Vol. XL No. 48 November 27, 2016

Karnataka: Jail-Bharo Agitation Demanding Land-Housing Rights


KARNATAKA witnessed a powerful struggle last week, on November 18 with thousands of landless people courting arrest demanding land and housing rights. Responding to the call given by more than 15 mass organisations including Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha (KPRS), Karnataka Prantha Krishi Kooligarara Sangha and Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the toiling masses participated in the agitation with enthusiasm.

According to the reports available with the state centres of these organisations, the agitation evoked good response at around 27 district and 57 taluk centres across the state. Over fifty thousand people laid siege to the taluk offices demanding fulfilment of their demands.  About twelve thousand people were arrested. At many places, police blocked the agitators and then resorted to lathi charge. Agitators did not lift the siege till they were arrested. 

In the forefront of the state-wide movement were these three organisations with the active support and participation of Dalit Rights Committee - Karnataka, Karnataka Rajya Devadasiyara Vimochana Sangha, Karnataka Rajya Adivasigala Hakku Samnvaya Samithi, JMS, DYFI and SFI among others.

A powerful campaign including jathas was carried out for several months to prepare the ground for the agitation. Struggle committees were formed at taluk and district levels of all participating mass organisations. Conventions, mass meetings, jathas have been held at taluk and district level in preparation for the Jail Bharo on November 18. 

The campaign and the agitation focused on the issues pertaining to the attacks on livelihood of farmers, agricultural labourers, divesting the farmers of the cultivable land on large scale in the name of development, for construction of corridor roads and industrial areas. The campaign highlighted the corporatisation of the agricultural sector. Under the new state law, supposedly to fight land grabbing real estate sharks, bagar hukum tillers are considered as land grabbers. The applications for regularisation of ownership of marginal/government barren land developed by these peasants for decades are pending for long. Similarly adivasis are being denied land rights under various pretexts. Housing for poor, lower middle class (and even middle class) both in urban and rural areas is sparse and expensive. 

The mass organisations which are working amidst farmers, adivasis, workers and landless agricultural labourers have been continuously demanding the central and state governments to take effective steps to address land-housing rights of these working people and have waged a number of struggles in the last one decade or so. Instead, the thrust of the policies of both the central and state governments has been to solve the land question in favour of corporate agriculture. This struggle was to change this scenario and put pressure to solve land question in favour of the toiling masses.

The stir gained importance as hundreds of farmers committed suicide in Karnataka in the last few years in the wake of agrarian crisis. Most of them lost their lives as they were unable to repay the loans due to the crisis as well as drought.

The farmers and landless labourers have been mobilised in Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kanada, Udupi, Kolar, Chickballapur, Hasan, Raichur, Kalaburagi, Yadagiri, Ballary, Dharwad, Koppal, Chitradurga, Bidar, Belagavi, Vijayapura, Shivamogga, Davanagere, Mysuru, Bengaluru Urban and Bengaluru Rural districts, Kodagu, Gadag, Haveri districts and thousands among them courted arrest.

CPI(M) state secretary G V Sriram Reddy led the agitation at Bagepalli in Chickballapur district. Maruti Manpade, G N Nagaraj, U Basavaraj, K R Shriyan, Vasanth Achary, Balakrishna Shetty, K Shankar, Shantaram Nayak, Yamuna Gaonkar, B S Soppin, R S Basavaraj, Gandhinagar Narayanaswamy, G Arjunan were among the prominent leaders who led the stir at various places in the state.