Antony scores a political point in tribal 'victory'

From R Gopakumar

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, Oct 21: Kerala's tribal agitation which stayed in glaring media limelight for almost the whole of its 48-day-long period has put the CPM in a piquant situation with its belated realisation that Chief Minister Antony stood to benefit immensely from the settlement reached in the end. The fact that Mr Antony showed the earnestness to resolve the tribal problem and the wide public support that the tribals received certainly do not bring any cheers to the CPM leadership.

However, few believe that the last had been heard of the tribal land problem which had been lying neglected for years. Just as the Adivasi-Dalit action council and the UDF government thrashed out an agreement on the issue of tribal land distribution, the CPM organised an adivasi rights proclamation function in Kozhikode where it called the action council leader, Ms C K Janu, a stooge of the UDF government and alleged that the whole agitation was sponsored by the Antony government.

CPM State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan who addressed the function spewed venom at Ms Janu and Mr Antony at the function saying that Mr Antony's sole intention was to reap personal credit for ''having solved the tribal problem '' while in reality he had done nothing more than what the previous LDF did for the tribals. He also accused Ms Janu of having subjugated the rights of tribals to the whims of the UDF leaders.Mr Vijayan points out that one acre of land for the tribals was already pledged by the LDF government which it even distributed it in some areas.

According to him and other leftist tribal organisations, restoration of the alienated land was the need of the hour, a demand which Ms Janu's action council did not press for 'pragmatically'. It is common knowledge that the settlers who had taken possession of such land had developed them over the years and were reaping good dividends. To restore them to the tribals was a politically impractical proposition which the CPM leaders know very well. Or otherwise, it would have taken steps during its tenure to restore the land to the tribals.

Ms Janu and her council had been adamant on getting 5 acres for each displaced tribal family and had not given in to the doles offered by the Antony government on its other demands. She stood by the demand till the end and finally Mr Antony had to commit that upto 5 acres would be given to each family depending on land availability in their areas. The council considers the government's acceptance of this demand as a major victory. The government also identified upto 42,000 acres for distribution in various districts.

The CPM on its part criticised the Antony government's decision to distribute the land available under various tribal development projects to the Adivasis as part of the UDF government's 'sinister' privatisation moves. However, it has been widely acknowledged that all these projects which devoured huge funds had only benefited the officials and not the tribals in the past few decades.

The CPM has threatened to launch an agitation if there was any delay in the scheduled distribution of land from January 1 next year as had been promised by the government. However, Ms Janu herself has said that her council had not abandoned its agitation and that they would relaunch it if the government failed to honour its commitment. She had also made it clear that the tribals would erect huts at the various tribal development project areas in such an eventuality. The government had already set up a mechanism to review the progress of the tribal welfare programmes including the setting up of a cabinet sub-committee to ensure that its word is kept.

Ms Janu yesterday said that the CPM was trying to twist the victory of the tribal agitation as part of a face-saving exercise since the starvation deaths which sparked their agitation were primarily the creation of the LDF government.

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Referred by:: Benjamin P Kaila
Published on:22 oct, 2001
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