Justice for Chengara Protestors sign now

12th August 2007

To
The President of India,
The Prime Minister of India,
The Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission
The Chairperson, National SC Commission
The Chairperson, National ST Commission
The Chairperson, National Womens Commission

c.c
The Chief Minister of Kerala

The Government of Kerala with its state machinery, the apparatus of the main political party of the ruling Left Democratic Front the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the media controlled by it, is engaged in a brutal and insidious reprisal against a peaceful protest by a group of marginalised peoples including Dalits, Adivasis and others demanding land and livelihood in Chengara, Patthanamthitta District, Kerala. This reprisal has taken an extremely violent turn, with the State and Party apparatus resorting to violent intimidation including rape, defamation and deliberate cutting off food and other lifeline supplies to the protesters for more than 10 days, creating a war-like build-up against an unarmed bunch of citizens.

Background

The Chengara struggle is a movement by landless Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalised peoples to gain ownership of land that began on 4th August 2007 in the southern plantation belt of Pathanamthitta. It is a fight to re-claim ownership of land that has been part of a long standing promise of the Government. To this end about 5000 families totaling around 24,000 people from different parts of the region have moved on to the Harrison Malayalam Private Ltd estate, building tents with poles and plastic sheets to establish the struggle front. The impugned land was a part of a leasehold to Harrison Malayalam Ltd, which expired in 1985 and no rents have been paid to the State exchequer since. The struggle is also a statement against illegal encroachment of land that ought to belong to the people by a corporate entity for commercial purposes with the tacit support of the State machinery.

The Chengara Land struggle therefore is about affirming the prior claim of these Dalits and Adivasis to land and hence to transfer legal ownership from the planters to the landless agitators. The struggle is being carried forward under the banner of Sadhujana Vimochana Samyuktha Vedi (SJVSV) and has the support and solidarity of various Civil Society groups, movements and citizens across the country.

The State Government is yet to make any serious move to initiate negotiations with the protestors. The past feeble attempts at discussions were more a ploy to threaten the agitators with police action and subvert the agitation.

It is in this context that the Chengara struggle attracted solidarity from across the spectrum from all over the country putting the State Government in the defensive.

Reprisals

To contain the growing visibility and legitimacy of the Chengara struggle, the State Government and the affiliated party apparatuses started a series of reprisal measures against the non-violent agitators and people providing solidarity support to the agitation. This includes;
1. A defamatory vilification campaign against the protests and its supporters through the television and print media owned by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
2. Complete blockade of food, medicines and other essentials for a dignified life to the people in the protest camps including children, aged and the sick for over 10 days, by the CPI (M), affiliate organisations and hired henchmen of Harrison Malayalam Ltd, leading to starvation and prevalence of diseases in the protest camps.
3. Continuing sexual harassment of the women in the protest camps including rape of four women activists of SJVSV by trade union leaders affiliated to the CPI (M) as an attempt to demoralise the agitation
4. Physical intimidation of the protestors and solidarity supporters
5. Complete apathy and collusion on the part of the state machinery including the police in not containing the patently criminal intrusion and violence against the protestors and in assisting the continuance of the economic and food blockade against the protest camp

Given this situation, we, concerned individuals and organisations, request you to use your good offices to intervene and ensure justice is done to the struggling peoples of Chengara and request you to urge the State Government to

1. Take immediate steps to ensure dignity to the peaceful protest in Chengara
2. Intervene and take immediate action against those responsible for the blockade and immediately restore the right to peaceful life for all the people in Chengara
3. Ensure the immediate lifting of the blockade and sufficient supply of food, medicines and adequate health care to the protest camps
4. Initiate transparent discussions with the protestors.
5. Solve Chengara land issue by distributing enough cultivable land to all dalit- Adivasi and other landless families.
6. Take immediate initiative in confiscating the land of which the lease period is over and distribute it to the landless people.
7. Order an impartial judicial inquiry into the allegations of rape, sexual harassment and other forms of physical violence used to intimidate the protestors and initiate legal proceedings and ensure penalisation of all involved in such nefarious activities.

In Solidarity.

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Alana AndradeBy:
Entertainment and MediaIn:
Petition target:
President of India

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