Samwad Yatra Week 4 Summary: Tamil Nadu

Due to local elections in Tamil Nadu, we were unable to visit any struggle groups or hold public meetings for some time. The two days were spent at Mahatma Gandhi Ashram, Anaimalai. It is in a place called Anaimalai in Pollachi. The place derives its name from an elephant shaped hill in the area. The ashram has been functioning for around 20 years and is managed by Mr. and Mrs. Ranganath and their daughter Ms. Sarvodaya. We learnt that Mr. Ranganath took up to social work at the age of 18 after reading Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography. He comes from a very poor family and yet his mother, who passed away recently, supported his decision whole heartedly. Balanced education at the ashram

The Yatra visited the Satyamuthi Dam village. It residents are Puliyar Adivasis In several villages around the dam, Pulaiyar Adivaisis from Thirumoorthi hills have settled. Some of these leaders participated in a public hearing organized as part of the Samwaad Yatra. The clan is divided between the two states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The government classified them as Scheduled Castes or Dalits in 1976. Until then they were classified as Scheduled Tribes.

The next day a meeting was organized by Rajendren  at Dindigul Multipurpose Social Service Society.  These meetings are organized as ‘public hearings’. In a public hearing people share their problems publicly. This is one of the ways Ekta Parishad has to learn about people’s problems and find commonality between issues. This process also helps people develop solidarity among themselves as they realize that their problem is not a stand-alone problem but is shared by other individuals and communities.

In the morning, a conference was organized at the Gandhi Museum in Madurai. Rajagopal spoke about the importance of the Satyagraha and explained the role that the media can play to support the struggle of poor people. Mr. Mariappan, a senior Sarvodaya activist and advocate, helped us understand the history of land-struggle in Madurai.

In the afternoon, the Yatra travelled to visit two Adivasi villages which were in desperate situations. The Yatra first visited the village of Alaghamalpuram. 17 Adivasi families belonging to the Paliyar tribe have been living in this village for over 25 years. These families had originally lived in the forest on the top of the Kudirai Malai hills at Marudaluthu point but were pushed out of the forest because of the Forest Conservation Act 1980. 150 families in Madurai district were evicted from forest villages. In the afternoon, the yatra visited Kurunji, a colony of 69 families of Paliyar Adivasis living in 39 houses. The village is in Usulampatti taluk and Thottapanayakanoor panchyat.

On its 28th day the Yatra held a public meeting in Cuddalore. The following day there were several public meetings held in Pondicherry. From there the Yatra journeyed to Chennai before leaving Tamil Nadu.


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