Dalit women of Kattupaiyur village proudly show their reclaimed land titles (pattas).
Photo: S. Rajeesh


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2007 was a year that many as 31 Dalit (Depressed Class) women of Kattupaiyur village will always remember: That’s when their eight-year old land struggle to reclaim a small yet significant piece of heredity became their own. But does owning land make a real difference in their lives?

Sickle in hand under the blazing afternoon sun, the couple hurry to finish harvesting their crop before sundown – this will be their staple food for the next six months. “We seldom leave our homes in search of work these days, thanks to this land,” says a smiling Vijaya as she reaps Kambhu (a millet variety), “but we are heavily dependent on rainfall and this year looks very bleak.”

Her husband Annamalai works silently beside her on their 40-cent (1 acre is 100 cents) reclaimed Panchami (Depressed Class land or Conditional land) land. Like Vijaya and Annamalai, many families live in the interior villages of Tamil Nadu whose diet includes nothing more than what they cultivate on their little plots of land. Kattupaiyur, a tiny village in Villupuram District, Tamil Nadu, is where 31 Dalit women are proud owners of ancestral agricultural land.

“It is Panchami land and it belonged to our forefathers,” grins a cheerful Muthulakshmi Veeran pointing to the highlighted small plot of 25 cents on the site map.

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