Lakshmipura: A pioneer who holds fort

We come down from Mallenahalli and a few kilometres down the road, climb up again into the wilds of Lakshmipura. It is here that more than a decade ago about 40 families from Malenahalli were resettled with 330 acres of land. It is obviously not hospitable territory since the lands are located not only deep within the forests, but also on inaccessible slopes with no water or electricity.Only five families have managed to brave the hostile environment and neighbours to set up their deras, tether their goats and start cultivation. All the others have either stayed on in Mallenahalli, moved to Badavne, settled in other parts of the State or are still wandering around in search of better prospects.

Neelraju and his wife Roma are the first family of this brave little community. While Neelraju talks to us, Roma is busy cooking and tending to her family. The children struggle to go to school in the nearest village but make the daily trek through the hillside and study by lantern light. “When we came here 13 years ago about 150 people came to beat us up and chase us away. But I stood firm. I was not scared. I said go ahead and kill me if you want. Only 80 acres of the promised land was given to us. Most of the other land, in collusion with the local MLA, was distributed to the SC community”

His is truly a tragic tale. As we are getting ready to leave he unexpectedly whips out a tattered passport and tells us how he was cheated when he went abroad to places like Malaysia etc. He incurred a loan of Rs 7 lakhs that he repayed through hard coolie labour. “I am a victim of great injustice” he says regretfully. Both abroad and at home. His father was the Chairman of Angadihalli panchayat and the rest of his family is doing well. “Please go and meet my brother Hooraj when you to there,” he tells us enthusiastically. Mukundappa has the last word on the state of this settlement with no people. “Those who have been given land here should stay here and fight” he says, not mincing his words.

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