This is a guest post by ASWATHY SENAN
The Nilppu Samaram (Standing Strike) by the Adivasis demanding their land rights started on 9-7-12 under the leadership of Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha (AGMS). The protesters stood for 162 days in front of the Secretariat, Thiruvananthapuram. This protest saw the support and intervention of people from all age group from various caste and religious communities (not under the banner of any particular political party or religious organisation) most of whom came to the protest space and stood with them to mark their solidarity. The government had to budge at the end under the pressure of the non-violent democratic protest of the adivasis backed by the civil society and on the 163rd day the ended their standing after the Government of Kerala agreed to all their demands on paper.
The Standing Strike came to a conclusion after a detailed and prolonged discussion commenced by the Honourable Minister of Welfare of Scheduled Tribes, P.K. Jayalakshmi in which all their demands were agreed to by the Ministry. The Chairperson of the AGMS C.K. Janu read out the minutes of the meeting and declared that although the ‘Standing’ by the adivasis end on that day, the strike will continue within them, through them until all the clauses mentioned in the paper are implemented.
Given below is the translation of the speech that was delivered by the Co-ordinator of AGMS Geethanandan before declaring the end of the Standing Strike and a few photographs from the venue. The translation is by Aswathy Senan.
The Adivasi Nilppu Samaram that lasted 162 days has reached a conclusion. As all the demands made by the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha (AGMS) has been accepted, the agitation ends by today afternoon with the performance of the traditional ritual called ‘chaat’ of the Kani Gothra tribe. With the success of this agitation, the rehabilitation policy that was started by the A.K. Antony government shall be revoked. Once the implementation of the policy starts, the adivasi land and traditions will get the security as per the 244 section of the Indian constitution; the Adivasi Grama sabhas will work for the socio-economic development of the adivasis; 22,000 adivasi families will get land; almost six of the adivasi rehabilitation sites will become autonomous organic farming areas; an entire agriculture package will start to put an end to Attapadi adivasi child mortality; the Muttanga Adivasis will get justice; the ‘Veda’ tribe will get a special package; the Forest Rights will be completely implemented. The conviction of the adivasis who stood for their rights and the supportive and creative intervention of the civil society have opened a new door for the community. With this, a path has been tread for all those who are striving for their rights to live.
The Nilppu Samaram marks an important role in the democratisation of Kerala. The success of this agitation marks the channelization of the society’s demand for rightful living conditions of the minorities—especially of the traditionally backward adivasi community—through peaceful persuasion. People all over the world—students, school children, teachers, intellectuals, cultural activists, human rights activists, adivasi-dalit activists, religious institutions, social organisations, representatives of political parties—stood up with the adivasis and fulfilled their duties as responsible human beings. The peaceful agitation also triggered creativity giving way to an overflow of creations aimed at improving or reforming the fundamental system. Another poignant contribution of the agitation is the intervention of the youth, barring caste, religious and political barriers. They demanded that the age-old method of occupying adivasi land be stopped. It also needs to be noted that the movement received the moral support of all political parties. Although the UDF government has decided to restart the rehabilitation policy for the adivasi quite late; this also depicts that improving the system is mandatory. The adivasi demands of self-governance and constitutional rights can be implemented with the help of the constant intervention of the civil society; for this we need systems that make the public aware alert to the changes around.
While expressing our sincere thanks to all the men and women who stood by the Adivasi Nilppu Samaram, being conscious of their social responsibility, we also demand your continued support and interventions in taking our struggle forward. The Solidarity Samiti activists and Gothra Maha Sabha activists are commencing a meeting on 21-12-2014 (Sunday) at the Renewal Centre, Kochi at 10 am to discuss the procedures of Adivasi rehabilitation.
The meeting at Kochi will also review the people’s committee report on the rehabilitation policy’s work. We will also formulate a people’s awareness committee for the rehabilitation policy. The adivasi sabhas will also meet at 6 farms on the 28th of December.
[Aswathy Senan is a research scholar at Delhi University who also works with Programme for Social Action, Delhi]