40 years ago Muduga tribes used to live here in the Attapadi Valley. When an irrigation project (Attapadi Valley Irrigation Project) was planned, they were promised that they would be settled on an agricultural farms. Four villages (Bengahedwa, Chittoor, Kettegari, Koronbodi) were displaced in this process and only two were later rehabilitated in the agricultural cooperative. Three tribes (Muduga, Irula and Kudumber) used to live in these 4 villages. They were to be a part of an agricultural co-operative and were promised a lease for five acres of land per family to carry out their own farming. They were not given titles to the land but only a lease and the promise that the cooperative will be profitable in five years. However, this lease was not renewed and the tribals were compelled to work as agricultural labor on other people’s lands.
Rajaji reviewing land documents of the Attrapadi Valley Irrigation Project
In 2007, the tribal people realized that the planned dam had not been constructed and decided to return to their original land to farm. They approached the collector, the revenue department, and the state land tribunal, but a decision in their favor was not taken. The revenue department kept the issue informal, assuring them that they would get land-deeds, but this hasn’t happened. Hence the tribals decided in February 2011 to return to this land, for which their forefathers had titles. Once they returned to their lands, the local administration started engaging with them and told them to cap the re-occupation to the 26 families that had returned. As a result, 175 families are still waiting to return to their original villages. They were offered another village for settling down but they refused as their culture is tied to the land they used to have. Their argument is that there is no reason to live in another village when their own village is available and the irrigation project has not taken shape.
Mr. Thangaraj, leader of the tribal community, says that their culture was destroyed because of the displacement. The people were dispersed, which affected their sense of community. He says that their culture requires them to live together but because of changes in the social-economic conditions of their lives, their culture and ways of living were destroyed. He explains that their village was on revenue land for which they had legal documents before the displacement. Even today, they have some legal documents to prove their ownership of the land. The court had also passed a judgment that the displaced families should receive financial compensation for being displaced for 40 years but the community hasn’t received any compensation yet. However, the communities say that their struggle is not for any compensation but for their land and that they will continue this struggle until they achieve their objectives. They have expressed their support to Jansatyagraha and hope that their own struggle will be strengthened by associating with Ekta Parishad.
Mr. Thangaraj, leader of the villages affected by the Attrapadi Valley Irrigation Project
At the city hall of Attapadi, the Yatra joined an assembly of tribals from 20 neighboring villagers. There, Mr. Natthu Mupanna, chair of the council of Adivasis leaders, said that the biggest tragedy for Adivasis is that non-Adivasis speak and decide on behalf of Adviasis. The officials in the administration have no sympathy for Adivasi issues, no connection to them, and no desire to understand them. He says officials look at them as objects. Other speakers expressed anguish at the current state of affairs in the country and support for Jansatyagraha.
Mr. Natthu Mupanna