[Via Santhosh Kumar]
On January 29, 2017 “Chalo Thiruvananthapuram” movement heralds from the protest fronts of Chengara with the mission to ensure equal justice for the marginalised in the domains of land ownership, housing facilities, employment and rights to resources. Jignesh Mewani, the acclaimed leader who engineered the Una Protest March in Gujarat will inaugurate the event. This alternate scheme of protest is initiated to reclaim the lives of the marginalised people that were crushed under the rule of democracy during the past sixty years of our country. Within six decades after the formation of unified Keralam, Adivasis, Dalits, Dalit Christians, estate labourers, fishers, women, sexual minorities, backward communities, and linguistic-racial-religious minorities have been structurally ousted from the spheres of political and social dominance.
A majority of the population whose livelihood depended on resources from nature, soil, forest and freshwaters were cast away to colonies, slums and wastelands and made refugees on their homeland. There is not much difference in the policies and vision of the democratic governments that has been ruling the state from the foreign powers who once enslaved our countrymen and looted natural resources. No land reformation act affected the big estate or land owners in Kerala. It could not even make a dent on the existent caste system prevalent here. There was no special law enforcement to protect the rights to resources of Adivasi and Dalit communities that traditionally relied on forest, soil and other ecological resources. Though there were laws made to annihilate feudalism, farming lands were converted into estates. Those who were conferred permanent ownership of land immediately turned it into a commodity to reap profits. Today, corporates and land mafias reign over the agriculture land of Kerala.
The Rajamanikyam Report, authorised by the Government of Kerala clearly states that around 58 percent of the revenue land (that comes around 5 lakh acres of land) is kept under the custody of big shot companies like Harrison-Tata by means of false legal documents. The capitalist and caste forces that control the agriculture land in Kerala have methodically relocated around half a lakh of landless Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalised sections to ghettoes such as caste colonies. They were chased away to blocks of 3 cents or 4 cents of land. The government is planning to allocate 3 cents of land to the landless and a 327 square feet flat for nearly five lakh homeless people causing to colonise the already marginalised population further.
Kerala has faced a steady decline in the agricultural and industrial sector and is now threatened by the exploitation of the extant resources by the neo-rich. The cultivable land and the freshwater bodies are cleared up and the Western Ghats is poached for large-scale construction activities. The commodity culture rampant in Kerala is turning it into a garbage pile. Kerala has become a business haven for medical diseases with its education and health sector now commodified to the core.
A culture bereft of values, free thought and freedom to live is gaining dominance in our public sphere. Violence against women and children is mounting up day by day. Crime rate is also on the rise with the widespread use of alcohol and drugs. Violation of media rights and freedom along with violation of civil rights has been increasing. Violence against Dalit and Adivasi women has only become more common and more atrocious. There is cause for concern for us when democratic institutions of the state fail to uphold themselves. The weaker sections of the population are worried about the failing Kerala Model of Development. Each section of civil society is convinced that the systemic failure is caused by their respective ‘other’. This has in reality catalysed the emboldening of Hindu revivalist forces who sanction caste system and communalisation of the society. Though they maintain an active partnership in the strongholds of the state, Muslims are being warded off from the mainstream and are constantly subjected to ‘othering.’
In the last few decades, several social groups have come up to the front with alternate models of dissent to set right the deteriorating state of things in Kerala. Most of these movements aim for the right to means of livelihood other than the traditionally ordained ones, the establishment of a communal self and the annihilation of caste. They are chiefly constituted by Adivasis, Dalits, estate labourers, women, and traditional working societies. Numerous protest movements such as Muthanga, Chengara and Arippa that rose up for the liberation of their kindred people from caste ghettoes are milestones in our history. Thousands of landless people that include both women and children were imprisoned during these struggles. Several of them were wounded and killed in the gunfire and numerous protesters were tortured by the state police then. Many tried to immolate their lives for the cause. The state government was finally forced to accept most of the packages and deals the protesters demanded.
In the public political sphere of Kerala, the marginalised sections have vociferously demanded the closure of every caste-ghetto. However, the ruling political parties refuse to include the question of land in any of their agenda regarding planning and implementation. Casteism and caste hegemony is rife in there. They refuse to sanction the human rights of the protesters including those at Chengara. There are several other democratic uprisings that have found their foothold in Kerala. The most prominent among them are those against environmental destruction and for the protection of democratic rights with women and youth at their forefront. There are movements that have stood for communal equality. Still, organised political movements have not yet agreed to address and rewrite the Kerala Model Development plan or find solutions for the contemporary problems that Kerala faces. It is in this context that a new democratic movement is initiated to secure the rights to resources for the marginalised sections of Kerala. It is only by annihilating a social order reigned over by inequality engendered by caste system and corporate hegemony that we will be able to put in effect a new democratic movement.
