the Kerala government is trying to dodge the issue of rehabilitating the tribals who faced police firing from close range at the Muthunga Wildlife Sanctuary in February 2003 while fighting for control over forestland. The National Human Rights Commission (nhrc) has asked it to furnish details in this regard. The government doesn't seem keen to comply.
Though the government's home department admits that it is the nodal agency for submitting the report to nhrc, it refuses to list the measures taken. "The report will reach the nhrc," is all the home secretary, Ramakrishnan N, reveals. "We are discussing the rehabilitation of landless tribals in the entire state," chief secretary Babu Jacob says.
C K Janu, leader of the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha (agms), which led the tribal land rights movement in the state, alleges that not a single tribal family has received any land from the government. A Central Bureau of India (cbi) investigation into the incident also ignored the atrocities committed against the tribals, she adds (see Down To Earth, 'Still under fire', August 31, 2004). "The agms is planning an all-India protest. I will meet other tribal leaders in Delhi and the protest will take place in every state," Janu warns.
A P Anil Kumar, the state's minister for Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe welfare, claims that around 400 tribal families have been given 0.4-0.61 hectares land each in Wyanad's Sugandigiri Estate. They have the possession certificates but are yet to receive the ownership documents, he adds. But the chief of the Tribal Rehabilitation and Development Mission says he is not aware of the steps taken to rehabilitate the Muthunga tribals. The new chief minister, Oommen Chandy, has promised land to the landless within 100 days of his taking over. It remains to be seen how the promise is fulfilled.
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