Web posted at: 11/27/2007 0:54:59
Source ::: The Peninsula/ By John Mary
Thiruvananthapuram • In a Nadigram-style operation minus the violence, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) activists drove out tribal people from Government land atop the Munnar hills today, thwarting their move for a permanent settlement.
Tribal families, who had pitched tents on 1,500 acres allotted to Hindustan Newsprint for its captive plantation at Chinnakkanal, were caught unawares as the CPM cadres staged the takeover operation this morning. The activists, backed by local party reinforcements later in the day, tore down tents and put party flags, declaring the success of the operation.
Local people said tension prevailed in the area since tribal activists have threatened to recover the land and not to leave until the Government honored its commitment to distribute land to all landless Adivasi families in the State.
Tribal families, including children, had occupied the land under the banner of the Adivasi Punaradhivasa Samrakshana Samithy (tribal rehabilitation protection committee).
The provocation had come as the fallout of the deal struck between Chief Minister AK Antony and tribal leader C K Janu. At a grand function, Antony distributed title-deeds but only 540 families out of the 798 families got the land.
"They had waited for more than five years for the land. The Government had forced them to resort to direct action. They have run out of patience and there's no question of returning without getting the land", said tribal solidarity leader C P Shaji.
However, the local CPM leaders alleged that Congress and Communist Party of India had instigated the tribal people to occupy Government land so they could grab the land once the dust settled.
Tribal agitation has traversed a chequered course in Kerala. Janu had led many families on a 48-day sit-in in front of the Government Secretariat soon after Antony came to power in 2001.
The agitation ended with Antony agreeing to a seven-point demand, mainly five acres to each landless tribal family and a rehabilitation package to ensure that the land was not alienated.
However, the pact suffered a setback after Janu led a tribal band to the Muthanga wildlife sanctuary in the northern Wynad district two years later, leading to deaths a policeman and a tribal youth.
The most important fallout of agitations has been that both the Government and the tribal activists succeeded in shifting the focus of the nearly 50-year-old tribal struggle in Kerala from the issue of "restoration of alienated land" to one of "land for the landless tribal people".
In April 1975, Kerala Assembly unanimously adopted the Kerala Scheduled Tribes (Restriction on Transfer of Lands and Restoration of Alienated Lands) Act, which sought to prevent the lands of the tribal people from falling into the hands of non-tribal people. The Act also sought to restore to the tribal people their previously alienated lands.But that has remained mostly on paper.