Seventy years have passed since Independence, but the condition of tribals in Kerala remain regrettable, given that their fight for the rightful claim over their living space continues. Acre by acre, while the mafia has been grabbing land, a silent dispossession of tribals from their lands has been taking place. What now remains for tribals are settlement colonies designed and dictated by those in power.
Though the tribals long for a lifestyle of their choice, the reconstruction of the nation after Independence has not benefited them even after the state government enacted the Kerala Land Reforms Act.
No successive governments has been able to have a sustained engagement with tribals who lost their homelands. A bigger struggle for our due rights is in the offing, and it will be one of the biggest coming together of tribals in the state after Chengara and Muthanga.
The tribal population is central to the nation’s history, but I think there has been a concerted effort to erase them, strip them off their true identity and force them out of their traditional livelihood practices, primarily agriculture.
We may be a minority but our struggles in the last 70 years pose a fatal challenge to new narratives laid out by politicians who operate hand in glove with the land mafia.
Each government repeatedly claims they have given us flats and housing colonies to live in. But we don’t want these flats.
Many people have a conviction that the successive governments in the last 50 years have taken up a lot of welfare measures for us, but the reality is they want us to live a life dictated by them. In truth, the protection of tribal rights in all these years was neither well-defined nor contiguous.
(As told to Ajay Kanth)