Kerala

Where people live among the dead

A Malaya tribal settlement at Kadappara in which the dead are buried in close proximity to houses.– Photo: Shaji Mullookkaaran  

Encircled by concrete structures carrying remains of the dead, the Moorthikunnu settlement of Malaya tribal people here looks like an unusual graveyard.

“We all are forced to live in these 40 cents of rocky land. Here there are 18 huts and 23 graves on such a small patch and no cultivation is possible over the rocks. As far as the dead are concerned, there is no burial ground. We have no option other than erecting graves on top of the rocks in the close proximity of houses to bury the dead,” said Mathu, a tribal woman.

She is one among the 75 people belonging to 19 families which have occupied 22 acres of vested forestland in the locality seeking rights over the land under the Forest Rights Act. They have cleared the occupied land and started agricultural activities there.

Though ten days have gone since they launched an agitation, the political leadership and bureaucracy have chosen to ignore their demand.

Palakkad District Collector P. Marikutty has visited the area and warned the tribespeople of legal action.

“Though presently classified as forestland, the occupied area was surplus land taken back by the government from a local land lord. The land has no character of a forest and its four boundaries are agricultural lands occupied by settlers from Kottayam and Ernakulam districts. Settlers are occupying vast stretches here without government permission, but we are facing eviction,” said Velayudhan, a tribal man.

“All the 75 residents of the settlement are the great-grandchildren of tribal couple Chooran and Vella evicted forcibly from the Mangalam dam area decades ago when the irrigation dam was built. They were evicted without compensation. The extended family remained landless for long but a land slip in the area forced the authorities in the beginning of 1970s to give them 40 cents of land,” said R. Ratheesh, another tribal man.

The agitating tribal men said they had sought land under the Forest Rights Act eight years ago, but in vain. Their colony has no toilets, water connection and electricity, they added.


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Printable version | Oct 15, 2021 1:50:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/Where-people-live-among-the-dead/article14018901.ece

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