Lynching of Madhu in Attappadi shocked the conscience of Indian society. #ApologyMadhu hashtags went viral on social media. We have to go beyond hashtags and look for the real reasons why Madhu was murdered for allegedly stealing some rice and chilly powder.
It is two decades since the Aadivaasi in Kerala lost his right to self-rule. It is time to go beyond the Facebook tag .
India got independence on 15 Aug 1947, became a Republic on 26 Jan 1950: normally, there is no doubt about these facts. However, if we were to ask the tribal population of India about their freedom, they would give us a different date: Dec 24 1996. The stone plaques erected in about 1500 tribal hamlets, will say this: “Our many hundred Republics envisage India as our participatory collective.” The Aadivasi’s Independence Day and Republic Day fall on the day PESA ( Panchayath Extension to the Schedule Area Act 1996), when the Aadivaasi right to Self Rule and Governance came into existence..
1500 tribal villages including 80 in Odisha, 300 in Chattisgrah, 125 in Andhra Pradesh, 40 in Karnataka,50 in MadhyaPradesh, 50 in,Rajasthan, 600 in Jharkand were declared as Self-Rule regions as per PESA. The Malayalis came to know of this rule only on the 16th of Oct 2001, when the then Chief Minister of Kerala, Sri. A.K Antony signed an agreement with the tribal leader C.K Janu .
As per the agreement, Adivais were to be provided land between 1 to 5 acre, aid for 5 years until attaining livelihood, speedy settlement of cases related to Aadivasi land lagging in the Supreme Court, and Self- Rule in tribal areas was to be recommended for implementation .
Self-Rule is the constitutional right of the Adivasis dating back to more than 22 years. Though even KILA, which gives training in local self governance, was not aware of this tribal Self-Rule included in 5th schedule, Gothra Maha Sabha was quite aware of it. That was why it got included in the agreement made with the state government. It was when the government refused to sign on the order to implement this agreement that Muthanga uprising took place. When the uprising was brutally repressed, the agitations for Adivasi rights slowed down. However, following the “Nilppu Samram” during Umman Chandy’s period when Congress was in power, the government was forced to recognize this rule once again and a recommendation for the same was sent to the President for approval. The said recommendation is still on the President’s table, awaiting decision.
Earlier, in the Kerala Legislative Assembly, it was by a difference of one vote, that the law that was passed during the Emergency stipulating that the land which originally belonged to the Adivasis to be confiscated and returned to the Adivasis, was defeated. It can be seen that it was a defeat planned collectively by everyone. It may be recollected that it was a team of MLAs of all parties that travelled to Delhi to meet the President of India for advancing the moves in this case. Kerala has lagged behind in the matter of land since the Emergency, and in this matter regarding Self Rule to the Adivasis since past 22 years .
In the light of the lynching and brutal murder of Madhu, the starving tribal youth of Attappadi, by a mob which alleged that he had stolen rice, the civic society in Kerala is once again compelled to take up the matters regarding land rights, forest rights, and self-rule for the Adivasis.
Adivasis should not be driven anymore to the street demanding ‘Land, Life and Self-Rule ‘ to be restored. It is now the responsibility of the civil society of Kerala to raise these demands loudly. Do not provoke Adivasis in Kerala to repeat Muthanga. Do not lend their hands to the Maoists.
It is not only the responsibility of Adivasis to maintain but for the people of Kerala to be help to maintain this slogan for Adivasis .
We have to take one step forward to go beyond a mere Facebook hashtag,” Apology, Madhu”
Civic Chandran (Poet, writer, activist and editor of Padhabhedam Monthly).
Translated from Malayalam by Anupama Nalin