Friday, August 15, 2008

Chengara: Independence Day thoughts

BLOCKED: The police blocking a group of Chengara-bound human rights activists near the Chengara junction on Thursday. Photo: The Hindu

Since August 3, some persons, said to be plantation workers, have been engaged in a blockade to force several thousand landless people, most of them Dalits and Adivasis, out of the Chengara estate in Pathanamthitta district, where they have been squatting for a year demanding farm land.

While the squatters have been peaceful, the workers involved in the blockade have been violent. They have forcibly prevented social activists from meeting the squatters and damaged their vehicles. They have also abducted women squatters who came out of the estate to fetch necessities.

The police, who are present in the area, are clearly in collusion with the workers, who are under the flags of different political parties, including the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which heads the government of Kerala. They have arrested and removed activists who wanted to assert their right to enter the estate and meet the squatters.

The blockade is inhuman. It denies the squatters, who include a large number of women and children, access to food and medicine. According to media reports, the unions are taking a tough stance and the situation is getting more complex. (See report in The Hindu.)

The government of Kerala held two rounds of talks on the issue. One meeting was called by the Chief Minister and the other by the Collector of Pathanamthitta. Clearly there can be no peaceful solution of the problem so long as the blockade, organised with the tacit approval of the CPI (M) and support of the government machinery, lasts. A small incident can lead to a repetition of Muthanga (where the Kerala police broke up a similar agitation using bullets, when the United Democratic Front was in power) or Nandigram (where the West Bengal police broke up a similar agitation in a joint operation with CPI-M cadres and goons).

Let us ask the CPI (M), which, as the ruling party, has a duty to act in a responsible manner, to call off the blockade and create conditions favourable to peaceful resolution of the problem. I have sent today a message to the Chief Minister, the Collector of Pathanamthitta, the General Secretary of the CPI (M) and the State Secretary of the CPI (M) in this regard. The text of the message and the e-mail addresses of the persons concerned are given below. I appeal to all those who are in agreement with these sentiments to write to them too.
Mr.V.S.Achuthanandan, Chief Minister of Kerala (
Mr. P.C.Sanalkumar, District Collector, Pathanamthitta (
Mr. Prakash Karat, General Secretary, CPI-M (
Mr. Pinarayi Vijayan, Secretary, CPI-M, Kerala (

The blockade of Chengara estate by workers, with the tacit approval of the CPI (M) and connivance of officials, has created a serious situation.
I earnestly urge the CPI (M) and the State government to use their influence and put an immediate end to the inhuman blockade, which denies several thousand squatters access to food and medicine, and resume talks with them to find a peaceful solution to their problems.

Silpam, NRA C-29,
Thiruvananthapuram 695017


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