Idukki tribals demolish Engg. college building
(By Mukundan C. Menon)
Thiruvananthapuram, March 26 : The prolonged agitation of tribals in Kundalakudi, near Munnar in Idukki district of Kerala, against Government's starting the Munnar Engineering College on tribal land took a dramatic and aggressive turn yesterday when one of the three college buildings under construction was totally demolished. The demolition took place amidst the two-day "Tribal Land Protection Convention and Tribal Cultural Festival" at Kundalakudi on March 24-25 in which tribals from different parts of Kerala participated.
Although the Kundalakudi tribals were waging peaceful agitation for almost one year against starting of Munnar Engineering College on their land by uprooting tribal families, and despite securing a favourable stay order from the High Court, the LDF Government refused to heed to their demands. However, following yesterday's demolition, the Education Minister P. J. Joseph was quick to announce at a press conference held today at Kottayam that the tribal land taken for the college would be returned back to the tribals and that the college would locate elsewhere.
The Government had allotted a total of 62 acres of land at Kundalakudi for the college, including tribal lands. Kundalakudi has a total of 75 tribals belonging to the Muthuvan tribe. Acquiring land for the so-called Munnar Engineering College at Kundalakudi lacked reasoning since the place is nearly 30 kms. away from Munnar town. Curiously, the Government opted to locate the engineering college at Kundalakudi by displacing tribals despite vast areas of public land, including vested forest lands encroached by giants like Tata's Kannan Devan Tea, are available in and around Munnar town. Incidentally, Munnar is also a famous tourist hill-station in Travancore region of Kerala bordering Tamilnadu.
Ironically, the building demolished yesterday was originally a cattle-shed of the local tribals. After taking its possession by force and disregarding tribal protests, the Government had done renovation work to convert it into Engineering College building! At the same time, the Engineering College is functioning from Munnar Panchayat Community Hall since September 2001.
The tribal agitation, and the two-day Convention-cum-Cultural Festival, which culminated in the demolition, was led by Ms. C. K. Janu, leader of Tribal Land Protection Council from Wayanad, and E. Martin, Secretary of Kundalakudi Tribal Cooperative Society.