People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 18

May 06, 2012




Victory for Tribal People


A Kumaresan


THE determined siege of the tribal people of Tamilnadu ended with a significant success as the government had agreed to consider their demands and implement them in a time bound manner. The demands included implementing the Forest Rights Act in the state, withdrawing the government order banning issuing of patta rights to tribal people and issuing of community certificates.


On April 24, 2012 more than 10,000 people including a large number of women from various tribal communities of Tamilnadu came to Chennai,  participated in the siege, sat on the road near the secretariat braving the hot sun and refused to return unless their demands were accepted. The call not to return empty handed was given by Brinda Karat, Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M) and the central executive member  of  the Aadivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch (AARM) who also sat with the people announcing that she would not return to Delhi without a firm assurance from the government.


The struggle was organised by Tamilnadu Tribal People’s Association led by its state president P Shanmugam and organisations of tribal communities like Kuruman, Kurumba, Malaiyali , Kurava, Narikurava And Kondareddi  and the newly formed Democratic Tribal Youth Federation of Tamilnadu took part in it. Non implementation of the Forest Rights Protection Act which helps in protecting the rights and livlihood of the tribal people, denial by the government officials to distribute community certificates which are essential to access rights like reservation in educational institutes and government jobs, proper implementation of the special component plan, issue of patta holdings etc were the main issues of the struggle.


Brinda Karat rightly pointed out that denying the community certificates and not recognising the tribal status of the genuinely tribal people was deliberately done with the purpose of reducing the number of beneficiaries, so as to reduce the funds to be spent for the sub plans. She said, every year a big amount of budget allocation would be announced by the central government, but in practice, much lesser amount would be spent. In the last financial year’s budget too, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee announced that 8.2 per cent would be exclusively allotted for the tribal people but the actual allotment was less than five per cent. In the same way, in the last three years, a huge amount of about Rs 30,000 crores was snatched away from the tribal people of India. “The government of India is boasting that it had enacted the Right to Education Act. But when such a huge, rightful fund is being deprived, how will the children of tribal communities be able to access education and how will the tribal women and men be able to access proper health care facilities?” Brinda asked.


Denying the community certificates is part of an effort to wipe out the history, culture and identity of the tribal people, she said. She questioned the behaviour of the officials of two districts in Tamilnadu. When the Coimbatore district was bifurcated into two districts, a part of the Malayali community which stayed in Coimbatore was registered as tribals. But the people of the same community, who happened to be belonging to the newly formed Erode district due to the bifurcation, were enrolled in the list of backward classes. She asked, “The government can split a district with a single stroke of a pen. But how can it split a community?”


She said that the women of the tribal communities are the worst affected due to such approaches and they are treated without any dignity. She pointed out the raping of four women belonging to Irula community by policemen of Thirukkoviloor of Vizhupuram district. She also recalled the historic fight of the 18 tribal women of Vachathi, a tribal village of Dharmapuri district, who were gangraped by police and forest officials 19 years back. She asked, “Even though more than 200 police and forest department personnel were declared culprits and jail terms were also announced, why is the government of Tamilnadu not ready to suspend them?” Brinda Karat’s speech was translated into Tamil by Professor R Chandra, vice president of Tamilnadu unit of AIKS.


K Balakrishnan, the whip of CPI(M) in the state’s legislative assembly and the state president of the All India Kisan Sabha, R Velmurugan, state secretary of DYFI and others also spoke. Along with voicing of slogans, the tribal people’s traditional dances also echoed the demands.


The people continued sitting on the road in the scorching sun when the leaders were called by the government for talks. Sengottaiyan, minister of  revenue, Subramanian, minister of  tribal welfare, Pachaimal, minister of forest department and all the secretaries  and the state revenue commissioner participated in the talks. A Soundararajan, leader of the CPI(M) in the legislative assembly, K Balakrishnan, P Shanmugam, R Velmurugan, P Dillibabu MLA , vice president of  Tamilnadu Tribal People’s Association, Palanisamy, its general secretary, Kuruman’s Association’s leaders Arumugam, Raju, Kurava’s  Association’s leader Anandan, Kondareddy Association’s leader Arumugam took part in the talks with the government.


The first two rounds of talks failed as there was no firm assurance from the government. In the third round, at about 7pm, the ministers agreed to the demands and assured that they would be implemented in a time bound manner. Regarding some of the demands, they assured that chief minister Jayalalitha would write to prime minister, as they were to be dealt by the central government. At around 8 pm it was announced to the people who had virtually sieged the road and it was greeted with thunderous applause.


The leaders said that this is a significant victory and cautioned that everyone must remain alert and be ready to fight again to ensure the implementation of the government’s assurances, which was endorsed by the determined tribal people.