The Struggle of the Dalits of Chengara

     The yatra visited Chengara, a site of a very important dalit land-rights struggle. 7000 families have occupied 6000 acres of a rubber plantation with an intent of carrying our subsistence agriculture. 7000 scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and Dalit Christians from 14 districts of Kerala formed an organization called SVSV, Sadhujana Vimukti Samyukta Vidhi  (Poor people’s joint federation for liberation) in October 2001.

In August of 2004, when they learnt that the 99-year lease of a plantation company called Harrision was about to expire, they decided to occupy it. The plantation company argued that workers of the plantation would  become unemployed if the lease was renewed and refused to give up control of the plantation. They had to engage in conflict on an ongoing bases with not only the state but also  the members of the plantation’s workers union.

In one such conflict with the police department, police were expected to enter the community to evict them. 2000 members of the organization had climbed trees and tied a noose around their necks and had the other end of the noose to the tree. They threatened to jump en masse if the police lay foot on their land. The community is slowly but steadily reclaiming the lost bio-diversity of the area by their farming activities. Today they are growing plantain, coconut, tapioca, papaya, chillies, brinjal besides cultivating paddy. We found that there is immense mistrust towards Gandhi because of historical interactions between Gandhi and Ambedkar and because of the betrayal by people who in the name of Gandhi have come to power but have failed to implement Gandhian principles like Gandhi’s talisman and Gandhi’s economic constitution.

The founder leader of this movement is Mr. Lahagopal and can be reached at (+91)9754141226. The secretary of the federation is Mr. K. Baby who can be reached at (+91)9947033964. More information about the struggle is available at http://chengarastruggle.blogspot.com/.

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