The Land struggle in Chengara, Pathanamtitta district, Kerala by landless Dalits and Adivasis (as well as scores of families from OBC communities, Muslims etc) from all parts of Kerala, started on 4 August 2007. The movement is a fight to re-claim ownership of land that has been part of a long standing promise of the Government. At present nearly 5000 families, more than 20,000 people have entered the Harrison Malayalam Private Ltd Estate, living in makeshift arrangements. (For more details of the company see http://www.harrisonsmalayalam.com)
The Chengara Land struggle demands permanent ownership of agricultural land through transfer of ownership from the Harrison Company to the Dalits and Adivasis. The Sadhu Jana Vimochana Samyuktha Vedi (SJVSV), the collective that leads the struggle, has opted for the land take-over as a strategy remembering the tradition of the great leader Ayyankali, the militant Dalit leader whose mission was to ensure the liberation of Dalits from various forms of slavery, right to agricultural land, as well as right to education in Kerala.
In the ongoing struggle for land in Chengara there is growing tension and escalating violence against the peaceful and democratic protest by the people. There have been instances of various brutal attacks on the people of the area by the workers of trade unions affiliated to leading political parties and other hired henchmen of Harrison Malayalam Ltd. Recent reports clearly indicate that the government of Kerala is colluding with the company in order to repress the peaceful resistance of the people for their land rights instead of offering any peaceful solution or dialogue towards it.
In the last few weeks the Harrison Malayalam company along with active support of police and hired goons have created a blockade which has culminated in the deliberate cutting off of food and other essential supplies to the protesters for more than 10 days. On August 14th the trade unions lifted the blockade for a period of ten days and issued an ultimatum to the 5000 families to leave the plantation site in these days.
At this point it is urgent that various organizations and solidarity committees put pressure on the government to avoid large scale violence in Chengara in the coming days. This is the primary demand from all those who support the movement. This is extremely important given the fact that land rights movements in various parts in Kerala and outside have faced violent repression, killing and injuring many protestors.
Landlessness among Dalits and Tribals is the highest among all social groups in Kerala. Average land possession by Dalit families' is 0.43 acres as against the state average of 0.86 acres. Reading this in the backdrop of social and cultural segregations, we also need to put pressure on the State government to accept land rights by these communities as their inalienable right.
Most importantly the mainstream media in Kerala has completely blocked out all reports on the struggle and it is very urgent that concerned organizations and individuals work together to bring the issue to national attention. There is no point in taking action after there is violence and blood shed and the loss of numerous precious lives.