Dalit and Adivasi families from Arippa began a 100-hour sit-in protest outside the Kerala Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram after they were allegedly assaulted by police during their march towards Cliff House, the Chief Ministerâ€™s residence on January 1.
The protestors had started their march from Arippa in Kulathupuzha of Kollam district on December 27, 2019 to Cliff House, the residence of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in Thiruvananthapuram. On Wednesday, they reached Cliff House and planned to cook rice outside the gate as a protest. Police, however, blocked them and forcefully removed them from the locality. Even women who carried babies with were also dragged by police, allege the protestors.
Sreeraman Koyyon, President of the Adivasi Dalit Munnetta Samithi, that leads the struggle told TNM that they were allegedly assaulted by police without any provocation.
Arippa land agitation
Ninety acres of land belonging to the Forest Department in Arippa was leased out to a business baron (Late) Thangal Kunju Musaliar by the Kerala government for 90 years. When the lease expired in 2001, the government took over the land. Twenty-one out of the 91 acres was distributed to a few landless people of the Chengara land struggle and they were awarded title deeds in 2009. Another 13 acres was kept aside for the Dr. Ambedkar Model Residential School. The remaining 55.4 acres of land is under dispute as the land struggle protestors demand it be distributed among landless Dalit families while the government instead had proposed to establish an international university campus, biological park and dental college.
On December 31, 2012 a large number of landless Dalits and Adivasis encroached the land, setting up temporary shelter. Over the past seven years, many quit the struggle, many died and some fell ill fighting.
"Presently 600 landless Dalit and Adivasi families from Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, and Idukki, are living in temporary shacks made of tarpaulin sheets fighting for a piece of land for them to survive on," M Geethanandan, State coordinator, Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha told TNM.
"They have been cultivating paddy over the years in the government land where they stay now. But recently the government ordered them not to cultivate paddy anymore on the land," he added.
Kerala government provides 3 cents of land to landless people to construct house. But Arippa protestors demand land to cultivate as they all are from agriculture background.
"One-and-a-half years ago, this government promised to study our issue and provide us land. But no action was taken even after seven years of protest. They have banned cultivation as well. People there are living in poverty, in shacks that are leaking in rains. Many of us got sick," Sreeraman Koyyon said.
These families had been boycotting elections as a protest for the last few years.
Sreeraman said both the LDF and UDF governments have shown no interest in their problems.