Developments not due to linguistic discrimination, say Kerala officials

Attempts to implement an Act to ensure that tribals keep their land in Attappady have only stirred up a fresh row, causing displacement fears in hundreds of Tamil-speaking people.

Every day, Tamil Nadu politicians visit Attappady to extend support to these people, who are at odds with the Kerala State Tribals (Restriction on Transfer of Lands and Restoration of Alienated lands) Act of 1975, amended in 1999. The Kerala State Linguistic Minority Welfare Association Conference is scheduled to discuss this issue at Attappady on Wednesday.

Kerala officials clarify that the developments are not due to linguistic discrimination, but are only in compliance with the law and court directions for restoration of tribal rights. But Tamils contradict the official version, saying the land surrender notices circumvent the concessions provided for in the Act. There was a serious flaw in the interpretation of the law, and this affected Tamil settlers.

The government introduced the Act in 1975 following reports of people from other places buying acres of land at throwaway prices from tribals and also because of a change in the demographic profile of the region. Tribals started applying for restoration of land from 1986. As on date, the administration has handled 732 cases of Tribal Land Alienation (TLA).

The amended Act offered a concession: people who bought land from 1960 to 1986 (till the rules were laid down) could retain up to five acres and surrender the rest to tribals, S. Karthikeyan, Sub-Collector of the Ottappalam Revenue Division, told The Hindu.

Tribal welfare associations moved the Supreme Court challenging the amended Act of 1999. Going by the promises and conditions laid down in the amended Act, the apex court validated it in 2009.

Thereafter, orders were issued on 167 Tribal Land Alienation cases pertaining to 77 people. In fact, of the 77 people, only 19 are from Tamil Nadu. Thirteen persons have so far volunteered to surrender their land, he said.

Tamil settlers say the ground reality was different from the statistics, promises and concessions in the amended Act.

There were 1,430 cases before the Sub-Collector; orders have been issued on 729 TLA cases seeking surrender of 2,304.72 acres.

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