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"We Will Continue The Struggle"

Statement by Kerala adivasi struggle leader CK Janu
April 12, 2003

The police firing in the Muthanga forest on February 19 and the incidents that followed have strengthened our conviction that the adivasis have no other option but to wage a relentless struggle for gaining land rights and establishing adivasi gram panchayats. The right to live on the land of birth is a fundamental right of every adivasi. However, by opening bullet fire on the adivasis in Muthanga, the Kerala Chief Minister Antony has sought to
submerge this right in a pool of blood. This denial of the right to live is a threat meted out by the State, not only against the adivasis, but also against the dalits, the landless and the poor in general.

We, the adivasis, hadn't attacked any one. Unleashing violence is not the programme of the adivasi gothra sabha. But we are being taught that, in order to assert our right to live on the land of our birth, we must resist all forms of power. Resist with an indomitable will power. The growth of this consciousness among the adivasis has disturbed Antony. Like any other criminal, he is now trying to cover up facts and destroy evidence. Till date, his government hasn't come up with even a plausible explanation for
the brutal police action let loose on hundreds of hapless adivasi
families -- an act akin to a military assault on an enemy country. During the attack on February 19, there was not even a moment when the police sought peaceful means for removing the adivasis from the Muthanga forests.

It's clear that the police action was driven by the oppressive, racial instinct shown against all minorities who seek to stand up and resist. And no one would believe that only one person was killed in the gunfire where the police showered several rounds of bullets against unarmed children, women and men. Nearly 30 people, including women and children, have not returned home after the incident. How many people were killed and buried by
the police hasn't yet been revealed. After the Muthanga firing, 31 children were shut behind bars: a clear indication of the State's fascist power soaring to maniacal heights. There was a total mockery of systems of administration and democracy. Several women, taken into custody in illegal ways, were kept in the Forest Inspection bungalow for three days and tortured and raped. And, yet, the Chief Minister of Kerala says the Police and the Forest Department officials were only obeying government orders!

Neither Antony, nor Sudhkaran, the minister for forests, can absolve themselves of the crime of creating an atmosphere of terror in the streets and the adivasis 'colonies' in Wayanad and Kannur. Of denying the adivasis even the basic citizen right of movement. It's an undisputed fact that the two were well informed of events that led to the firing at Muthanga and the atrocities that followed it. It's with a criminal's impulse for self-defence that the Kerala government then went about foisting false cases against the gothra sabha members as well as several innocent people including the Asianet Television journalist Ramdas and the DIET lecturer K.K.Surendran.

It has become clear by now that the Government had schemed to fabricate a link between the adivasi gothra sabha and extremist organisations such as the People's War Group (PWG). On February 22, the police had arrested Karthikeyan, an activist of a people's resistance forum, from Palakkad. Karthikeyan was totally unknown to adivasi gothra sabha members. He was
brought to Sulthan Bathery in Wayanad and kept in illegal custody for three days. It's obvious that the police had done this to turn him into a scapegoat in an 'encounter death' plotted to be enacted in the Muthanga forests. The timely intervention of the media, which reported Karthikeyan's arrest from Palakkad, prevented this fake 'Naxalite encounter killing'.

Neither Mr. Antony nor Mr. Sudhakaran has any right to continue in government. Despite several institutions of the national government and the democratic movements in the country demanding a judicial enquiry into the incident, Antony is not prepared to face a probe. He is not prepared to recognise adivasis as equal citizens. Yet, he continues in power, bearing
the gravity of his crime. This act of stubbornness and the incidents around Muthanga make us all the more convinced that a prolonged struggle of democratic forces in Kerala is inevitable for ensuring basic land rights and the right to live in the homeland.

The Antony government has by now totally abandoned the Tribal Rehabilitation and Development Mission (promised under the agreement between the Government and the Adivasi-Dalit Agitation Council in October 2001). The government has
also retracted on its submission to the National Human Rights Commission that Rs. 1450 crores would be earmarked during the 10th Plan for preventing starvation deaths among the adivasi communities and rehabilitating them. Only Rs. 14 crores have been earmarked for tribal rehabilitation in the current year (2003-2004) - roughly one fourth of the amount allotted in the previous year. This makes it clear that the Government has given up
programmes such as the acquisition of the Aralam Farm in Kannur district. The ruling United Democratic Front has also made it clear that they would not take up any land reforms measures during the 10th Plan.

In this context, the only option left before the adivasis is to go ahead with the struggle to secure land rights. The struggle has to be broadened with the involvement of all landless poor in the society. We welcome the declaration of the Left movements that they would make a claim to Government lands such as in the Aralam Farm. However, such movements need to understand
that finding a solution to the adivasi land issue requires a comprehensive vision.

Laws inevitable for protecting adivasi lands have not been enacted in Kerala so far. The adivasi ethos and identity can be protected and our social development ensured only if sufficient extents of land are brought under the rule of legally established adivasi gram panchayats. The ethnic ostracism, the witch-hunt and the denial of jobs that the adivasis in Wayanad face since the State repression in Muthanga underline the need for such a protective system. The Provisions of the Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA) has to be enacted along with the provision of land to the adivasis. The adivasis who took part in the struggle in Muthanga were recreating an autonomous village life in the spirit of the Act. The gothra sabha was in the process of evolving a plan for eco-restoration of the area the forest department had turned barren through its 'industrial forestry'. The outlines of the plan are now in the custody of the police. The democratic forces should demand that these should be made public and that stern action should be taken against those officials who set fire to the Muthanga wildlife sanctuary in the name of conserving it!

The resolve of the adivasi gothra sabha is to continue with the struggle. The gothra sabha will also evolve and implement, with people's participation, a programme for rehabilitating the adivasi families whose lives were scattered and shattered in Muthanga. The sabha will also shoulder the responsibility of providing assistance and ensuring educational facilities to the children of martyred Jogi and the other victims in

CK Janu