NEWSLETTER

No.1

Jan-Mar 2004

 

Adivasi Team visits Mumbai to attend World Social Forum in January

In January 2004, a team of 30 AMS members went to Mumbai to attend the World Social Forum. It was a very good experience for all the members to witness hundreds of social action groups from different parts of the world. The theme of 'another world is possible' was very appropriate for the adivasis, as we do try to create another world for ourselves here. Some of us participated in the seminars there and took part in the workshop organised by our German friends of Buco Pharma Campaign. 

After the World Social Forum, we went to Gujarat which witnessed terrible communal riots two years ago. It was a moving experience for most of us to directly talk to the victims of the communal violence there. We also interacted with some adivasi people of that region, who had also got caught in the riots. The visit to Gujarat and Mumbai gave us a glimpse of the political and development issues faced by the society at the national and global levels.

Adivasi Calendar Released

The AMS Calendar of 2004 has been released. For the first time, we brought out a multi-colour 'catchy' calendar printed in Art Paper. Kusum, an artist friend of ours, helped us design the calendar in a professional way. The AMS members liked this year's calendar which was based on the theme of Adivasi Food. The calendar gives the details of important events and festivals celebrated by the adivasi communities here.

The calendar portrays the different kinds of Food items used by adivasi community. This picture shows the Mullukurumba women fishing in a river, using their traditional baskets. 

This year, for the first time, we tried to sell these calendars to mobilise some resources for our activities. We got an order from UK for 300 calendars to be sold there. Ben Hartshorn, a friend of ours is coordinating the sale of calendars in UK.

Five Adivasi Houses were destroyed in Moolakkad village on February 19th

Moolakkad is a Kaattunayaka village in the Devarshola area. The forest department officials of this area tried to evict them from the village. They came to the village alongwith the adjoining Mayfield Estate staff on February 19th and destroyed the houses of five families. These families have been living there for a long time and the local development administration had earlier provided basic amenities like Drinking Water, Electricity etc. to this village. But, still, the forest officials decided to evict these families, alleging that they have encroached into forest lands. Two houses were completely destroyed.

Adivasi house destroyed in Moolakkad village

The sangam members of the village immediately contacted AMS and the issue was taken up with the Government. Protest messages, petitions and telegrams were sent to the higher officials. The plight of the adivasis was highlighted in the media as well. Due to our sustained pressure, the forest department has refrained from doing any further damage. The Revenue officials have visited the village to conduct an on-the-spot enquiry and submitted a sympathetic report to the district administration.

AMS members from all the villages have expressed their solidarity and support to the Moolakkad villagers. The struggle will continue.

Just Change started on March 1, 2004

During the last couple of years, Stan and Mari have been active in forging economic alliances between the poor communities in different parts of the country and abroad. Some of our experiments in trading tea and pepper directly between our adivasis and consumers in UK and Germany was very encouraging. To consolidate this initiative into a sustainable institution, we have decided to start a separate organisation for this. Accordingly, Just Change, a Public Trust, has been formed and officially launched on March 1, 2004.

Just Change will strive to promote direct trading between various poor communities and to establish an international cooperative of producers and consumers. Sajan, a Management graduate and Murthi, our friend from ACCORD's admin team have joined Stan and Mari in this new initiative.

Rape Victim gets compensation

Seetha is a young Paniya girl living in the Pattavayal Area. In October 2003, she was raped by a non-tribal person of that area. When her mother went to the non-tribal's house to enquire about this, she was abused and threatened. So, Seetha immediately approached AMS. AMS protested strongly to this incident, organising a massive public demonstration and urging the police to take appropriate action to punish the guilty. Even to get the case registered under the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Atrocities (Prevention) Act, the AMS activists had to struggle a lot and we had to use all the possible avenues of campaign and lobbying. Finally, the case was registered under the correct sections and the guilty was arrested.

The Government has sanctioned an interim compensation to Seetha, acknowledging the violation of human rights committed against her. This is a good beginning to our legal battle in this case.

Festival celebrated on March 21st.

The Adivasi Munnetra Sangam celebrates their annual cultural festival every year in March. This year too it was celebrated with much fanfare in the Velleri School grounds near Pattavayal. As usual, there were many events like Pooja, cultural sports, songs and dances, display of traditional art forms, cultural procession, etc. The participation of AMS members was overwhelming this year with more than 1000 people from different villages attending it. 

An Adivasi Youth participating in the Cultural Sport called  'Pot Breaking'

The highlight of this year's festival was Annadanam, the free distribution of food to all the people who attended. When the idea was initially mooted, some of us wondered how can we give food to so many people - without even knowing how many will come. But, the decision has been taken by the AMS leaders to do this anyway. So, the animators and youth volunteers went from village to village and collected rice for the festival. We collected more than 450 kg of rice which was used to cook food in one corner of the festival grounds itself. One group of youth took charge of cooking and another for serving. After the cultural procession, food was served to all the people and the whole dinner was over within half an hour. What more, there was some rice still left over after the festival. We are planning to donate this to the Gudalur Adivasi Hospital.

Adivasi Leaders of five tribes conducting the Traditional Pooja together 

Buoyed by the success of this event, we have started discussing how we can do this better next year.

Accident Case Victims received compensation

In March 1997, AMS organised a massive function in Gudalur to release the Paniya Primer 'Pattola' brought out with the help of the 'Central Institute of Indian Languages'. This function was celebrated alongwith the annual cultural festival of that year. Three Paniya women who had come to attend this function, met with an accident in Gudalur town that day. A drunken car driver while reversing the car ran over three women from Ponnani Area. They were immediately rushed to the Gudalur Adivasi Hospital and to the Government Hospital for emergency care. Two of them, Malu and Kunjamma,  were treated for a long time in different hospitals and were rehabilitated with the assistance of Christian Medical Collage Hospital, Vellore. 

These adivasi victims filed a case against the driver and car owner.  Long-winding as the legal process in India is, AMS persisted to take the case to its logical conclusion over a period of seven years and got the compensation awarded for the victims in March 2004.  In view of the huge expenses incurred by the sangam on these members, the area leaders and the three victims have come forward to give back Rs.50000 to the sangam.

School has a new email id now.

Our Vidyodaya School is becoming computer-savvy ! There is a new computer, printer and why, even a separate email id for the school now. The adivasi children are having regular computer classes too ! 

So, if you want to write to the children or teachers of the school directly, you may write to vbvt@sancharnet.in

Dr.Sunil joins our hospital.

Gudalur Adivasi Hospital gets another specialist doctor. Dr.Sunil, a Geriatrician has joined us as Consultant. He has worked in the Amritanandmayee hospital in Kochi, Kerala before. We are happy to welcome him and his family to join us.

 

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