Krishnagiri: Irula tribes caught earlier between special task force (STF) and Veerappan, moved out of the forest. Now, they live in fear of another displacement from the place where they have been settled by the district forest department.
"It may be a common practice in urban places where no day passes without protest or rallies for some reason. But our tribal community is not interested in such a culture as we do not know the difference between asking for our rights or complaining," Madhamma told Deccan Chronicle. She continued, "Another reason for being silent is because of the indelible fear planted in our minds by the special task force (STF) that gunned down forest brigand Veerappan."
M.Madhamma (35) is the daughter of 60 year old Badhran of ST colony near Sivalingapuram in Anchetti taluk of Krishnagiri. Badhran was one among those of his community arrested by the STF, allegedly for helping Veerappan. "A few like Badhran are directly affected because of the STF. Others were directed after the STF planned to nab Veerappan by distancing local people from him," Mari said. 60 year old M.Mari continued, "First we lived in our cave houses in Kempagarai forest. From there we were asked to move as the STF suspected us of giving supplies to Veerappan. Our next place was Thalavadipatti where the families cultivated millet on forest lands for a livelihood." Trouble started again when officials asked them to move to Kempagarai village and live in a place owned by dominant caste Hindus.
Livelihood is difficult for them as there is no land to cultivate food nor were they allowed to enter the forest for collecting its produce till Veerappan was alive. However, the situation took a positive turn a year after Veerappan was killed in 2004. The district forest department has taken up the project to rehabilitate tribal people affected due to the Veerappan issue.
Twenty one small houses were constructed in 2005 on government land a few meters away from the junction where the village road to Sivalingapuram and Dhotta Manju meets. Around 85 Irula tribes who lived at Kempagarai have been settled here. They were also given livestock and other benefits for their survival but the fear of another displacement remains alive, because the district administration has not handed over patta papers to them.
"Each day starts for us with uncertainty because the patta papers to our houses were not given even after 14 years," M.Malliga said. When asked why they did not complain, twenty two year old Malliga said, "We have not taken this issue to the officials as we fear that they will mistake us to be people of a complaining nature and may stop benefits given to us."...