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PUCL Bulletin, May 2004

P.K. Prakash’s acceptance speech
23rd PUCL Journalism for Human Rights Award

– P.K. Prakash Reporter Madhyamam, Kerala

I receive the 23rd PUCL award representing Madhyamam, a Malayalam daily that represents the marginalized sections of the society. As Mr. Kuldip Nayyar inaugurated it in 1987, the daily vowed to speak for the speechless. After 17 years as I stand before the very same doyen of Indian journalism to accept this award, let me proudly tell you that we haven’t moved an inch from our proclaimed ends.

Madhyamam is in constant struggle with the power centers, vehemently representing the issues of the victims of exploitation in the neo-colonial world. Adivasis, dalits, minorities, women... all the suppressed are realistically expressed through this daily. This policy inspires the daily to stand against the invasions of the state on the rights of the Adivasis and to act a major role in opinion formation to assure democratic rights for them. The same policy of the daily is the motive force for me to get involved and react in the Adivasi land issue.

In Muthanga the demand of the Adivasis for a bit of land to survive was answered with guns. The landless Adivasis who constructed their huts in Muthanga of Wayanad were evicted by the government through brutal police firing resulting in cold blooded murders. The protest at Muthanga was spurred up by the disappointment of the Adivasis after years of fruitless waiting for life and land. Ignoring all rules and regulations, the police fired eighteen rounds against the crowd comprising women and children of all ages. The police violence against the Adivasis lasted for about twenty hours. Even women and small children were imprisoned, and were brutally tortured. The huts were destroyed and the woods were burned. The toll of death is still under suspicion. The deaths of an Adivasi named Jogi and Vinod, a police man are registered in the police records. The members of the media who reported the event were beaten up and trapped in forged police cases.
Adivasi leaders C.K. Janu and Geethanandhan were imprisoned and brutally tortured. Muthanga episode marks the greatest human rights violation ever occurred in Kerala history. For Adivasis it had been the same in the past and is going on in the present.

Land issue is the major crisis before the Adivasis of Kerala. After centuries of invasions the Adivasis who dwelled in the forests with their own social and economic system now end up without land even to bury the dead.
This invasion of the Adivasi land has started during the British colonisation and is continuing with the neo colonial era. The British first invaded the Adivasi land for wood. Later this developed into the establishment of estates. Following the British the estate owners and local invaders exploited the Adivasi land. Then it was the government’s turn. The exploitation was under the pretext of wild life sanctuaries, hydro electric projects and other development projects. In the neo colonial era the world bank and the multinational companies continue the exploitation in the name of the protection of the biomass.

Adivasi’s knowledge of the biodiversity got patented. American companies own the Adivasi knowledge of many medicinal herbs. Now under the pretext of biodiversity protection the Adivasis are losing even the remaining land in their hands. The Adivasi community itself is being wiped out due to poverty, diseases, and through family planning projects of the government. The state of the Adivasis exposes the emptiness of the Kerala model development campaign. The projected so called basics of the Kerala model development such as land reform, education, and refined medical facilities are never extended to the Adivasis. Even their organs including kidneys were exploited for the rich. (I received the special PUCL Jury award for bringing out this issue last year).

Number of unmarried mothers aggregates among the Adivasis. Diseases like sickle cell anemia turn fatal to the community. The sexual exploitation of the Adivasi girls reflects the severity of the cancerous human rights violation against this community, that comes to about only one percent of the population of the state.

Any study about the Adivasis of Kerala begins and ends in their land crisis. Many studies have been conducted about the state of Adivasis in Kerala. News papers and magazines have many times reported the issues faced by the Adivasi society. Many organisations and individuals have come forward to protect the Adivasis from extinction.

A political beginning for the struggle for Adivasi rights was pioneered by martyr Varghese, a naxalite known among the Adivasis as Peruman. The struggle is now carried out by leaders from within like Janu and Geethanandan. Yet the genocide still goes on. I cannot find an answer to the question, or all answers seem meaningless in the severity of their sufferings.

Pointing out all these realities through my series we demanded the retrieval of the Adivasi ownership of the forest land, the right for the Adivasis to collect products from the forest other than wood and to ensure autonomous zone to the Adivasis. On behalf of Madhyamam Daily and also personally I extend hearty gratitude to PUCL for selecting this series and the articles for the award and also for actively taking part in the Adivasi related issues of Kerala.

The terrible plight of the Adivasis in Muthanga and also at Plachimada where the Coco Cola company constantly exploits them are portrayed in the documentary Evicted from Justice. I hope the documentary enlighten you about the serious Human rights violation taking place in these places.
Thank you.

 

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