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Laha Gopalan 'exposed' the myth of complete land reforms in Kerala starting 2007

By Our Representative 

Mourning the death of Laha Gopalan, leader of the Chengara land struggle, Kerala, India’s civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has said, he will remembered for leading a struggle which exposed the myth of complete land reforms in the State. Gopalan was 72. Ailing for quite some time, he tested positive for Covid-19 and was admitted to a hospital in Pathanamthitta on September 21.
“The working class, in particular Dalits and Adivasis, who have tilled and toiled in the land throughout history, were denied their rights when the land reforms were carried out in Kerala in 1970s”, ,said NAPM, adding, “The excess land which was available to be distributed among the landless peasants were always hidden. On the other hand, tens of thousands of acres of land were occupied by various national and multinational corporations, such as estates of tea, coffee, cardamom, rubber etc.”
According to NAPM, “The initial struggle by 300 landless families, organized as Sadhu Jana Vimochana Samyukta Vedi led by Gopalan began cultivation on around on nearly 145 hectares of the Harrison Malayalam Rubber Plantation at Chengara in August 2007, pitching tents and demanding five acres land each for farming.”
It added, “The State and almost all established, mainstream political parties and their trade unions resisted the struggle by landless peasants. Undeterred, they led a militant struggle challenging the whole police state and drew national attention. Since then, thousands of families have been fighting for their right to land.”
Praising Gopalan’s leadership for his “ideological clarity and organizational capabilities” much critical for the success of the struggle”, NAPM said, “Later the State had to call the leaders for discussion and reached a settlement to distribute land to some of the landless families.” It regretted, however, “Even to this day, a large number of estates, which are defunct, and leaseholders of the land are selling it illegally to various parties for tourism or airports etc.”
NAPM said, “While we remember the historic struggle and contribution by Gopalan, we reaffirm that the right to land for toiling peasants, most of whom are Dalits and Adivasis, needs to be an important and continuing agenda for political and social movements. Drawing inspiration from the ongoing farmers’ struggle, we assert that land ownership by the toiling farmers, especially Dalits, Adivasis and women is central to sustaining agriculture and ecology.”

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