Civil society’s support for developmental process – Kerala

Kerala is widely acclaimed for its achievements in social development as it boasts a near total literacy, comparatively higher life expectancy and land reforms. Even though its per capita income has remained low, this phenomenon has famously become known as the “Kerala Model of Development.” However, the exclusion of Dalits, who constitute 9.8 per cent of the State’s total population; Adivasis, who constitute 1.14 per cent; and fisher people, from the success story of Kerala’s development, has gone relatively unacknowledged. More recently, scholars have drawn attention to the landlessness of Dalits and Adivasis that has rendered large segments of these social groups incapable of participating in the developmental process, and to the land struggles that have ensued as a result over the past decade.

In 1975, a law passed by Parliament made it mandatory for the Government of Kerala to restore alienated lands to Adivasis who had lost out due to the in-migration of peasant communities from other parts of Kerala, who had access to better agricultural technologies, capital and organisational skills. These new settlers had a different notion of land that was directly related to property and ownership, a concept that Adivasis had not yet acquired. In 1988, Nalla Thampi, a social activist, filed a formal petition in the High Court of Kerala demanding that the State government implement the long overdue rule passed by Parliament. The court directed the Government to restore to the Adivasis the lands that were alienated from them. […]

In 2002, the political agitation received tremendous civil society support and the Government was forced to recognise the oppressive situation under which Adivasis [e.g. the large population of the Paniyar community in the Kannur region] have been living in Kerala. […] raising ethical questions of long-denied equality and redistributive justice.

(The author is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Sciences of Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, India. He was a CASI Fall 2011 Visiting Scholar.)

This article is by special arrangement with the Centre for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania

Source: “Land struggles in contemporary Kerala” by Sanal Mohan, Business Line, December 19, 2011
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“Tribals are subject to oppression and cruelty even after independence and still picked up by the investigating officers to cover up shoddy investigations.” – D.Y. Chandrachud (Chief Justice of India since 9 November 2022) quoted in “Members of De-Notified Tribes Picked Up to Cover Up Shoddy Investigations” | Learn more >>