two years, more than 50% belong to SC category owning land between one acre to 5 acres. One fourth of them are tribal and shockingly the average age of those who died is 46. These deaths are out of shock after losing their land and therefore the onus of these deaths goes on the government of Andhra Pradesh which is shamelessly pursuing its land grab agenda. It is therefore a big lie when the government and many experts suggest that Dalits have nothing to lose in the SEZ. G.Vanketesh, a dalit farmer today has become totally landless and looking for work. ‘ We work as laborers and do not get even Rs 100/- per day. It is a difficult job. In the village the so-called NREGS is basically in the hands of contractors,’ says Venketesh, 28. We had three acres of land given to us by the government but today that land has been acquired and we were given a compensation of Rs 18,000 per acre. In fact, we got only Rs 16,000/- as the balance money was grabbed by the authorities. Venkatesh has a family of five. His father can not work. For him it is the loss of inheritance. Where to go for work and how to feed his family are his immediate concerns.

Bachanna is about 55 years of age and have two sons. He belongs to Mala community. He only got Rs 16,000 and that too for one acre of land. He is shocked to see the callous attitude of the official who denies him even peeping in that land which gave him so much.

Karmaiya, a Dalit farmers had to give away his 6 acre land. Instead of getting Rs 1,08,000/- he got Rs54,000/-. Actually, the compensation packages are not easy to handle. Poor farmers, who are most of the time illiterate, are betrayed by their ‘own’ people who turn middleman to the officials. The officials have linkages with the middlemen and bank managers of the rural banks.

Many farmers did not even get 10,000/- at the end though it is Rupees Eighteen thousand on paper. Yadaiah, got only Rupees Nine thousand for all his 5 acres of land, he says he got only for two acres but he doesn’t know where the rest of the money has gone, most probably to the middlemen who play a link between the bank officials, the authorities and the farmers. .hivli, a tribal woman, do not even know who got money, she did not get any money. The problem with women is many fold. They are victims at home, they work harder and if they are single or widowed then the amount of oppression is simply inexplicable.

A number of these farmers were arrested when they protested against this illegal land grab. ‘Nobody came to support them. The authorities do not allow them to go near the field. They are now considered as threat.

Shankaraiah, 34, has five daughters. With his 3 acre land now gone to the government he does not known where his future lies. There is no work in the village at the moment. Their families are in deep distress. They do not really know how to get out of the crisis that mercenaries masquerading as politicians have done it to them.

As mark of protest against the political system, the struggling farmers of Polepally have decided to contest the coming bi-election in Mehboobnagar. It is a unique way of protest. Rather than boycotting the elections, they have decided to contest the poll and will be forcing the authorities to take note of their protest. About 70 of them want to contest but finances are a big concern. Most of them are poor farmers and therefore seeking support from all those who believe that Polepally’s farmer’s can show a way to other people in resisting these Special Exploitative Zones, which are killing the Dalit Bahujan communities and snatching the country from its highly rich natural resources as well as bio diversity. It is this threat to our nature, our rivers, and our forests that we must protect. In democracy, we can only protest through the legitimate mean but if it fails the people either enter into deep shells of depressions or pick up guns to protect their honor and dignity.

The colonization process of our natural resources is now being legitimized by the state power. Polepally’s farmer’s are resisting it with their conviction, and their faith in democracy which is essentially very difficult given the nature of battle for the control over natural resources have rarely been democratic as democracy today do not seem to support people’s voice but it look it has become an instrument to legitimize the corporate's unrestricted control over our resources as well as lives.

One can differ with the nature of protest as different perceptions come in mind. Some of the Telanganites suggest that first they should get the Telangana state first and these issues could be resolved later. This was very similar to what Gandhi had told Ambedkar when the latter asked for a separate electorate. The issue is that who would be forces dominating in the new Telengana state. And secondly, would such movements have anything to do with those groups who are ready to shake hand with the Hindutva fascists or corporate supported parties whether they are in power or opposition in the state. In fact, the silver line is that the Dalits are leading the protests and a substantial number of women are raring to challenge the traditional political parties, says Sujatha Surepally, who is a leading light of the campaign against SEZ under the banner of POLEPALLY SEZ VYATIREKA IKYA SANGHATANA. The struggle of Polepally would strengthen the unity between the Dalit-Bahujan communities including Muslims, tribals and farmers. Sujatha further says that SEZ is a new colonization process to keep Dalit Bahujan communities subjugated for ever. Madhu Kagula, who is spearheading the campaign against SEZ says that Telangana is not different from its dying and starving people. Why are the political parties and so called social organizations silent on the issue of Polepally, he laments. When people are dying, women have become widows, the parties and their supporters ask us to wait for the new state to get it resolved. The problem according to both Sujatha and Madhu is that no party has taken a stand against the SEZ. And it is this frustration that has led the people to protest in this unique way, they say.

Polepally’s people need support, not just moral and physical but also financial support to keep their momentum going unless they get justice. Those who wish to support the movement for social justice and dignity of the people of Polepally may write to Sujatha Surepally at


Anonymous said...

please visit
for more info on Polepally

Anonymous said...

The best way to solve this problem is to give dalits 100% reservation in IIT.