Land dispute over burial grounds as Dalits protest against discrimination in Tumakuru district of Karnataka

Reported by

East Street Journal Asia

Legal Data by

Anmol Gupta, Mukta Joshi

Edited by

Radhika Chatterjee

Updated by

Published on

May 25, 2022

May 25, 2022

Updated on

June 3, 2022

May 25, 2022

Location of Conflict

Byrenahalli village, Korategere Taluk

Tumakuru

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Caste-based Conflict

Burial Ground

(

)

People Affected by Conflict

Households Affected by Conflict

100

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

ha

Starting Year

2022

State

Karnataka

Sector

Land Use

On February 3, 2022, tension erupted between Dalits and upper caste people in Byrenahalli, a Dalit village in Tumakuru district of Karnataka. The conflict started when the family of a Dalit man buried his corpse on a piece of government land in the Koratagere Taluk of Byrenahalli. The deceased was a 57-year-old man named T.Hanumantharayappa who died on February 2 at Byrnehalli.
Amidst the clash, upper-caste people threatened to disinter the body of the deceased man after which the bereaved family sat on a vigil at the grave of their relative to prevent that.
Speaking to the media, T. Hanumantharayappa's nephew, Lakshmikantha BS said, "We used to bury the bodies of our neighbours and relatives by the roadside of NH-234. But the elders were not ready to bury Hanumantharayappa there, so we asked the village authorities to provide another place for us. When they didn't allow us, we buried the body on a piece of government land in survey No. 1, but upper caste people tried to stop us." The family alleged they had no other option as they were landless. State authorities meanwhile clarified that they visited the burial ground to address the issue and promised to intervene if any problem arose. Tehsildar of the area, Nahida Zam Zam, said, "I visited the general burial ground and told Dalit families to bury bodies on 20 guntas which are being cleaned." But Dalit leader Venkatesh Murthy alleged that the Tehsildar wanted them to bury bodies on the burial ground of upper castes, which would fuel more clashes.
In a similar incident in March 2021, a couple belonging to the Dalit community was not allowed to bury the body of their 4-month-old daughter. They were later forced to pick up the dead body from the burial pit and bury the child in a different place. In this case, the family had taken the body to the dry bed of the Suvarnamukhi rivulet for the last rites. But they were prevented from performing the rituals by some security guards of a nearby factory, who claimed the land belonged to the factory.

Notably, the demand for a separate burial land has been a long pending request of the Dalits in Koratagere Taluk of Tumakuru district. Of the 100 families living in the Dalit colony in Byrenahalli, 90 are landless and struggle to find spaces for burying deceased family members.

Back in 2016 there was a heated debate over providing separate burial grounds for the Dalit communities in the Upper Legislative House of Karnataka. The then Minister for Social Welfare, H. Anjaneya had announced on the floor of the House that the government had earmarked Rs. 40 crore to acquire land in phases to develop burial grounds for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.In August 2019, the Karnataka High Court directed the state government to take necessary possible steps to provide burial grounds to all the villages and towns which do not have burial grounds within six months.

The lack of burial grounds faced by Dalit communities is a problem that ails other parts of the country as well. To counter such land based exclusion and discrimination, Dalit activists who are a part of a broader national campaign  have for long demanded 5 acres (2 hectares) of land for each Dalit family - just about enough for a home and a small farm to live off.

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for better access to common land/resources

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for separate burial grounds

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Common

Type of Common Land

Non-Forest (Other than Grazing Land)

Total investment involved (in Crores):

Type of investment:

Year of Estimation

Page Number In Investment Document:

Has the Conflict Ended?

No

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Legislations/Policies Involved

Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
Section 3(1) (y) [Any activity which denies a member of Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe any customary right of passage to a place of public resort or prevents access to the same to be considered an offence], Section 3(1)(za) [Any activity which prevents a member of Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe from accessing common property resources of an area, including burial or cremation ground].
Constitution of India, 1950
Article 14 [All persons to have the right to equality and equal protection before the law], Article 15 [State to not discriminate against any citizen on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth], Article 25 [Freedom of all individuals to freely practice or propagate any religion].
Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act, 1993
In this case, the Madras High Court directed the local authorities to maintain common burial grounds in every village without any distinction on the basis of caste and community. The High Court stated that refusal for any caste to use common burial grounds will be considered a violation of Articles 14, 15 and 25 of the Constitution of India.
B. Kalaiselvi v. District Collector (W.P. 9229 of 2021, Madras High Court)
In this case, the Madras High Court directed the local authorities to maintain common burial grounds in every village without any distinction on the basis of caste and community. The High Court stated that refusal for any caste to use common burial grounds will be considered a violation of Articles 14, 15 and 25 of the Constitution of India.
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Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

No

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community?

What was the Decision of the Concerned Government Department?

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Violation of fundamental rights

Lack of legal protection over land rights

Legal Status:

In Court

Status of Case In Court

Disposed

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

No

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Karnataka High Court

Case Number

Main Reasoning/Decision of court

i) Directions for the State Government to take all possible steps to provide burial grounds to all the villages and towns which do not have burial grounds within a period of six months from today; ii) Directions for the State Government to ensure that the encroachment on the remaining area of 1,77,449 acres of Government lands shall be removed within a period of six months from today

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Blackmail/threats/intimidation

Other harassment

Whether criminal law was used against protestors:

No

Reported Details of the Violation:

The long-pending request for a separate burial cemetery for Dalits in Byrenahalli, Koratagere taluk, Tumakuru district, sparked tensions on Thursday when the family of a deceased man buried his body on government land, alleging they had no other option. This sparked a fight between Dalits and upper-caste individuals, with the latter threatening to disinter the dead and the grieving family standing guard at the grave to prevent it. In another incident, in Korategere Taluk, a couple, belonging to the Dalit community, was not allowed to bury the body of their 4-month-old-daughter. The couple was forced to pick up their daughter’s body from the pit. They then took the body to a different land and performed the final rites there.

Date of Violation

February 2, 2022

Location of Violation

Byrenahalli, Koratagere Taluk

Nature of Protest

Protests/marches

Campaigns (grassroots organisations/press releases/media)

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Social Welfare Department Karnataka, Health & Family Welfare Services Department Karnataka

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

LCW called upon Tehsildar of Sira, Tumkur district, Nahida Zam Zam but he didn't respond to our call.

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Communities/Local Organisations in the Conflict:

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:

Image Credit:  

Image Credit:  

Documented By

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Reviewed By

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Updated By

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