The mass movement against the controversial private airport project at Aranmula has picked up steam with an indefinite Satyagraha launched by an all-party Joint Action Council (JAC) chaired by social activist B. Sugathakumari on February 10.
Reminiscing the popular stir of the 1970s to protect the ecologically sensitive Silent Valley that attracted national attention, the ongoing movement at Aranmula too started attaining national attention with various socio-environmental and political leaders of repute started visiting this heritage village, extending solidarity with the agitation.
During his visit to the Aranmula Puncha (paddy land and wetland) a few months ago, Madhav Gadgil, ecologist, had observed that the proposed airport project, if implemented, would be highly disastrous to the environment, ecology, and even to the Pampa river.
There were also allegations that the private company, with strong political backing and bureaucratic support, had managed to obtain various clearances, in blatant violation of various key laws of the land.
The private company had even managed to get silent support of certain leaders of almost all mainstream political parties. They could even silence the villagers, airing loud promises and the protests raised by certain quarters remained a cry in the wilderness.Turning point
However, the entire issue took a new turn when the Aranmula Heritage Village Action Council with Kummanam Rajashekharan as its chief patron entered the scene when the government declared as many as 2,000 acres of land spread across the villages of Aranmula, Kidanganur, and Mallappuzhaserry as an industrial area in connection with the proposed private airport project.
Former District Collector V.N. Jithendran and Deputy Collector Abdul Samad, who had identified 232 acres of land in the possession of the private company as excess land, were shifted alleged at the behest of the land lobby.
The anti-airport stir witnessed an enviable unity of warring political groups when Ms. Sugathakumari came forward with a firm resolve to protect the Aranmula Puncha.Support
Prominent personalities, including V.S. Achuthanandan, Leader of the Opposition; V.M. Sudheeran, KPCC president; Pannian Raveendran, Benoy Viswom, Mullakkara Ratnakaran, and P. Prasad, all CPI leaders; N.K. Premachandran of the RSP; V. Muraleedharan, BJP State chief; V.S. Vijayan, former State Biodiversity Board chairman; Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad; Sangh Parivar organisations; CPI(ML) leaders; Church of South India; Geevarghese Mar Coorilos of the Jacobite Syrian Church; Peelipose Thomas, AICC member; K.K. Royson, JKPCC member; and others, lined up with a single point agenda of protecting the heritage village of Aranmula and the natural resources.
‘‘In its report submitted to the government, the Kerala Legislative Committee on Environment chaired by C.P. Mohammed of the Congress had strongly opposed the proposed private airport project at Aranmula. As many as 76 of the 140 MLAs in the State Legislature came out in writing opposing the project. Still the Chief Minister and his colleagues are for implementing the project and, no doubt, they will have to bow down before the people's will and power today or tomorrow,’’ says Ms. Sugathakumari.
Social activists Medha Patkar and Daya Bai too had extended their support to the action council.
Mr. Achuthanandan will address the Satyagraha on Thursday and Ms. Patkar is likely to address another public meeting at Aranmula in March.