Out for political mileage

The recent events in the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in northern Kerala has had an impact on the state government. Why else would it crank up its public relations machine to put a positive spin to a state-sponsored drive to evict tribals?

 
Published: Monday 31 March 2003

-- Government of Kerala

The recent events in the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in northern Kerala (see: 'Stabbed in the back', March 15, 2003) has had an impact on the state government. Why else would it crank up its public relations machine to put a positive spin to a state-sponsored drive to evict tribals?

Witness the ad published in the March 7, 2003 New Delhi edition of The Indian Express. It pours scorn on "All those who shed crocodile tears in the name of the tribal people", thus reclaiming for itself the privilege and moral authority of representing their interests.

But let us remember the event that has sparked this ad off. In January, tribals belonging mostly to the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha invaded the Muthanga range and built settlements in the forest. In response, forest department officials aided by the Kerala Armed Police entered the forest in February to evict the "encroachers". Clashes ensued in which a tribal and a policeman were killed.

The ad reminds us of this event. It shows a photograph of "Jogi, died in armed revolt against the police", unsubtly expanding the semiotic breadth of the term 'terrorist' to include protesting, alienated tribals. Next to this, is juxtaposed a photograph of the dead police officer. In what can only be called a Freudian slip, the caption reads: "Vinod, the police officer who brutally killed while discharging his duty in curbing violence (emphasis added)."

The word 'was' is missing from the text above. So also is the truth from the ad. It actually highlights the designs of ruling parties -- across the spectrum -- who use the issue of tribal rights to gain political mileage. The ad blames previous governments for not keeping its promises of land distribution to tribals, then fails to mention that the present state government is doing exactly the same. Righteously shrill throughout, the ad ends with a hyperbolic scream. In what appears to be an accurate comment on the ad itself, it is written that the A K Anthony government does not "rend the air with deafening slogans or senseless utterances". "The declared policy is the total development of the state". Really?

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.