Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha

Last week, a protest in Gubbi town, Tumkur District of Karnataka was met with violence from the forest department forces. Nearly a 100 people in Gangaiahanapalya, Gubbi had come together in a peaceful protest against the acquisition of their land by the forest department. They have been cultivating the land for the past three to four decades and have been taxed for it as well. Sources claim that the forest department is acquiring this land as compensatory afforestation for relieving forest land elsewhere. 

Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) and Hasiru Sena State President HR Basavaraj informed us that the forest department forces began to build trenches in Gangaiahanapalya, and when locals protested, they began to beat up protestors. Three people were even admitted to the hospital. They then filed an FIR against the protestors claiming that violence broke out because the locals did not allow them to dig the trenches. KRRS has filed a police complaint in return. The matter is being looked into and the trenches have momentarily been closed. 

In the same week in Yelahanka, the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) bulldozed five acres of farmland, destroying full-grown sapota, areca palm and coconut crops. Using the upcoming Karnataka Assembly Elections as an excuse, BDA officials allegedly told the farmers that they cannot protest in this period. 

The BDA began its latest round of demolitions for the Dr Shivaram Karanth Layout plan on 24 February, when it bulldozed through farmlands across seventeen villages, including Yelahanka. As reported by Deccan Herald, nine farmers who protested in Yelahanka were taken to the Yelahanka New Town Police Station and booked under Section 353 for “obstructing officials”. They have demanded that the government provide compensation two times the market value in urban areas and four times in rural areas, as per the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. However, the BDA is only offering a pittance of the market value.

The farmers’ struggle against the BDA acquisition of their land has been ongoing since the plan to acquire 3,546 acres for Shivaram Karanth Layout was announced in 2008. More than 15,000 landowners across 17 villages objected to this acquisition at the time and the Karnataka High Court ruled against the acquisition in 2015. The BDA challenged this in the Supreme Court while simultaneously issuing No Objection Certificates (NOCs) to build residences on over 1,200 acres of agricultural land. NOCs were primarily given to gated communities and private layouts. In 2018, the SC reversed the Karnataka HC’s ruling and directed the BDA to issue a final notification and go ahead with the formation of the layout in 3 months. The authority then issued the final notification for 3,546 acres. A plea was filed in the SC highlighting that the land of the rich and powerful were being excluded from acquisition but the SC rejected this plea in August, 2018. By September 2022, the SC regularised some residences and even reprimanded BDA Commissioner Rajesh Gowda for illegally allotting alternate sites within the Layout. BDA forces have invoked the SC order to relentlessly subject the locals of the 17 villages to various degrees of violence. 

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