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  • Janu continues campaign for tribal rights in Kerala

    The Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha (AGMS) says it will launch a two-week campaign to `sensitise’ people from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram, and renew its pledge to fight for the rights of landless tribals. The campaign will be spearheaded by AGMS president C K Janu and M Geethanandan, general convener of the Adivasi-Dalit Samara Samithy.

    The campaign will highlight its version of the Muthanga incident, which took place on February 19, 2003, when agitators who had reclaimed land near the Muthanga pass in the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary were forcibly evicted by the state after pitched battles with the police and forest department officials.

    Leaders of the AGMS say they will emphasise the need for tribal self-rule in tribal-dominated areas. This, they say, is in line with the provisions of the Indian Constitution.

    Geethanandan also expressed the hope that the campaign would help forge a common political front. “Such a front will, hopefully, be made up of AGMS, dalit human rights organisations and individuals who cherish democratic ideals,” he said. The AGMS plans to launch its campaign in Kasaragod, a town in north Kerala, on May 10, 2003.

    Geethanandan claimed that despite setbacks from the agitation in the Wayanad Sanctuary, there were certain gains too. The most obvious one, he said, was that the issue of tribal rights was placed at the top of the political agenda.

    Another achievement, he said, was that the Indian government had issued a circular to all state governments to freeze the implementation of a decision to resettle adivasis outside forests. It had, instead, asked for alternative land for tribal people within the forests.

    Janu stuck to her stand that the Muthanga pass was a wasteland that could not be termed a ‘wildlife sanctuary’. Therefore, the land should be returned to the tribal people, she argued.

    The AGMS has said that it is not averse to re-opening a dialogue with the government. However, the talks had to be comprehensive, said the leaders. They should cover not only issues related to land rights but aim at framing the rules that would provide for self-rule by tribal people in tribal-dominated areas of the state.

    The 1975 legislation regarding the restoration of alienated land to tribal people was not enough, AGMS leaders said. “It had to be supplemented by legislation that would provide for tribal self-rule.”

    Source: The Hindu

    April 29, 2003

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