After the inaugural programme at Chengara, a footmarch will begin from Kasargod on 01 April 2017 and will end in Thiruvananthapuram by the last week of May. The ‘Chalo Thiruvananthapuram’ footmarch that will cover Dalit- Adivasi- fishers’ colonies and slums is hoped to evolve into a new democratic movement of the marginalised in Kerala.
Following are the main demands of the organisation committee:
1. The government should confiscate five lakhs acres of estate that are illegally kept under the possession of multi-crore companies like Tata, Harrisons, and so on by enforcing new land laws.
2. Wipe out caste-colonies and enforce total land distribution programme.
3. Allocate land for Dalits and Adivasis to aid in the removal of caste colonies. Make use of the SCO/TSP funds to ensure employment for atleast one member of each family.
4. Hand over the power of recruitments in aided and public departments to PSC. Implement Agriculture Development Plan to resolve unemployment issues.
5. Enforce Marine Rights Law in coastal areas.
6. Implement Tribal Self-administrative Law and social and forestry rights law.
7. Protect and conserve Western Ghats. Protect and conserve rivers and freshwater bodies. Bring mining sectors under public ownership. Regulate building construction activities.
8. Withdraw law amendments on the allocation of agricultural land to housing activities. Ensure that the agricultural land is transferred only for its original use and purpose.
9. Make amendments on estate employment law. Ensure and protect the human rights of estate workers.
10. While executing ‘NeetiAyog’ (Justice Mission), ensure that a SC/STspecial sub-category is also instituted.
11. Withdraw administrative measures that estrange and ‘other’ religious and racial minorities.
12. Establish special plans for the emancipation of the most backward communities.
13. Enforce women protection laws strictly. Implement transgender protection plans.
14. Finish rehabilitation in the protest fronts of Muthanga, Chengara and Arippa. Safeguard and uphold Adivasi human rights.
15. Enforce and implement Dalit Women’s civil rights laws in the backdrop of incidents of Jisha and Sowmya.
16. Recognize the employment rights of the unorganised sectors.
17. Enforce child human rights laws.
18. Put an end to political murders. Reinstate progressive democratic politics in the state.
Member organisations and organisations that co-operate with Bhoo Adhikara Samrakshana Samithi.
Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha, CSDS, Kerala Dalit-Adivasi Munnetta Samithi, Kerala Cheramar Sangham, Kerala State Velan Sabha, Swathanthra mathsya thozhilali Federation, Chengara Development Society, Arippa BhoosamaraS amithi, DHRM, CPI(ML), Red Star, RMP, Kerala Pulaya Maha Sabha, Kerala Sambhavar Sabha, Forum for Right to Live, Kerala Dalit-Adivasi Federation, TUCI, Plachimada Samara Samithi, Collective for Right to Live, Janasakthi, Solidarity Youth Movement, Paristhithi Samrakshana Samithi – Pathanamthitta, RYFI, Paschimaghatta Samrakshana Ekopana Samithi, Welfare Party, PDP, Keraleeyam Masika, Sadhujana Paripalana Sangham, Onnippu Masika, Ambedkar Samskarika Samithi, Manushyavakasa Koottayma – Kodungalloor, Manusha Misravivaha Sangham, Society for Emerging Class, Kuttanadu Samrakshana Samithi, Women’s Voice, Periyar Samrakshana Samithi, Bharatiya Dalit Sahitya Academy, DCUF, Disa – Malappuram, Dravida Samskarika Sangham, Malathumpara Samara Samithi – Kasargod, Endosulfan Viruddha Samara Samithi, Samoohikanithi – Samskarika Koottayma, Pempilai Orumai, Theeradesa Mahila Vedi, DSS, RIGHTS, Deseeya Jana Vedi, Ambedkar Democratic Party of India, ASA, KDP, Periyar Rationalist Forum, Adisakthi, Ambedkar Foundation, Iringalakkuda Koottayma, NAPM, Lohya Vichara Vedi, Lokothara Leadership Academy, Saindhava Mozhi, Adhinivesha Prathirodha Samithi, Youth Dialogue, Kerala Pattikajathi-Pattikavarga Samithi, Adivasi Samrakshaka Sangham, SEWA, Dynamic Action, Adivasi Ekopana Samithi, Kerala Thirukkural Sangham, Appadu Bhoosamara Samithi – Wyanad, Nelliyampathi Bhoosamara Samithi, Vedan Gothra Sabha, Malavarga Mahajana Sangham, Adivasi Maha Sabha, T&R.Tea Estate Samara Samithi, DEEPA –Thrissur.
BHOO ADHIKARA SAMRAKSHANA SAMITHI
TR Sasi, (Chengara Development Society)
Sunny M. Kapikkad