Yatra Summary: Week Two

The Second week of the Yatra began with a review and refocussing by Rajaji. “This is a Yatra for understanding peoples’ suffering. When this suffering is carried on for long enough, two outcomes are usually seen: People either get frustrated and reject the entire constructive exercise or become violent. Inner growth is needed to contain this anger, process it to channelize it in a constructive way. If you do not carry out inner exploration then your work will remain a superficial exercise.”

Mr. Philip, Vazhathope Panchayat

On its way to Dharma Bharathi Mission’s ashram 20 km from Ernakulam, the Yatra met with a small group of farmers protesting against the Sarfasi act. This act allows banks to evict farmers from their lands and houses to recover outstanding loans. The law does not allow the eviction of farmers engaged in agriculture but the term is narrowly defined to include only the cultivation of paddy, wheat and food grains. Banks are abusing this act to evict farmers from their lands and houses. Mr. Philip, a farmer from of Vazhathope Gram Panchayat has been carrying out an agitation for 557 days against the act. Several farmers have committed suicide because they were evicted from their lands through the provisions of the Sarfarsi Act.

In the late afternoon, the Yatra reached Dharma Bharathi Mission’s ashram in Ernakulam. In the evening, there was a presentation by Shri. Rajesh Bharath an activist involved in the India Against Corruption’s campaign in Kerala.

Meeting of Landless Peasants.

The next day the yatra attended the “Assembly of the Homeless Poor” organized by  Lease and Rent House Welfare Association of Ernakulam. The members of the association are people who live in precarious housing conditions. Many of them either live in slums under the control of a slumlord or in poorly maintained, small and unsafe houses. They are subjected to humiliation by their owners on a regular basis. These living conditions directly affect the dignity and sense of self-worth of the residents. 500 people participated in the meeting, with a majority of women and most of whom were from the Muslim community. There are roughly 50,000 people who do not enjoy proper housing rights.

The next day (Oct 10), the yatra visted a farmers’ struggle site at Thommana village in Thrissur district on its way to Calicut. In the past their lands were highly fertile and they used to engage in low land paddy cultivation. In the local language, these are called Kolli lands and their pattern of plotting is called Muriyar. The Kolli lands had excellent system that drained out excess water onto the sea. In 1980 the state government, in an effort to provide irrigation drain management built a 8 kilometer canal and this canal destroyed the natural drainage system. This also changed the natural flow of back waters. The effect of this is that water gets accumulated inland, thereby increasing the salinity of the land. Today there is 10-12 feet of water standing in their fields. 14000 farmers in 11 villages are affected by this canal. 7000 acres of low-land paddy fields have been affected. The farmers are unable to carry out any farming on their lands. Their livelihoods have been completely destroyed. Later in the day, the yatra visited the following schools in Thrisoor to spread awareness about land and livelihood issue among urban youth: Sakthan Thampuran College, Vivekodayam Higher Secondary school and Salsabeel Green School.

Local Leader in Kolli Land Struggle

On Oct 11, the yatra travelled to the Calicut area and met with the team at Seva Mandir, a model school which seeks to carry out value based education. The president of Municipal Council of Ramnatkara Mr. K.P Ashish in his address said that despite the high level of literacy rate in Kerala, there is a higher percentage of human rights violation in the state. The solution to this problem should be value-based education in schools so that the future citizens of the country are morally grounded in the values of respect for human life, dignity and human rights. Ms. P. Pushpa  the vice president of the municipal council felt that wherever the yatra meets with students, they will develop an awareness and understanding of broader social issues.

Later in the day, a rally through the city of Calicut was organized. Fisherfolk and members of women’s self help groups participated in this rally. The rally culminated in a public meeting at Gandhi Bhavan. Mr. K.Damodara a senior film personality, Mr. Musa, chairman of Gandhi Peace Foundation, Calicult and Mr. T.Balayattan, president of Kerala Sarvodaya Mandal participated in this meeting. They extended their support to the yatra.

The yatra also visited an anti-liquor struggle in Tamaraserri. They have been carrying out efforts to close a liquor establishment for about 2 years but haven’t had much success due to the political backing behind the owners of the liquor outlet. The leader of this struggle, Mr. Iyyacheri Unni Krishnan explained that despite the higher importance given to education and literacy in Kerala, the opinion of intellectuals regarding the closing of liquor shops is not valued.

The last program of the day was a visit to Karunyatheeram, a centre run by a group of youth who are committed to serving a highly marginalized section of our society-mentally handicapped children. Information about their work can be found at www.healthcarefoundation.in

On the next day, Prof. Surendranath, senior social activist, Mr. Sudhakaran, Rally at Kozikode

advocate, and Mr. A. Madhavan, freedom fighter, were the special speakers of the meeting at Kozikode. According to them, the percentage of the tribal population in Kozhikode and Wayanad is higher than in other districts.

(For the contact details in all of these struggles, please see the Second Update of Rajagopal on the Jansatyagraha website)


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