PUCL Bulletin, April 2003

Adivasis shot dead by police in Wayanad, Kerala
-- By C.R. Bijoy

Also, Brutal killings of Adivasis at Wayanad - Demands and observations, April 2003

Brutal killing of Adivasis in Wayanad condemned--Letter to the Prime Minister by Bihar and Begusarai PUCL April 2003

Statement against police firings on adivasis in Muthanga, March 2003

The police and forest officials along with the Kerala Armed Police moved in today into the Muthanga range of Wayanad wild life sanctuary of Wayanad in Kerala where the adivasis under the leadership of the chairperson C.K Janu of Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha and Geethanandan of Adivasi-Dalit Samara Samithy.
Over 1100 adivasi families protesting against the non-implementation of the agreement reached between them and the government had occupied some 5000 acres of cleared forests of the Muthanga range in Wayanad wild life sanctuary on 4 January 2003.

Over 750 huts were put up. On 17 February 2003, 21 persons mostly forest department officials and police along with hired labour were caught red-handed setting fire to the forests by the adivasis. The fire was set on to the forest as part of the conspiracy to use that as an excuse to assault the adivasis. On 18 February the collector of Wayanad had come and recorded the statement of those caught setting fire and the culprits were released. Heavy police contingents had been rushed to the area.

On 19 February afternoon police commenced the assault on the peaceful adivasis brutally and some 32 were injured that included adivasi women and children. Subsequent police assault continued. The media who were covering the issue were driven away, cameras smashed etc. By evening the police opened fire and hunted down the adivasis where some 15-20 (unconfirmed) adivasis suspected killed. Numerous adivasis are injured. There are suspicions that under cover of darkness dead bodies are disposed off in the forest. Numerous missing. Tension has mounted in the hill regions.

Background In the wake of starvation death of 32 Adivasi men, women and children since mid-July 2001, the Adivasi-Dalit Samara Samithy launched an agitation in front of the Secretariat and Chief Minister A.K Antony's residence in the capital, Thiruvananthapuram on 30 August 2001. Refugee camps were set up. The struggle spread. The death of Adivasis were consequent to the situation of landlessness and denial of the rights to resources and land.

The following facts compounded the justification for the struggle, especially the continued injustice and willful violation of the laws and constitution of the country:

1. The Kerala (Restriction on Transfer of Lands and Restoration of Alienated Lands) Act 1975 was not implemented despite the High Court order of 1993. A mere 7500 acres of alienated lands could go to some 4500 in a state where there are some 3.5 lakh Adivasis of whom by now 80% would be landless. The law was replaced by another Act, the Kerala Restriction on Transfer and Restoration of Lands to Scheduled Tribes Bill in 1999, which the High Court struck down as unconstitutional and now rests with the Supreme Court to decide.

2. The Kerala Private Forest (Vesting and Assignment) Act of 1972 stipulates that 56,833 acres of land should be given to Adivasis for cultivation, which has not been implemented. The thousands of hectares of land in the name of numerous Adivasi rehabilitation projects held by the various government departments of over 40,000 acres which were to be handed over to Adivasis forming into cooperatives were not been in effect carried out.

September 6: Chief Minister A.K Antony holds talks with the leaders. A number of immediate demands were agreed to as: o Tribal development programme being funded from the general budget would henceforth be carried out through the Tribal Development Department instead of the three tier Panchayats; o Setting up of committees at the state (headed by the Chief Minister) and district level official committees; o Free rations for all Adivasis for another 2 months; 10 Kg of rice per month for all the Adivasis who were incapacitated; o Restoration of full rights for the collection of minor forest produce; o Reservation of 90% of the jobs in the forest department for Adivasis; o Serious investigation into all cases involving exploitation, murder and rape of Adivasis;

October 3: The first ever call and meeting of the "Gothra Mahasabha" (Grand Council of Adivasis) held. Approves the actions and decisions of the Samara Samithy and decide to intensify and spread the struggle to other parts of the state. A mass rally of about 10,000 held in the city in which two thirds were Adivasis while the rest primarily dalits and others.

October 16: The Sub-Committee headed by Chief Minister along with some of his colleagues hold talks with the Samara Samithy in the evening, agrees to all the pending demands, especially 5 acres in principle to all the Adivasis having less than 1 acre of land and on the decision that the Adivasi areas in the state would be included as "Scheduled Area" under V Schedule. With the announcement of the details of the agreement to the media, the Samara Samithy declared the end of the present form of struggle. The (a) land up to 5 acres to the landless and to those having less than an acre, (b) a cabinet resolution to declare all tribal habitations in Kerala as Scheduled Area under Article 244 would be passed (c) the supreme court judgement on the 1999 Act would be implemented (d) a Tribal Mission would be constituted to implement the agreement.

On Implementation: The government identified 22,491 landless Adivasi families identified and 30,981 families having less than an acre. That is a total of 53,472 families to be receiving lands. 59,452 acres of lands were identified to be handed to the Adivasis as on 1 January 2002. Land allocation commenced on 1 January 2002. Less than 600 families were allotted land during the past 16 months amounting to a mere 1.6 percent of 2.2 percent land identified. Very soon the Tribal Mission was reconstituted and literally ceased to function. Land allotment stopped. After having given the government over a year to implement what it agreed to the Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha (the grand assembly of Adivasis of Kerala that emerged during the struggle) declared that they shall implement what the government agreed to and failed to do

. It is in this context, that the Adivasis marched into the Muthanga range in Wayanad Wild Life Sanctuary on 4 January 2003.

-- C.R. Bijoy, Doctor's Quarters, Sri Ramakrishna Hospital, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu-641 044


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