For five years, 50-year-old Mahadevamma and her family members have been living as outcasts in their village in Karnataka, all because they sold their land to a man from the Dalit community.
A resident of Geekehalli in Mysuru district’s Nanjangud taluk, Mahadevamma and her husband were facing financial difficulties when they decided to sell their 20ft x 30ft plot in Geekehalli.
“In our village, people belonging to upper castes live on one side and the Dalits live on another side. There is a road separating these areas. On one side of the locality, which is mostly occupied by the Dalits, there are a few houses where people of the Vokkaliga and the Kuruba community live. My husband’s plot of land was in between these two areas,” said 42-year-old Mahadevamma.
In mid-2013, Mahadevamma and her husband Mahadevappa decided to sell their land and use the money for their daughter’s wedding.
After a few months, they received an offer to purchase the land from a man named Kempanna, who belongs to the Dalit community.
“Since the offer price was good and we were making a good profit, we decided to sell the land to Kempanna. He is a nice person, whom we know for a long time,” says Mahadevappa.
Soon after the property was registered, the news spread among the people of the upper caste and they descended on Mahadevappa and his family members.
Several people from the upper caste and self-proclaimed elders landed up on their doorstep and expressed their displeasure over the land being sold to a man from the Dalit community.
“They kept telling that we should have consulted with them before selling the land to a Holeya (a caste that falls under the Dalit category). They were offended that we did not sell the land to people from the upper caste. My husband tried to convince them that it was only a business transaction and that they had no say in the decision to sell the property. However, the village elders were miffed,” Mahadevamma recounts.
Self-proclaimed village elders Mugegowda and Madegowda allegedly threatened to ruin Mahadevappa and his family. That’s when the trouble began.
According to Mahadevamma, Mugegowda and Madegowda are wealthy landowners in the village and are well respected by the residents. “If anyone has any problem, they used to take it to Madegowda and Mugegowda. People listened to them and did whatever they said,” Mahadevamma alleges.
Soon after the altercation with Mahadevamma, Mugegowda and Madegowda allegedly instructed the residents of Geekehalli to not sell their goods, interact or help to Mahadevamma’s family.
Anyone caught selling groceries or talking to the family were fined, Mahadevamma alleges.
“There were many people who would inform Mugegowda or Madegowda if anyone helped us, sold us rice or groceries or even spoke to us. They would impose a fine of Rs 500 on anyone who did not follow their instruction,” Mahadevamma claims.
Disheartened by the turn of event, Kempanna decided to help Mahadevamma and her family.
“He paid money to one of his relatives Rajanna and got us a 33 ft x 33 ft plot located on the outskirts of the village. For five years, we have been living in a tent on that site as we do not have money to sustain our livelihoods. My 20-year-old son now rears goats. My daughter is working as a cleaner at a restaurant in Nanjangud. No one was willing to marry her when they found out that we were outcasts,” Mahadevamma says as she breaks down into tears.
On Monday, the former owner of the plot, Rajanna is demanding that Mahadevamma and her family vacate the plot. “We had not signed any agreement when he gave us the land five years ago. Now he wants us to vacate. We have nowhere to go now,” Mahadevamma says.
On Tuesday, Mahadevamma and Mahadevappa filed a complaint with the Biligere Police, against Rajanna and the village elders Mugegowda and Madegowda.
On Wednesday, the Biligere Police visited Geekehalli and held talks with Rajanna. “They asked us to settle the issue. Now Rajanna is saying he will give us only half of the land. The police are also not helping us. They have not taken any action against those who were responsible for making us outcasts,” Mahadevamma says.
When TNM contacted the Biligere Police multiple times, the officers refused to respond.