Land dispute becomes too hot to handle at Belalgere

Farmers want gomala land back for their use

The dispute over ‘gomala’ land at Belalgere in Basavapatna taluk of Channagiri taluk has snowballed into a major controversy, leading to a confrontation between the cultivators of ‘gomala’ land and the district administration.

Tension prevailed in and around the Kattalgere Agriculture Research Centre (KARC) and in the nearby villages as a majority of the ‘gomala’ land cultivators hail from these villages.

Recently, the gomala land cultivators staged a protest against the district administration and intensified their agitation near the disputed site.

The district administration has declared Belalgere and its surroundings as sensitive and prohibitory orders have been clamped as per Section 144 of the CrPC from February 11, till the tension subsides and normalcy returns. 

It has taken all steps to prevent clashes between the farmers and the district administration officials. Tight police security has been put in place for the last couple of months by the district administration following clashes between farmers’ organisations and the local authorities. 

Background 

KARC was set up by the University of Agriculture Sciences (UAS), Bangalore, on 247 acres in 1974, with the objective of promoting research, training and for agriculture extension work. 

In 1978, the government sanctioned an additional 61.27 acres, out of a total of 220 acres of ‘gomala’ land at the adjacent Belalgere village. 

Farmers cultivating the gomala land opposed the government’s move and urged it to cancel the order and allow the farmers to cultivate the land. Farmers in Belalgere, Kavali Tanda and Kurubarahalli have been cultivating the 220 acres of land from time immemorial. A majority of them belong to scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and backward classes.

The district administration and other departments of the government allowed the farmers to encroach gomala land and carry out agriculture activities without any check all these years. The officials are now having to spend sleepless night due to the negligence all these years. 

The cultivators had approached the court against the government’s decision to provide 61.23 acres of gomala land to KARC. But the lower court and the High Court upheld the government order, say KARC sources. Following the court orders and pressure from UAS as also the Principal Secretary of the State Government, the district administration forcefully evicted the cultivators from the 61.27 acres of ‘gomala’ land and fenced the area. This sparked off the protest by the cultivators. They have decided to remove the fencing with the support of farmers’ organisations. 

Sources in the Deputy Commissioner’s office told Deccan Herald that the Assistant Commissioner of Channagiri division and the Channagiri tahsildar were making all efforts to solve the row. They have held a series of discussions with the cultivators.

The farmers, under the leadership of Tejaswi Patel, have urged the district administration to return the ‘gomala’ land, as a majority of them  are poor and marginal farmers.

Patel told Deccan Herald that the dispute existed between the district administration and farmers of Kavali tanda, Kurubarahalli and Belalgere for the last 60 years. The dispute intensified with the government providing land to KARC. 

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