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Sunday, August 5, 2012
Chengara agitation historic: Metropolitan
The five-year old Chengara agitation has become a historic struggle for land by the landless poor, attracting national and international attention, said Geevarghese Mar Coorilos, Metropolitan of the Niranom diocese of the Jacobite Syrian Church.
Mar Coorilos was inaugurating a mass fast and dharna staged by Sadhu Jana Vimochana Samyukta Vedi (SJVSV) activists in front of the Collectorate here on Saturday.
The agitation launched by the Vedi by encroaching upon the Kumbazha estate of Harrisons Malayalam Ltd. (HML) at Chengara near here five years ago was did not have the backing of any mainstream political parties.
Hundreds of Vedi activists encroached upon the HML rubber estate in the night, demanding five acres of land for farming and Rs.50,000 in cash towards initial farming expenses to each landless family on August 4, 2007. They pitched tents on the occupied land and started tapping the rubber trees in the estate, eking out a living in due course.
Though the High Court had directed the State government and the district administration to clear the encroachment without any bloodshed, the official machinery could do little in this regard as the encroachers had declared their struggle as a ‘do-or die battle for land.’ They even threatened to commit mass suicide through self-immolation on many occasions when there were reports of a possible police action against them.
Prominent socio-political leaders, including Medha Patkar, Arundhati Roy, Govindacharaya, and V.M. Sudheeran, were among those who had visited Chengara extending solidarity with the families, during the period.
The previous LDF government had identified 831.03 acres of land in 10 districts for distribution among the 1,495 eligible landless people as part of the Chengara Package.
Of the 1,495 families identified, 38 families belong to the Scheduled Tribes category and 1,227 to the Scheduled Castes.
However, many people declined to occupy the land allotted to them, finding it unsuitable for human habitation and farming.
Vedi leader Laha Gopalan had categorically stated that there was no question of vacating the land till all the landless families at Chengara were allotted land suitable for farming and habitation.
Meanwhile, certain families have constructed permanent dwellings in the encroached land and started cultivation there. The Vedi too has set up a library and school in the occupied land.
New farming culture
Mar Coorilos said a new farming culture was what Chengara was witnessing. The Chengara Package remained a mere publicity gimmick, he alleged.
The Metropolitan said what the landless people of Chengara needed was not mere three or four cents of land to construct a house, but farmland to make a living.
Laha Gopalan presided over the meeting.
at 4:13 PM
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