Tension at Chengara over move to evict encroachers from estate
PATHANAMTHITTA: Reports that the police were preparing to evict all encroachers from the Kumabazha Estate of Harrisons Malayalam Ltd. at Chengara, near Konni, have led to a tense situation at the estate since Sunday evening.
As many as 3,000 encroachers assembled at the entry point of the Kurumbatty division of the estate on
Monday morning, raising slogans condemning the government’s alleged indifference towards their “long-pending demand” for land.
Many women carried cans of kerosene and petrol, threatening self-immolation in the event of police action.
Another ‘suicide squad’ of men perched on the rubber trees, with noose around their neck, threatening to hang themselves.
Barring two police constables posted outside the estate, no police force turned up till 11 a.m.
Sadhu Jana Vimochana Samyukta Vedi (SJVSV) leader Laha Gopalan, accompanied by P. Ramakrishnan, Kerala Dalit Federation State president; Sreeraman Koyyon, Adivasi Gothra Jana Sabha general convener; P.K. Radha and S.P. Manju, Kerala Dalit Mahila Federation State leaders; and Boban G.Nath, Dalit Youth Federation State general secretary; reached the spot at 11.30 a.m.
Addressing the encroachers, the leaders said the agitation for land by the landless poor, cutting across barriers of religion and caste, would continue till their “genuine demands” were met.
Hundreds of SJVSV workers, including women and children, had occupied the Kumbazha Estate on August 5 night, demanding five acres of land suitable for agriculture and Rs.50,000 in cash for each landless family.
According to the SJVSV leaders, the landless people, belonging to the poor sections among various backward and forward communities, pitched as many 3,000 tents in not less than 1,000 acres of the encroached land.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha and various progressive Christian forums, including the Kerala Council of Churches (KCC), have extended support to the SJVSV agitation.
Social activists Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy, BJP State president P. K. Krishnadas, KCC president Abraham Mar Paulose, PDP chief Abdul Nasir Maudany, and AGMS president C. K. Janu were among those who had visited the Kumbazha Estate extending solidarity to the agitation. Ms. Medha Patkar and Ms. Arundhati Roy had even compared the land struggle with that of Nandigram in West Bengal.
Meanwhile, District Superintendent of Police K.G. James told The Hindu that the police were bound to comply with the directive of the Kerala High Court to clear the encroachment before the deadline of March 7.
Mr. James said the police were exploring every possibility to comply with the Court directive without resorting to forcible measures.