Shikaripura: A desolate dream

The final stop before we head back to Bangalore is Shikaripura. There is a lot of laughter and giggling before we arrive because of the village it is located close to…Sunkethunoor. Anjan doubles up with laughter every time he says the name and young Sonia keeps wondering why. “You will understand in time” says Srikant wisely. We get lost on a road that Kumuda christens “google road” since google man Vinod discovers it on the global guide to local destinations. Looks like it was laid at the time of the British and then forgotten about till Google discovered it. Not a soul in sight except for the odd motorcyclist, wrestling with the road less traveled by, who looks at us with amazement as we cross him in leaps and bounds!

The settlement looks dusty and disconsolate….not brimming with life and laughter  like other Hakki Pikki villages. Although the children gamboling around add some cheerful sparkle to the heat that hangs around depressingly.

Basha, now called Aiyappa in Government records comes to greet us. And recounts to us the rather sad story of Shikaripura.  Almost 18 years ago some families set up tents and started cultivating on gomala land in a nearby village called Kadba. Their presence was resented by the local Gowdas who picked a quarrel with them over sharing water that they did not want the “backward”, “ prani pakshi” (beasts and birds)  eating barbaric Hakki Pikkis to touch . The local DC who was very supportive fought on their behalf but was beaten up by the local villagers for his efforts. Determined to see that they got justice and were resettled, he organised to buy  the land that the Hakki Pikkis are currently located on from a local woman and even sanctioned 46 Hakku Patras and  6 borewells. Despite all this the settlement remains unsettled.

All efforts by Basha and his very active wife Gandharkanye who is also a panchayat member to keep their flock together failed when they keep flying away. At present about 110 families wander in and out of the settlement.

The land that a few families  are trying to cultivate around belongs to the forest and needs to be regularised. Most are earning a living by selling their trademark plastic flowers or by begging.

They are being supported in their struggles by the Rytha Sangha whose local representative Anil we meet and who seems to be absolutely at home with the community. He speaks with devotion and respect of his leader Puttaniah and the fight that he has put up with the authorities for the Hakki Pikkis. The DSS and the All India Agricultural Workers Union is also with them. Articulate Ameeta speaks of the rally she had gone for in which their issue had also been raised.

With all this it yet seems to be a village that is struggling to hold itself together.

But  Ameeta’s strong voice singing a sprited song accompanies us out of the settlement as we head back to Bangalore.

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