Kerala tribals end 26-month-old stir

October 5th, 2009 - 5:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 5 (IANS) Nearly 5,000 tribals on a protest for over two years at a rubber estate in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district demanding land, Monday called off their stir following assurance from the state government of compensation.
Agreement came after a meeting of agitating tribal leaders with Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran, Backward Classes Minister A.K. Balan, Forest Minister Binoy Viswam and Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy.

“It has been decided that all Scheduled Tribes (ST) families, numbering 1,432, will get a home worth Rs.1.25 lakh and one acre of land each. Scheduled Castes (SC) families will get Rs.1 lakh worth house and 50 cents (half an acre) of land each, while others will get a home worth Rs.75,000 and 25 cents (one-fourth of an acre) of land,” Achuthanandan told reporters here.

Achuthanandan said a government survey found that 1,738 families were involved in the protest.

Landless tribals have been staying in tents pitched in Kumbazha rubber estate of Harrisons Malayalam Ltd (HML) in Chengara, about 120 km from here, since Aug 4, 2007 demanding land from the government.

The Sadhu Jana Vimocha Samyukta Vedi (SJVSV), headed by Laha Gopalan, led the protests. Gopalan and five others took part in the talks held here.

Gopalan said that he has no other option but to agree to the government’s offer.

“One thing is clear, now the attitude of the government towards the SC/ST is clear. Since I don’t have any power or might with me, I am forced to accept what the government has offered. Would the government have acted like this had it been the NSS (organization of Hindu Nairs) or the SNDP (Organization of Hindu backward caste Ezhavas),” asked Gopalan.

Chandy said the state government should provide some ex-gratia payment to 13 families who lost their members during the stir.

Gopalan added that they will not move out of the estate until they are given the possession of the land.

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