500 days of struggle, and continuing, in Kerala

December 16th, 2008 - 1:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Pathanamthitta (Kerala), Dec 16 (IANS) With Tuesday dawning, the struggle of close to 5,000 landless tribals continues and reaches the 500 day mark at a rubber estate in Chengara near here.Since August 2007, the landless tribals have been staying in tents pitched in the Kumbazha rubber estate of Harrisons Malayalam Ltd (HML).

The tribals formed a Sadhu Jana Vimocha Samyukta Vedi (SJVSV) led by Laha Gopalan and have been demanding land from the government.

But 170 families of plantation workers who have lost their livelihood due to the occupation of the estate are opposing them and staging another protest.

Local legislator Adoor Prakash, who belongs to the Congress party, told IANS that the callous attitude of the government is to be blamed for the situation.

“Last week also I raised this issue in the assembly. I have done this in earlier sessions of the assembly since the stir began. Should the Left government handle this issue in this manner?” he said.

The efforts to find a solution ended in a chaos when Laha Gopalan and his aides walked out of a meeting called by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan last month.

Gopalan said all the government needs to do is to distribute the estate land to those who are staying in tents. “They can just come here and give each hut a registration number and give this place and all the basic infrastructure as we have been staying here for long,” he said.

State Minister for Backward and Scheduled Communities A.K. Balan said the government is helpless as the demand to give one acre of land is that which cannot be admitted.

“You all saw that in the November meeting where 27 organisations campaigning for the rights of the underprivileged took part, all but Gopalan agreed when we said we are prepared to give all the landless up to 10 cents of land,” he said.

“We just can’t give the land to them where they are staying because the Kerala High Court has asked the government to see that they are evicted without bloodshed. But we have not done that, so it essentially means we are considerate to their demands and in simple terms if someone says that they are supported by the government, it won’t be untrue. We are helpless and no government can just give them the land they ask,” he said adding that “I myself have only four cents of land.”

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