Dalit Upsurge and the Politics of Land – Chalo Thiruvananthapuram!

 

S. Mrudaladevi

mrudula sasidharanThe invader-friend can write or say anything about despotism, authoritarianism or anarchy experienced by the oppressed. It is part of his cunning effort to mask the exploitation of the subjugated class. When this masked friend warns us of being oppressed by the exploiters, he becomes dearer to the oppressor. In this process, unknowingly, the issues and the language of the oppressed are carried over to the invader-friend. At the same time, the subjugated beings get a certain satisfaction by transferring the power of control over their thoughts and actions to the invader-friend, who becomes the new hero of the oppressed.

The story of the Robinson Crusoe and Man Friday is the best example of this. It is a global phenomenon. In the critical view of the colonization of India in our history books, we see that the British considered the same thing as a 'civilizing' movement carried out by them.

Sitting in a casteless society, Karl Marx wrote in the 'Das Capital' about the inequality of haves and have-nots. Probably because of the experience of living in a casteless society, he had forgotten to write about the caste hierarchy found in caste societies. When the Marxist Doctrine anchored itself in the shores of Kerala, it materialized as land reformation, which aimed to put the Dalits in the so-called "mainstream". The literature as well as films and dramas created after the so- called land reformation portrayed the mild upheaval of the upper class as a catastrophe that had to be avoided, and pointed the accusing finger at Dalits.

A nation cannot be said to be 'developed', without the empowerment of the deprived, marginalised and the women. The question of 'Where to stockpile?' is as important as the questions of 'What to produce, how to produce, and for whom to produce?'

Entrapped in the land reformation implemented by the Left governments of Kerala, the natives were prompted to take over 3 cents of land per family. The wordings - Agraharas, Illams or Manas (Brahmins' dwelling place) for the upper-castes and 'Colonies' (or settlements) for Dalits and Tribes were a clear proof of the general public's outlook. The culture of 'The Hindu, Filter Coffee and Carnatic Music' flourishes in the former spaces, while malnutrition and cultural degradation are the symbols of the latter.

If the families were provided with at least one acre of land each, the Dalits and Tribes could have strived for a better living by farming in their own land. But with the Three-Cents-of-Land, they had no other option than to once again become labourers for the same old landlords. It was nothing but modern slavery in masquerade. Farming lands were transferred to land owners instead of farmers. Here lies the significance of the earlier question of 'Where to stock pile?' The ownership of farmland ultimately reached the hands of vested interests. The owners who grabbed the farmland and livestock without a single drop of sweat, turned the real owners of the farmland into 'skilled labourers'. In effect, the land reformation law upheld the prevailing caste-based feudalism with some buffing up here and there. The term 'feudalism' disappeared from the social scenario, but the state-of-affairs continued without much change - it can be better termed as Caste-Marxism.

Chalo Thiruvananthapuram!

A Two-day Land Rights Declaration Meet held at the Sahithya Academy hall in Thrissur on October 15th and 16th demanded equal rights for land, housing, power and justice for Dalits and Tribes. The summit was inaugurated by Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani, who was the face of the Una Movement.

There is no doubt that any group of people can get empowered if it can get a hold of these four requirements - land, housing, power and justice. At the meet, it was decided that a people's march - Chalo Thiruvananthapuram – shall be organized on Republic Day, January 26, 2016, led by Jignesh Mevani. The aim of the movement is to abolish Dalit and Tribal colonies and demand 5 acres of land to each landless family from the five lakh acres of Government-owned farmland.

Farmland should go to the farmers and not to the land owners. Dalits should not be marginalized in the dreamland of the Socialist Republic of India by allotting just 3 cents of land to live in. They are demanding their rightful share, backed by all the real statistics.

We don't want a 3-cent piece from the 7324 acre birthday cake; we have found a very big portion that has been kept hidden in the Borma (bakery). Take it out and divide it into 5 acre pieces, and don't try to blow out the candle before starting the party.

There should be wide publicity and propaganda for the Chalo Thiruvanathapuram movement to make it more vibrant. There should be a widespread communion of all deprived masses like Dalits, Tribes, Transgender groups and others in this movement, to push forward the demand of equal rights for land, housing, power and justice for the deprived, before the public and the government. The need of the hour is for all like-minded masses to come together to attain the above goal.

Translated from Malayalam by Premchand Cheriyath. The article was originally published in the Malayalam online news portal "Nava Malayali".

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Mruduladevi Sasidharan is a Dalit activist, Poet, Journalist and also the Editorial Board member of Malayalam Magazine 'Paada Bhedham".

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