Agitation to be on the lines of Silent Valley protest

A meeting of leaders of political parties, socio-environmental organisations, and people’s action councils on Saturday decided to intensify agitation against the private airport project at Aranmula that will require large conversion of paddy fields and wetland. A joint action council was formed and the meeting decided that Sugathakumari, poet and social activist, will lead the agitation.

It further decided to extend the agitation to State capital too soon. Ms Sugathakumari will convene a meeting of socio-political leaders and environmentalists, including V.S. Achuthanandan, Leader of the Opposition; Pannian Ravindran, CPI State secretary; V. Muraleedharan, BJP State president; V.M. Sudheeran, Congress leader; T.M. Thomas Isaac and Mullakkara Ratnakaran, former Ministers; K. Muraleedharan, and T.N. Prathapan, MLAs; in Thiruvananthapuram soon to chalk out the future course of action.

Addressing the meeting held in front of a sacred grove in the courtyard of her Vazhuvelil ‘tharavadu’ in Aranmula, the poet said the agitation was the beginning of a historic struggle to protect the remaining paddy lands and wetlands in the State and across the country.

“The agitation will be an all-inclusive one having representation of all political parties. The joint action council will be a common platform for all like-minded people who firmly stand for protection of paddy land and wetland, and conservation of streams, rivers, nature and environment,” she said.

Ms. Sugathakumari said the agitation would be sponsored by the common man against the “evil forces with money power and political might.” “The people of Kerala will show the forces behind the project that the State’s paddy lands are well-guarded.” She said the agitation would be State-wide, on the lines of the mass movement of 1980s to protect the Silent Valley.

Addressing the meeting, Mr. Ratnakaran said the move to establish a greenfield airport and aeropolis with governmental support in Aranmula was only a test dose. “If the unholy land lobby-politician-bureaucrat nexus succeeds in implementing the project, it will be the beginning of a disastrous end to the remaining paddy lands and wetlands in the country.”

V.S. Vijayan, former Kerala State Biodiversity Board chairman; Kummanam Rajashekharan, Thiruvaranmula Pairthruka Grama Karma Samiti chief patron; Sasidharan Pilai, Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad State vice-president; Gopalankutty Master, RSS State chief; T.K.G. Nair, A. Padmakumar, R.Ajyakumar, CPI(M) leaders; K. Surendran and R. Umakanthan, BJP State-level leaders; P. Prasad, CPI district secretary; Usha of ‘Thanal’ environmental organisation; Thomas Joseph of RSP; and V.N. Gopinatha Pillai and K.A.Varghese, Kerala River Protection Council leaders, were among those who addressed the meeting.

The participants later visited the landless families attached to the Kerala Karshaka Sanghom who have been staging agitation by pitching sheds at the illegally converted paddy land at the Aranmula Puncha. As many as 300 families have been camping in make-shift tents at the converted land for the past two months.

Addressing the Karshaka Sanghom families there, Ms. Sugathakumari announced the joint action council’s support to their struggle.

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