PUCL Bulletin, 2003
The return to Muthanga
The Adivasi decision is to return to Muthanga. The Adivasis had become victims of untold brutalities. Yet there is no other way but to return. And the Adivasis have been made refugees in their homeland. There are the spirits of the dead in the forestlands of Muthanga. Not only Jogi, but also the bodies and souls of all those who had lived here as one with nature have merged irrevocably with the soil. None can separate them now. Anyone who enters Muthanga can see the scattered coins in front of the Sacred Temple at Thakarappady. There is also a splintered bamboo there. This was the hundi ( Coin collection box)of the Adivasis, smashed by the police officers and the goondas as though it was some part of the weaponry of the Adivasis. No one would pick up the coins. These coins represe! nting the beliefs and dreams would still be there when they return .
Who See the Theyyam
.and Those Who Hear Also
They came with sacks full of miseries, the thudi (A traditional drum), the household and agricultural instruments, materials to construct their homes, the whicker and oil to light the lamp at the temple at Ambukuthy . a line of thousands of refugees going to their ancestral lands. Those who returned to Muthanga conversed with the spirit! s of the mountains with ease, as though they got back their freedom that they lost centuries ago. They, the Paniya, the Adiya, the Bettakuruma, the Kaattunayaka, the Kurichia etc, belonging to all the tribes of Wayanad, woke up their gods in unison. Even before going to Muthanga, they had woken up their gods and got their permission. They did not need to consider any other force beyond this, and definitely not that of the state.
Remnants of Muthanga
By the 1980s the forests were wiped clean of the vegetation for the Birlas. Eucalyptus trees wer! e planted. 77 square kilometers of Muthanga range was completely wiped out. The Adivasis were also evicted. This forest land was earlier taken over by the government from private landlords. The Adivasis should have been protected in these lands by law. But instead, the majority was evicted. Only 10 Adivasi hamlets and about 250 non-Adivasi families were permitted to remain in Muthanga range. Many of those who had gone to Muthanga were those who had ancestral claims.
Destruction of Biodiversity
This presents the other side of the saga of the disrupted lives of Adivasis. The elephants searching for water source wander around crossing the Muthanga Range to Noolpuzha located east of NH 212. This was not because Noolpuzha was the traditional water source of the elephants. Muthanga did n! ot also have a regular elephant path. The elephants now have no other alternative. But Noolpuzha, located east of Muthanga, is also drying up. The water of Noolpuzha has also been dammed just below at the edge of the Wild Life Sanctuary Office. The water is pumped out to the Sultan Batheri town as well as to other panchayats and this is a cause for the destruction of Noolpuzha. The forest and wild life officials ensures the protection of the Nilgiri Biosphere in this manner.
Abode of Mafias
A strong coalition of forest contractors, professional environmentalists and forest officials soon emerged. Projects worth crores such as Elephant 2000 project, the water conservation project at Thakarapp! ady, electric fencing project etc were implemented here. The forest-wild life officials are not far away when it came to providing protection to those who hunt down herds of deers which are then parceled off, while 4 or 5 domesticated elephants are used farcically to deceive the tourists. The basic problems of the wild life that come to Muthanga are ignored even as crores are lost. The task of reviving the wild forest stream that separates the Bandipur Reserve from Muthanga Range is quietly covered up by the forest-wild life officials.
The Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha established the check posts on the pathway that skirted the official forest check post at the point where this pathway joined the NH 212. It may be recollected that it was the nature lovers of Wayanad District who had actively protested and succeeded to forestall the demand to erect check posts beyond Muthanga at Ponkuzhi. They had then raised the issue of protection of elephants to subvert this as they did ! this time too. Both, the Adivasis and elephants, are the victims of these pests who cart away the finance capital.
The State that Lost All Moral Rights and The Preparation for Self Rule
It was the beginning of integrating the diversity of the various tribes and commencement of a village life capable of self-rule. The tribal life recreated through the numerous gram sabha meetings were wond! erfully transformed in the forestlands of Ambukuthy, Thakarappady and Ponkuzhi through the collective will power and labour. The rhythm that the tribal communities lost was reestablished through the protection of the forests, putting up huts and preparation of the lands for cultivation. Besides the establishment of three schools for the children, a public distribution center, an initiative for health care in the preparatory stage and a special project for the protection of wild life and environment, the Muthanga area became totally liquor free. Check posts were established by the Adivasis to demarcate the lines clearly to prevent the encroachment tendencies of the general public.
This was to focus the attention against those who wished to come to the neighborhood of their lives. The proud bearers of the bows and arrows stood guard a symbol of the pride of tribal life. But the celebration of the slaves of their existence was not tolerable to the owners of wealth. The Chief Mi! nister Antony, the Forest Minister Sudhakaran and others understood the proclamation of self-rule in Muthanga as a challenge to the State. The Speaker of the law making Assembly proclaimed aloud that the Adivasis should be shot dead, despite the fact that the Adivasis did not do anything that could be construed as criminal.
Law and Order
Denial of Right to Act
Their development projects have till date neither saved wild life, nature or human beings. The remains! both the wiped out hills of Muthanga and the displaced Adivasis from Muthanga are proof of this development. Their last word is the AHADS (Attapady Hill Area Development Society a project set up with Japanese funding) model. In the ultimate analysis, only the crores from foreign loans that reach their hands are the prime moving force for human action. They forget that this is very much the key element that reproduces the criminal mafia culture in Kerala. There was immense potential for action in the collectivity of tribal life. Nature could be recreated. It is only that they should not be denied the opportunity to recover the rhythm of life. They tried this in Muthanga.
Racist Face of State Terror
All that they could get were the coins that lay scattered, broken vessels and thudis. What was burnt down was a culture! of a people. There has been attempts from different quarters to paint those areas in red colour with stories of extremism areas where for many years now those socially segregated from Keralas political map, especially the Adivasis and Dalits, have dared act. The professional human rights activists, journalists, the leadership in the ruling political system etc have done this. These are but modern tactics for racial isolation. At last they propagated that there were special intellectual centers to direct the Adivasis to wrong paths. The intention behind these was to ensure the destruction of the emergence of a new socio-political force from amongst the Adivasis and its transformation to a new force of renaissance. It is not possible to eliminate a process of renaissance through force of arms or false propaganda. The sections of people who attain consciousness of their own will some d! ay find a place of their own in a democratic society. A
ll peoples who are denied the rights to resources, social justice and self-rule will gain self-confidence from such struggles.
[Translated from the original Malayalam titled Muthangayilekkulla Thirichhupokku Oru Sathyavangmoolam released on 31 May 2003]