Mostly belonging to the Kuruba community, to which the CM Siddaramaiah himself belongs, the crowd cried in unison of their woes after 11,000 acres of grasslands were allotted to various research organizations by the previous government in December 2012. The assigned area is spread across the villages of Kudapura, Doddaullarthi and Varavu villages of Challakere in the Chitradurga district.
And to add to their woes is the fact that the top boss, who is one of their own, did not do anything to protect them.
Apart from Kurubas (who form 10 per cent of the state's population), Naiks and SC/STs too participated in the protest-all worried about their livelihood. The land was ggranted to Indian Institute of SCience (IISc), Defence Research Development Organization (DRDO), and Bhabha Atomic Research Organization(BAARC).
"Neither our consent was taken, nor were we informed about the development. The government's decision has snatched the livelihood of more than 3 lakh people. With the compound walls built in the area, we do not have nay place to graze our livestock. The GOvernment fails to understand that we do not depend on anything else for surviving, but livestock; even that is being snatched," said a villager. Sources say that even the village forest committees were not informed about the decision.
Aggarvated by the casual approach of the state authorities, the farmers further say," Some people tried to cow us down saying that we should not be raising voice, in the interest of the nation. WE are for the country, but that doe snot mean that it would march on the tombs of its citizens. We are prepared for a struggle and would not back down even if that means our bloodshed," said Kariyanna, the gram panchayat member from Doddullarthi village.
Reason to be concerned
While suriviving would be a problem for the villagers, there are other reasons to worry about too. For instance, the close proximity to the nation's nuclear projects that can cause serious health damage too. Villagers are not unaware of this. "We were told that BAARC's Uranium enrichment plant would be set up here. Do we still continue to live here?" asked Kariyanna.
Villagers are also dissapointed due to the GOvernmen's generosity toward these organizations. The DRDO did not require more than 3,000 acres, but the government granted them 4,290 acres in the grazing lands. Similarly, IISc already has 200 acres of land in the city, but they have been set up 1,500 acres here for a cyclotron. "Further, these allotments have been made at a meagre price of Rs 30,000 per acre," said a panchayat member.
The government might have compensated these villagers for their livestocks, but villagers believe that the money cannot buy their lives. They expect the government to understand their problems and act accordingly.