On June 2, CPIML’s determined and united struggle for the homeless came to fruition, when hundreds of activists came to streets to celebrate the victory of persistent struggle over reclaiming land illegally occupied by land mafia and political bigwigs. The activists unanimously declared that now it is people’s land and the task of distributing the land to homeless will be taken up. Addressing the demonstrators CPIML Tamilnadu State Secretary Balasundaram said, at a time when corporates and saffron forces are celebrating the victory of BJP and Modi, we the poor and down-trodden celebrating the victory of our sustained struggle for land. A Govt. with resound mandate might have ascended but only the united and determined struggle of the people has given respite to the people.
This 48.50 acres agricultural land was given to the hang-men (Arachaar) by the erstwhile Trivancore Samasthanam. Although the Nagercoil Sub court ruled that the Arachaar land belongs to TN govt., for the past 22 years no steps were taken up to acquire the land. Land mafia with the connivance of the officials encroached illegally, and to the extent that a plot was registered even in the name of CM Jayalalithaa too! On December 28, a housing patta and house right conference was organized in Nagarcoil. More than 1200 houseless poor attended the conference. Comrades Anthonymuthu, Marystella, Chandramohan and Susila besides several prominent personalities participated in the conference. Comrade Balasundaram inaugurated the conference. The conference decided that the Arachaar land must be reclaimed and distributed among the homeless.
Series of agitations was organized by the party involving several thousand through our mass organisations. On January 18, dharnas were held in eighteen centres. On January 26 a road blockade agitation was held in Nagercoil near the Arachaar land cite at Parvathipuram. This also attracted the support of several CPI(M) supporters. Due to the pressure mounted, the District Collector assured that the demand will be looked into, but case was registered on leaders and general public including Balasundaram, State Secretary of the Party. On Feb 3 a road-block agitation was announced in front of the Collectorate. Police indiscriminately arrested agitators including children. It drew wider condemnation. Then on March 15 more than 1200 women stormed the Arachaar land. The district administration once was forced to give an assurance to the agitators. The issue of this land was also raised in the election Campaign of CPIML. In the midst of the election campaign AIPWA activists staged an agitation right in the Arachaar land, while police brutally attacked the activists and slapped cases on them. Meanwhile on behalf of the party a case was filed in the High Court (Madurai Bench) on the question of this Arachaar land. And a case was registered on the police for their indiscriminate actions against our activists. This has restrained police to some extent.
In the course of the sustained agitations AIPWA district conference was held in the district in which 800 participated. This conference was inaugurated by Comrade Bhuveneswari, CCM of the party. AICCTU also organised its district conference in which around 650 unorganised women and men workers participated. AICCTU State Vice-President G. Ramesh attended the conference as observer. These conferences gave a fillip to the ongoing struggle for land.
Due to our sustained agitations it became an important issue in the district. State and district administration forced to take some steps. The agitational efforts drew support from various quarters. Both the struggles and legal steps forced the administration. On May 26 the district Collector acquired the illegally occupied land worth of several hundred crores and sealed illegal structures erected. The collector also announced that Tamilnadu Slum Clearance Board will build houses for the houseless. Though the administration has announced housing scheme in 11 acres, how the remaining 37 acres will be utilized is not clear. Moreover, without considering more than 3000 petitions submitted to the collector, he announced that 900 people, who were not part of the agitations, will be provided houses in the scheme!
Retrieval of the total extent of land, arrest and prosecution of the culprits and officials who connived with land-mafia, distribution of the land to the houseless as per the govt.’s promise, retrieving the illegally occupied lands throughout the district which is estimated around 5000 acres, and that the state govt. in its upcoming July session must declare to acquire all illegally occupied lands and fulfill AIADMK promise of house-sites are the issues on which this struggle will be taken up into the next phase.