States Round Up Issue-01 July to September 2010 Index Page
Full version of the report

Kerala



I. Highlight: No action against large scale alienation of tribal land

Ruled by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Kerala failed to safeguard the land rights of the tribals who constitute about 1.14 percent of the total population of the state according to 2001 census. [1] The Kerala Restriction on Transfer by and Restoration of Lands to Scheduled Tribes Act, 1999 prohibits sale of tribal land to non-tribals but large-scale illegal land transactions were taking place.

On 30 July 2010, Forest Minister Benoy Viswom admitted that the illiterate tribal communities were either dispossessed of their land or reduced to bonded labourers on their own land by corporate giants and real estate agencies through manipulation of land records and benami (illegal) transfers. The Minister asked the forest officials to protect the tribal land from encroachment. [2]

Since 1960, a total of 10,796.19 acres of tribal land were alienated in Attappady region under Palakkad district. As of 24 July 2010, only two acres have been restored although the Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) of Ottapalam had received 2,422 applications for restoration of land in 1996. In 13 other cases, an area of 44.77 acres was restored but tribals did not get the actual possession of the land. [3]

In a specific case, Suzlon Energy, a multi-national company, was accused of running wind farms in an illegally-bought land in tribal settlements and forest lands in the Attappady region in Palakkad district. Sarjan Realities which arranged land for Suzlon Energy, managed to get 623 acres in Attappady, on which 30 windmills were set up. The tribals were reportedly under the impression that they were giving the land to the company on rent. [4] On 8 August 2010, District Collector K V Mohan ordered the village administration in all six villages of Attappady to submit details of the land deals since January 2006. In a report submitted to the state government in July 2010 the District Collector had recommended a detailed investigation of the land deals by Puna-based Sarjan Realities which arranged land for Suzlon Energy’s wind farms. [5]

In his report submitted to the District Collector of Palakkad in May 2010, Attappady’s Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP) officer stated that Suzlon was buying and encroaching upon tribal land to lay roads that will transport huge blades and other components needed to erect wind towers. The report also mentioned that more than 60 hectares (ha) land, where the company put up 12 windmills, belonged to 36 tribals. Following Attappady’s ITDP officer’s report the RDO of Ottappalam verified 52 land registrations done in the past two years in Kottathara village and found that Sarjan Realities and 29 individuals bought 105.2 ha, of which 72.8 ha originally belonged to tribals and 17.09 ha was forestland. The company then sold 23 plots of 0.48 ha with a windmill in each plot to other business houses including Poppy Umbrella Mart, Anna Aluminium, Bhima Jewellery, Kerala Steel Associates and Mumbai’s Asian Star Company. The RDO’s inquiry also revealed forgeries in connivance with officials of the Revenue and Registration department and Attappady Hills Area Development Society, an autonomous institution of the Rural Development Department. In many cases, fake documents were prepared to bypass the Kerala Restriction on Transfer by and Restoration of Lands to Scheduled Tribes Act, 1999. [6]  But no action was taken so far.

The state government of Kerala also failed to properly implement the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006. A total of 37,253 claims for land titles including 36,017 individual and 1,236 community claims were filed at the Gram Sabha level for getting land titles under the Forest Rights Act 2006 as of 30 September 2010. Of them, only 9,997 land titles were granted while 1,524 claims were rejected. [7]

II. Violations of civil and political rights

During July to September 2010, the Asian Centre for Human Rights documented at least two cases of deaths in police custody in Kerala.

On 11 July 2010, S. Santosh Kumar Nair alias Chaluku Chandran (45 years) died in the custody of Karamana police station in Thiruvananthapuram district due to alleged torture. A resident of Muttamoodu near Nemon, the deceased was picked up by a patrolling police team after a complaint was filed against him by his wife on the night of 9 July 2010. The police claimed that the deceased died after consuming poison inside the toilet of the police station. Sub-Inspector K. Vijayakumar along with an Assistant Sub-Inspector and a Head Constable were suspended for dereliction of duty. [8]

On the night of 15 September 2010, a 60-year-old man identified as Baruvantavide Ismail was picked
up for questioning on a complaint about unauthorized collection of donation and died at the Chokli police station in Kannur the next day.  An inquiry was ordered and Sub-Inspector of the Chokli police station, G. Anup was suspended on 20 September 2010. [9]

On 27 September 2010, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a charge sheet before the Ernakulam Chief Judicial Magistrate indicting 14 policemen involved in the custodial death of a labourer identified as Udayakumar in 2005. Udayakumar was picked up along with another man, Mani, from a park and taken to the Fort police station in Thiruvannthapuram on 27 September 2005 and tortured to death. Of the 14 policemen, three police constables were charged with murder and the other 11 were charged with criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence. The CBI stated that three among the 11 police personnel including a Deputy Superintendent of Police, a Circle Inspector, and a Head Constable were also to be charged with murder but the CBI did not get sanction for their prosecution. [10]

In another case of custodial death in the state, on 9 August 2010 the Supreme Court (SC) gave permission to the CBI to investigate the custodial death of Sampath, prime accused in the murder of Sheela of Puthur, Palakkad on 30 March 2010. The state government of Kerala had moved the SC against the order of the High Court to hand over the case to the CBI on the ground that the case has been entrusted to a capable higher officer. But the SC said since the investigating officer’s colleagues were said to be involved in the custodial death of Sampath, it was better if the CBI investigated the case. [11]

III. Violations of women’s rights

There were many reports of violence against women in Kerala during July to September 2010.

On 20 July 2010, three Kerala forest guards identified as Manikantan (24), Shahul Hameed (33) and Unnikrishnan (43) were arrested for raping a tourist and her daughter inside a forest at Thenmala in Kollam, south Kerala six months earlier. The accused also recorded the act on their mobile phones. The arrests were made after the video clip of the rape was posted on the video sharing website YouTube. [12]

On 30 July 2010, the Kerala Women’s Commission held a Mega Adalat at the Collectorate Conference Hall in Painavu. It received 52 cases at the Mega Adalat of which it settled 17 cases. Commission member Rukmini Bhaskaran ordered police and department-level inquiry into two cases. One case was referred to the Legal Services Society for free legal aid and two cases were handed over to the Jagratha Samithi to take appropriate action. [13]

Endnotes:
1. http://censusindia.gov.in/Tables_Published/SCST/dh_st_kerala.pdf
2. Check encroachment on tribal land, forest officials told, The Hindu, 31 July 2010
3. Only 2 acres of tribal land restored at Attappady, The Hindu, 24 July 2010
4. Windmills on lush, prime forest land, by forging papers and conning tribals. All in a day’s work, Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 27, Dated July 10, 2010
5. Suzlon windmills on tribal land, Down To Earth Magazine, Centre for Science and Environment, 31 August 2010
6. Ibid
7. Ministry of Tribal Affairs, “Status report on implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 [for the period ending 30th September, 2010]” available at http://www.fra.org.in/Sept_2010_India.pdf
8. Complaint of ACHR to the NHRC on 12 July 2010 
9. Custodial death: SI suspended, The Hindu, 20 September 2010
10. 14 Kerala cops indicted for custodial death, The Times of India, 27 September 2010
11. CBI investigation in custodial death case, The Hindu, 10 August 2010
12. 3 forest guards held for raping tourists, The Hindustan Times, 22  July 2010
13. 17 cases settled at adalat by women’s panel, The Hindu, 30 July 2010
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