Thursday, Feb 27, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
``Whatever be the legal complications and other difficulties, we will see to it that the tribals are provided with land. We will demolish every obstacle in the path,'' he declared.
Mr. Antony was replying to a submission on the Muthanga incident, moved by the Leader of the Opposition, V. S. Achuthanandan, in the State Assembly.
Taking exception to Mr. Achuthanandan's charge that the police had been cold-hearted in showering bullets on the tribals, he wanted to know what the Opposition had to say about the policeman who was hacked to death by the tribal agitators. "The dead policeman too was a tribal, belonging to the Peruvannan community. Did the Opposition leaders, who visited the hospitals and the jails to see the agitators, even think of visiting the house of the dead policeman?'' he asked.
Earlier, moving the submission, Mr. Achuthanandan said the unpleasant developments in Muthanga, which culminated in the police firing against the tribals who had occupied the wildlife sanctuary, were the direct consequence of the Government going back on its promise of distributing land to the tribals.
He said the Government, through its inaction for over 45 days since the occupation of the wildlife sanctuary began, had given the tribals the impression that they would be allowed to hold on to the encroached land. The leaders of the agitation had also misled the innocent tribals.
``I have spoken to the tribals jailed in Kannur. The thought of an `uprising' was never in their minds. They told me they were made to believe by the leaders of the agitation that any tribal who was ready to come with family and settle down in Muthanga would get land. This belief turned into a firm conviction when weeks went by without any outside interference,'' he said.
These innocent tribals now found themselves prisoners charged with very serious offences.
He reiterated the Opposition's demand for a judicial probe into the incident. The fast being observed by the LDF MLA, K. Radhakrishnan, at the door of the Assembly hall to press this demand, entered the second day today. "You should not take it as a disgrace to accept this demand. Only a judicial probe can bring out the full truth about what went wrong and who all were responsible for the horrible turn the tribal agitation had taken,'' he said.
Mr. Achuthanandan said there were genuine reasons to doubt the Government's contention that only two persons (one policeman and one tribal) were killed in the Muthanga incident. "The whereabouts of many persons who were in the settlement at the time of the police action are still not known.
Mr. Antony dismissed the demand and urged the Opposition to persuade Mr. Radhakrishnan to call off his fast. He assured the House that the tribals would receive all the consideration they deserved as the weakest and most underprivileged section of society. And, referring to the women and children taken into custody from Muthanga, he said the Government itself would take the initiative to have them released on bail.
The Speaker, Vakkom Purushothaman's frequent comments, both during Mr. Achuthanandan's speech and Mr. Antony's reply, irked the Opposition members repeatedly, leading to noisy scenes.
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