Friday, August 15, 2008

Chengara another Nandigram in making

So Abhinav Bindra won the gold medal and made India proud. There has been no such moment in the recent days that I felt as overwhelmed as I heard our national anthem being played in the Olympics venue and a cool, calm and composed Bindra stood there with his heads straight.

When shared this joy, a colleague asked what do we have to be so proud about. That Abhinav with the support of his wealthy family had good training and worked on his own and won the medal on his own? What did the nation give to him to share the piece of glory? What is the nation doing for the sportsmen/women who cannot afford the luxury of Hi-Fi training? The questions left me speechless. Because just a couple of days back I saw a Malayali athlete’s home on TV. A hut-like house that seemed it would collapse at anytime and she is competing in Olympics. What is the nation doing for these sons and daughters?

Then after a little while another colleague comes to my desk and ask if he can talk for a few minutes. “Do you know what is happening in Chengara right now?”. I said I heard about that place and didn’t know much more. Actually there are so many of such struggles going on in the enlightened land of Kerala. Struggles which the mainstream media fails or do not want to notice. “Women are being raped”, he said. And that too just a couple of hours back.

Let me ask that question to you, my dear readers of this blog - Do you know what Chengara struggle is about?

To cut it short, the Chengara struggle is a movement by landless Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalised peoples to gain ownership of land that began on 4th August 2007 in the southern plantation belt of Pathanamthitta, in Kerala state. It is a fight to re-claim ownership of land that has been part of a long standing promise of the Government. To this end about 5000 families totaling around 24,000 people from different parts of the region have moved on to the Harrison Malayalam Private Ltd estate, building tents with poles and plastic sheets to establish the struggle front. The impugned land was a part of a leasehold to Harrison Malayalam Ltd, which expired in 1985 and no rents have been paid to the State exchequer since. The struggle is also a statement against illegal encroachment of land that ought to belong to the people by a corporate entity for commercial purposes with the tacit support of the State machinery.

And what is happening there right now?

* Complete blockade of food, medicines and other essentials for a dignified life to the people in the protest camps including women and children for over 10 days, by the CPI (M), affiliate organizations and hired henchmen of Harrison Malayalam Ltd, leading to starvation and prevalence of diseases in the protest camps.

* Continuing sexual harassment of the women in the protest camps including rape of four women activists of SJVSV by trade union leaders affiliated to the CPI (M) as an attempt to demoralize the agitation. Also there are other trade unions involved in this like INTUC (of Congress) and BMS (of BJP).
* Physical intimidation of the protesters and solidarity supporters

Children are dying with no food, women are being raped - but hey, what do we care? It is those Adivasis (tribals) that we are talking about. They are no vote banks so politicians do not have any interest in them. They are not educated, so it is easy to fool them. So this is our chance, the so called progressive society that has the highest literacy rate in India!

I always thought that these things would not happen in Kerala. Any other state in India but not here, I thought. But the power hungry corporate-Communists of these days are breaking the very social system that once their leaders were dying to build up. You talk about it and you are called a Naxalite sympathiser.

Anyways, I am happy of at least one thing. That there is at least this one young techie who got his eyes almost wet when he talked of the tribal women being raped and whose eyes lit with anger. Who said he wants to pool in money and see ways of bringing food to those who are starving there in Chengara. It is in the people like him that I have the utmost hope of humanity. Meanwhile, just wait and see how soon Nandigram is going to repeat in Kerala.

Lal Salaam comrades. Well done. You are just wiping out yourselves, tarnishing the image of leaders like AKG, losing your supporters and the moral grounds, but you don’t even know that.

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