Landless tribes waiting for the promised land


Members of tribal families still live in an unsanitary environment, vulnerable to disease

Hundreds of landless tribal families who erected huts on forest land in various parts of Wayanad District as part of the land unrest in 2012 continue to be in dire straits, with authorities paying little attention to their fate.

When land unrest escalated in the district, with the support of major political parties, in May and June 2012, hundreds of landless tribal families participated. They erected huts on forest land under the southern and northern forest divisions of the Wayanad, hoping they would own them when the unrest ended.

Over 800 acres of forest land have been invaded by nearly 1,000 tribal families at 53 unrest points in the two forest divisions.

The largest number of tribal families took part in the unrest in the Agitation Centers of Moonnanakuzhi and Cheeyambam under the South Wayanad Forestry Division.

Balakrishnan from the Anappara tribal settlement planted nearly 400 pepper vines and 250 coffee plants on an acre of forest land “assigned” by Congress leaders Adivasi, a Congress party organization, to Cheeyambam. He was promised he would never be deported.

Nani, a resident of Irulam Paniya settlement near Pulpally, is an activist with Adivasi Kshema Samiti, the tribal wing of CPI (M). She says her party members told her that the tribals should continue to agitate and not leave the agitation center until they have obtained land.

Although Forest Department officials arrested 826 tribal agitators, including 296 women, after demolishing nearly 1,287 huts erected by the latter in July 2012 alone, they were fired. They were back when local courts granted them bail.

The families were the ones arrested under Kerala’s forest law, but later the government quashed all forestry cases against them.

After the intensity of the commotion subsided, a few returned to the huts. Those who did not own land stayed behind.

“Although nine years have passed after we started the unrest, no one is telling us how long we have to continue our miserable life inside the forest,” Ms. Nani said.

Members still live in makeshift, unsanitary huts, without clean water, vulnerable to disease and attack from wildlife. In a few cases, elephants have destroyed their huts. Their political support disappeared after the elections.


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