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Victory for the Adivasi Land Struggle in Nilambur

Naveen Prasad Alex

The land struggle of the Adivasis of Nilambur, Kerala, has ended after 314 days of hunger strike. The decision is based on the agreement made with the Malappuram collector. The strike was ended on the condition that 50 cents of land would be given to the 60 landless tribal families within six months. The hunger strike started around 10 months ago against the ignorance of authorities towards the land rights of Adivasi communities of Nilambur. In 2009, the Supreme Court gave a final verdict accepting the demand of the tribals for the land. According to the order, the government has to give 538 acres of land to the landless tribals of Nilambur. But the decision was kept under wraps by the forest and tribal departments, despite the fact that the Supreme Court has clarified that there are 538 acres of forest land to be distributed in the Chaliyar, Chungathara, and Nilambur regions.

Strike leaders Bindu Vailasery and Geeta Aravind were on hunger strike in front of the Nilambur ITDP office. About 200 families belonging to the Adivasi community mobilised in this land struggle. Paniya, Naikka, Kuruma, and Ala tribes from 18 tribal colonies in Akampadam, Edavanna, Parekkad, and Mailadi areas of Chaliyar panchayat jointly protested. The Adivasis have been petitioning successive governments to get the forest land ordered by the Supreme Court for years, but only 278 acres have been cleared by the forest department and handed over to the revenue department. On the question of where the rest of the land is, the forest department’s stand was that it cannot be handed over as the land is crowded with trees. However, the Supreme Court explicitly states that 538 acres of forest land have to be handed over to the Adivasi community of Nilambur.


Bindu Vailasery                                                                                                                                   Geeta Aravind

“The government has identified 25 hectares of forest land for us in the district. However, they are trying to limit us by paying 10 or 20 cents to 1,000 applicants without giving them the land they deserve. If this is allowed, then we will never get our rightful land. We are 200 families who are protesting now. We are going to hire now. We have to live by farming. The government should provide land for it,” say the tribals. On May 10, the tribals started a strike in front of the ITDP office. Soon after, the Malappuram collector and deputy collector visited the protesters. The collector then told the protesters that there was no land to give, as demanded by the protesters. The protesters said that ITDP officials and the government are saying that they are ready to return the existing land for 20 cents.

The government authorities, who would rush to solve the issues of elite privileges, however, ignored the strike continuously. The MLA of Nilambur constituency, PV Anwar, repeatedly made comments like ‘‘the anti-government forces are behind the strike.’’ He even challenged the strike publically, saying, ‘‘Let’s see how long this goes.” This statement comes from the racist mentality that Adivasi communities are not capable of mobilising for their own rights. However, the Adivasis faced all these challenges and continued the strike for their constitutional rights. Short of funds and basic needs, including food, those who are on strike today will go to work the next day. The amount received is spent on the cause of the struggle. This was their life for several days. Human rights activists A. Vasu (Grow Vasu) and Moyin Bappu and tribal activist C. K. Janu had visited the strike and expressed solidarity. Representatives of the Progressive Youth Movement (Purogamana Yuvajana Prasthanam) were also present throughout the strike. After 314 days of the brave hunger strike, after discussion with the collector, the strike ended on the condition that 50 cents of land would be given to the 60 landless tribal families within six months.


Naveen Prasad Alex is a master’s student in biological sciences at the University of Turku, Finland. He is a Junior Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences and has authored two books in Malayalam. He is also passionate about Anti-caste movements, Anthropology and politics.

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