Karnataka elections: How Sri Lankan repatriates will influence Sullia polls
Posted on April 26th, 2018

Sharan Poovanna Courtesy Livemint.com

Community leaders of Sri Lankan repatriates in Karnataka are trying to bring everyone under one umbrella to gain better leverage to bargain for their cause

Though Tamil repatriates were granted citizenship, the authorities are clear that only employment was part of their rehabilitation and not homes.

Sullia: Tea and rubber estate workers, who were originally from India and shipped back home from Sri Lanka as part of the Sirimavo-Shastri pact of 1964, are re-grouping in Sullia and Puttur constituencies of Dakshina Kannada district to try press their demand for permanent homes in the upcoming Karnataka assembly elections.

The community, numbering around 10,000 now, have decided to vote en masse to the party—thought to be Congress —or leader willing to help them resolve their long standing demand of retaining their homes.

Though Tamil repatriates were granted citizenship, the authorities are clear that only employment was part of their rehabilitation and not homes.

The community, who were allocated jobs and homes in the Karnataka Forest Development Corporation (KFDC)—a government-run rubber plantation—held several protests before the 2013 elections demanding caste certificates.

For years we supported the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate, but couldn’t even manage to get a caste certificate. This was given to us after (Karnataka chief minister) Siddaramaiah came to power and the local Congress leader helped us,” said, H. S. Chandralingam, a 59-year-old second generation repatriate.

Around 525,000 Sri Lankan Tamils were repatriated to India as part of the 1964 pact between prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and his Sri Lankan counterpart Sirimavo Bandaranaike amid rising tension between minority Tamils and majority Sinhala in the island nation. They were settled in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, (unified) Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Fragmented into different groups and political parties over the decades, now the community leaders are trying to bring everyone under one umbrella to gain better leverage to bargain for their cause, which is seen to side with the Congress currently.

The offer to vote en masse for the Congress could help the party break the BJP’s hold over the region. S. Angara of the BJP won for the fifth consecutive time in Sullia in 2013 and has been named as the party’s candidate for the 12 May polls.

Puttur constituency is held by Shakuntala Shetty of the Congress .

Though Tamil repatriates were granted citizenship, the authorities are clear that only employment was part of their rehabilitation and not homes. The rehabilitation is only through work and not residences,” Kamala.K, the deputy conservator of forests, Mysuru division said.

This plantation was started as a rehabilitation excise. They cannot throw us out of our homes after service. We are being treated as government employees and not repatriates,” N.Lokanathan, 38, said. The community cite the Tibetan settlement in Bylakuppe (Mysuru) whose occupants have been given a reserved space from where they cannot be evicted.

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