Government urged to implement court orders, at least in individual cases
The tribal people in the Attappady Hills have urged the government to implement various court orders restoring their alienated land.
In one case the Supreme Court, in 10 cases the Kerala High Court, and in 955 TLA cases the Revenue Divisional Officer had ordered restoration of 10,670 acres of tribal land in Attappady. But none of the orders were implemented.
The apex court on August 31, 2011 ordered restoration of three acres of land to Ponni and Kakki of Agali. The order by Justice Markandeya Katju and Justice C.K. Prasad said: “Tribal land belonged only to tribal people, whether it was encroached, sold or alienated.”
Attappady block panchayat president K.K. Usha Raju, an Adivasi, told The Hindu on Tuesday that “if the government has any genuine sympathy for the suffering tribal people, let them at least implement the court verdicts restoring alienated land in large number of individual cases.”
“If we get our land back, we will be able to cultivate it to meet our food needs. Then we will not have any health problem – our children will not die of malnutrition, our women will not become anaemic, and no Adivasi in Attappady will die of hunger and starvation,” she said.
Failure of projects
“The tribal people are not asking the government for any packages or financial help, though hundreds of crores of rupees were spent in our name. Now also many packages are being announced. But nobody asked us what we wanted. The Mooppan Councils, the Ooru Vikasana Samitis, the Thaikulam Sanghoms or any other tribal organisations were not consulted before planning a project. That was why almost all tribal empowerment programmes, including the Rs.219-crore Japan-aided AHADS project, had failed miserably in Attappady,” the pachayat chief said.
“Thus, the cardinal issue concerning the tribal people of Attappady is the land. Once they had owned enough land to have a decent life. But most of the fertile land was grabbed from them. Now most of them are landless. They were made wage labourers in their own land. In order to live in dignity, which is the fundamental right of every citizen, the land usurped from tribal people should be returned,” Ms. Usha Raju said.
The tribal head of Naikkarpady hamlet in Agali grama panchayat, Vaduka Mooppan, said, “Though there were numerous court orders, no government, whether it is the present United Democratic Front or the previous Left Democratic Front, was interested in restoring the alienated tribal land even as many epoch-making laws were enacted since 1975. Because of the vote bank politics, no political party wants to lose the support of non-tribal people who constitute nearly 99 per cent of the population in the State. In Attappady, the tribal population was once nearly 99 per cent, but now it is only 40 per cent.”
He said that the Ottapalam RDO had ordered (TLA case no.995) to restore his 1.2 hectares of land on October 10, 1995, but in vain.
“When we lost our land, we lost our food security. The influx of settlers resulted in the alienation of our land, destruction of our culture and environment. When the forest was lost, we lost a good part of our income and food source. We used to collect minor forest produce for a living. But all is lost now,” the Mooppan lamented.
Murugan, a young, educated activist of Thampu, an organisation working among tribal people, said that his family lost 15 acres of land in Vattulukky. Out of this, the RDO Court of Ottapalam had ordered restoration of 12 acres.
“We are running from pillar to post to get the order implemented. But no action was taken by the government authorities. Every time we see our land, we feel dejected and demoralised. This made us lose faith in government administration. As youngsters, we feel like revolting” he said.
P.R.G. Mathur, anthropologist and former Director of KIRTADS, said, “There is no justification in denying the tribal people their alienated land even after the court orders. This is the violation of the law of the land of the State. One can only describe it as a genocide perpetuated against the tribal community in Attappady.”
The situation in Attappady was explosive and the land issue should be solved to find a lasting solution to the serious problems of malnutrition, anaemia and starvation in this tribal heartland of the State, Dr. Mathur said.