Hundreds of people from the Adivasi communities who had been occupying Wayanad’s Thovarimala since last Sunday was evicted on Wednesday by officials of Kerala police and Forest Department, allegedly by force, for encroaching on government land. According to the news minute report,
the protesters have been agitating against an alleged land deal between the Forest Department and a private company. ” The Department has given authority over this land, which could have been used to the Adivasi communities or the landless for agriculture, to Harrisons Malayalam Private Limited, which has plantations in Kerala and Tamil Nadu”. the protesters said.
According to reports, authorities first picked up leaders of the agitation on Wednesday and then forcefully evicted protesters, who were being led by the All India Krantikari Kisan Sabha (AIKKS) under the CPI (ML) Red Star and the Adivasi Bharath Mahasabha. The root of the agitation lies in the ‘vested forest’ status of the 104 hectares. A CPI (ML) official explained, “Following implementation of the Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 1969 by C Achutha Menon government, 104 hectares of this land in possession Harrisons Malayalam Private Limited in Thovarimala was deemed as excess land. Its custodianship was given to the Forest Department, and under the the Kerala Private Forests (Vesting and Assignment) Act, 1971, the land was deemed as vested forest.”
The vested forest status of this land was confirmed by a Forest Department official as well. Vested forests are private forests which the government – according to the Kerala Private Forests (Vesting and Assignment) Act, 1971 – can convert into agricultural lands. This was done to promote the welfare of the population practicing agriculture in the state.
“But over the past few years, Harrisons has encroached many acres of land here,” the CPI (ML) leader alleged. “Recently they have even leveled some portion of this land using a JCB. About four months ago, we received information that the Forest Department, which is the custodian of the land, has secretly transferred it to Harrisons Malayalam Private Limited. When we asked a Harrisons official, they claimed that they have an order from government which has given them authority over the land. If this is true, how can land that was under Forest Department’s custody be given to Harrisons?”
According to Harrisons Malayalam Private Limited’s LinkedIn profile, the company has a turnover of Rs 290 crore. It claims to be the largest cultivator of tea and the largest producer of rubber pan-India. The Forest Department, however, has denied that Harrisons is encroaching on the land. Hundreds of Adivasi families including women and children, from
PM George, CPI (ML) state committee member, told TNM that around 15 police vehicles including two buses had come to Thovarimala on Wednesday morning. The CPI (ML) leaders in Wayanad including MP Kunjikanaran and Rajesh
According to sources in Thovarimala, the police also took away the mobile phones of protestors before evicting them. “We are told that only
“Forceful eviction of protestors – that too of Adivasi women and children – for peacefully agitating, is not a right thing to be done in democracy. We have not been given any information about the whereabouts of those who were arrested also,” said PM George.
Protesters are not giving up and have begun an indefinite strike in front of Wayanad District Collectorate.