Tribal people removed for attempting to take out march for forest rights

Members of six tribal communities attempted to take out a 120-km march from Valaparai Town to Coimbatore Collectorate on Monday.

Members of six tribal communities attempted to take out a 120-km march from Valaparai Town to Coimbatore Collectorate on Monday.  

As many as 185 tribal persons, including 94 women and children, were detained and removed by the police on Monday for attempting to take out a 120-km march from Valparai town to Coimbatore Collectorate to press their demand for inherent rights under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

Those who took part in the march were members of six tribal communities living in the limits of Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR).

The police stopped the march soon after it was started from the Gandhi statue in Valparai town. Those detained were released in the afternoon. The members of Kadar, Malasar, Malaimalasar, Muduvar, Pulayar and Eravalar communities had taken out the march under the leadership of tribal welfare activists.

“Though they have been residing in the limits of ATR for years as indigenous tribes, the Government was yet to accord them various rights ensured under the Forest Rights Act, such as individual rights to homestead and agricultural land, and community rights to collect forest produces other than timber. The aim of the long march was to draw the attention of authorities who are yet to realise inherent rights of these communities,” said tribal rights activist S. Thanaraj, who is also the State Co-ordinator of Ekta Parishad, Tamil Nadu.

Though police had denied permission for the march, people from the six tribal communities, activists, and supporters had assembled at Valparai town on Monday morning. They waited at the place as leaders were informed that the Sub-Collector and District Forest Officer of Pollachi forest division would come to Valparai and talk to them.

As the officials did not come, they started the march after garlanding Gandhi statue. However, the police led by Deputy Superintendent of Police, Valparai, stopped them around 30 metres from the statue.

“We cooperated with the police as we planned a non-violent way of protest based on Gandhian principles,” said Mr. Thanaraj.

One of the main reasons that triggered the long march was the eviction of 23 families of Kallar Kadar settlement from ATR in August last year. They were shifted to an unused and dilapidated quarters of a tea estate at Thaimudi near Valparai on August 20 and forced to live there in the unfamiliar environment outside forest since then.

With the march stopped and participants detained, several shops and establishments in Valparai town remained shut on Monday.

As per old Forest Department records, nearly 6,000 people belonging to the six communities were living in 35 settlements in the limits of ATR.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 1:15:55 PM |

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