Vedi workers injured in clashes, leadership blames CPI(M)

The two-year old land struggle launched by Sadhu Jana Vimochana Samyukta Vedi (SJVSV) at Kumbazha Estate in Chengara near here took a new turn with a group of Vedi activists turning against the leadership leading to clashes between the pro and anti leadership factions at the occupied land the other day.

A section of SJVSV activists camping at Chengara accused the Vedi leadership of fleecing the landless Vedi workers in the name of fund collection. They alleged that the president Laha Gopalan and his ‘men’ were collecting an “unreasonable” sum from each landless family camping at Chengara towards the office complex construction fund.

The situation turned tense when a section of the encroachers questioned the fund collection, termed grossly ‘unjustifiable’, considering their daily meagre income. A group of SJVSV activists registered their protest at the Vedi office itself which took a violent turn on Friday.

The rift in the Vedi camp came to the fore with open clashes between the two factions that followed at the occupied land. As many as eight persons were admitted to Pathanamthitta General Hospital, later.

Vedi leader blames CPI(M)

Meanwhile, Mr. Gopalan alleged that the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) was behind the chaos in Chengara. The CPI(M) was trying to create a rift in the SJVSV ranks in an effort to infiltrate into the occupied land and to create confusion. The clashes at the Vedi office in Pathanamthitta and at the occupied land in Chengara should be viewed in that perspective, he alleged.

Retreats from earlier stand

However, Mr. Gopalan had also taken a ‘safe’ retreat from his earlier stand that certain Maoist elements were behind the clashes between the two groups at Chegara.

The Vedi leader told The Hindu that he had to change his initial stand seeing the CPI(M) activists extending open support to the trouble-makers at Chengara.

He said 20 Vedi members have been suspended for unleashing violence in Chengara. Mr. Gopalan said the 20 families who were party to the clashes would not be permitted to return to Chengara from the hospital.

The Vedi leader also cautioned the police of dire consequences, if the 20 families were permitted to return to their make-shift dwellings in Chengara.

Lauds government stand

Mr. Gopalan said it was a welcome step on the part of the government to take certain serious initiatives to resolve the Chengra land struggle.

He said the reported government move to allot land for all landless people in Chengara should be appreciated. However, there is no question of vacating the occupied land prior to the allotment of land to all landless people camping at Chengara, he said.

Mr. Gopalan also said the Vedi would not retreat from its stand that one acre land should be allotted to each landless Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe family camping at Chengara.

Police warning

Meanwhile, the Police Special Branch had reportedly hinted at the possibility of violence in Chengara as many encroachers were unhappy with the functioning of the Vedi leadership.

The recent clashes that had further worsened the Chengara imbroglio is ample testimony to the problems in store at the occupied land, says a local resident.

Hundreds of SJVSV workers have encroached upon the of the Kumbzha Estate of Harisson Malayalam Limited, August 5, 2007, protesting against the government’s “indifferent attitude” towards their demand for five acres of farm land and cash worth Rs. 50,000 towards initial farming expenses to each landless family.

Mr. Gopalan claimed that the landless poor camping at Chengara belonged to all sections of the society, including Brahmins, Nairs, Ezhavas, Christians and Muslims. The Vedi activists have pitched hundreds of tents in a vast expanse of the rubber estate, dividing it into six divisions.

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