KERALA

BJYM activists attack DMO office

KOZHIKODE DEC. 4. Even as a Government-appointed committee began its inquiry into allegations of mass sterilisation of tribal people in Wayanad, activists of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) today stormed the office of the Wayanad District Medical Officer (DMO) at Manantavadi.

The demonstrators, who were protesting against the alleged mass sterilization of tribes, broke through a cordon of policemen posted on duty in front of the DMO Office and broke windowpanes of the building. A strong police posse that reached the scene later brought the situation under control. Nearly 200 demonstrators were removed by the police to restore order.

Meanwhile, the Government inquiry conducted by the Additional Director of Health Services, Kuttamani, Ravi Varma and Jinan into the startling allegation began today.

The Wayanad District Medical Officer (DMO) has strongly refuted the allegation. But the BJP and a section of Youth Congress as well as voluntary agencies like the Prakrithi Samrakshana Samiti, Solidarity and the Kerala Gothra Mahasabha have condemned it as part of a conspiracy to annihilate tribal people.

The authorities maintained that groups that wanted to create trouble to promote their own interests and nursed a grudge against the DMO were behind the controversy.

The alleged mass sterilisation of tribes is reported to have taken place under the Central Government's Reproductive Child Healthcare Programme. The ongoing inquiry would reveal if the norms to be followed in sterilisation were followed and whether anyone had been forcibly sterilised.

The authorities contend that since the district has a large tribal population, it is natural for a large number of tribal people to figure in lists of persons who attended sterilisation camps and hence it was not logical, in such a situation, to allege that mass sterilisation of tribes had taken place.

According to the groups that have raised the allegation, as many as 1,090 persons out of the 1,230 who were sterilised this year are members of Scheduled Tribes. It is also alleged that the doctors who conducted the surgery had not undergone training to do the job.

The DMO, Sasi Kumar, however, has refuted these charges. He said the total number of persons who had undergone sterilisation in the district between April 1 and November 30 was 4,728. Of them, only 755 were tribes. Since there was no target set for sterilisation, the charge that mass sterilisation was done to reach the target was also baseless, he said. The secretary of the Wayanad Prakrithi Samrakshana Samiti, Thomas Ambalavayal, has appealed to the Chief Minister to halt all programmes for sterilisation of Adivasis since the tribal population in Wayanad has not been growing.

The Chief Minister, A.K. Antony, has called for a report on this issue from the Wayanad Collector. Speaking to The Hindu today, the Wayanad District Collector, K. Gopalan, said he would submit the report as soon as the Chief Minister returned from Delhi. He already had received a report from the DMO.

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