For Over 15 Years, Havugolla Tribe in Karnataka Demanding Permanent Land Rights

Reported by

Tamanna NaseerLand Conflict Watch

Last updated on

March 3, 2021

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The nomadic Havugolla community is seeking rehabilitation in Chikkamagaluru district. They were traditionally snake charmers and moved from one place to another. The younger generation, however, did not pursue the age-old tradition and became agricultural labourers and small-time traders over time. They have been living in Chikkamagaluru district for more than 15 years without proper accommodation and sanitation facilities. Before settling in Chikkamagaluru, they used to roam in Shimoga and Chitradurga districts. Generations of nomadic communities have moved from one place to another, along with their cattle, to earn their livelihood. Whenever they settle on any common land, they claim traditional right over it and demand ownership. The state, on the other hand, considers them encroachers as they have no legal titles over what the state considers government land. The absence of permanent land to settle in and the lack of legal titles as well as laws to safeguard their interests has left these nomadic communities vulnerable. On July 26, 2018 several families from the Havugolla community vacated their temporary shelters near Balekoppa village in NR Pura tehsil in Chikkamagaluru and fled to different districts due to a superstition that deaths would occur in their families during a total lunar eclipse. The district administration made an effort to bring the individuals back and later provided them temporary accommodation on the premises of a defunct school in Balekoppa. But the local residents expressed their unhappiness to the government authorities and complained of theft and unhygienic living conditions of the Havugolla community. The community members are subjected to regular verbal threats from the village residents who ask them to find a permanent dwelling. Thirty-eight-year-old Latha, a tribe member, told LCW: "The monsoon season has started. It is difficult for us to stay in the school premises when it rains. My family returned to Chikkamagaluru from Tirthahalli (in Shimoga) because politicians and officials had promised to give us land for permanent settlement. We are still waiting. There is some conflict with the forest department. We dont know till when we will have to suffer here. The local residents taunt us and pick fights with us regularly. In February 2020, 18 Havugolla families protested in front of the local forest office seeking proper rehabilitation and requested the government to provide them land for resettling permanently. The Nagalapura village panchayat had planned to allocate land next to a cremation ground in NR Pura tehsil. However, the state forest department, which has planted acacia trees in the area, refused to give a no-objection certificate for cutting down trees on the 5.2 acres of land that was proposed to be used for resettlement. When the community members met and requested the village panchayat, the panchayat members expressed helplessness.  Manish, panchayat development officer of Nagalpura, told LCW, "We are waiting for the forest department to allow us to cut the trees and use the land for relocating the families. On May 28, the deputy commissioner issued an order, stating that one acre of land should be allotted to the Havugolla community in Aralikoppa village in NR Pura tehsil, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Gubbiga panchayat. No action has been taken on the order yet and the community still awaits rehabilitation. In June, the tribe members met the local sheristadar (officer next in rank to tehsildar) and submitted a written request asking him to provide a permanent place to shift soon.

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for promised land

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Non-Forest (Other than Grazing Land)

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The villagers regularly abuse members of the Havugolla tribe, who are now temporarily residing in the premises of a defunct school in the village. They also accuse the tribe of thefts in the village.

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Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Forest Department, Office of the Chikkamagaluru Deputy Commissioner

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Documented By

Tamanna Naseer

Reviewed By

Tamanna Naseer

Updated By

Tamanna Naseer

Edited By

Tamanna NaseerLand Conflict Watch

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