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Tribals issue: Claim on the dead and missing

By Our Special Correspondent

KOZHIKODE FEB. 24. The social activist, A. Vasu, who called on C.K. Janu and M. Geethanandan in the district jail here today, is claimed to have been told that they would be able to provide the names of the tribals who were dead and missing after the police firing at Muthanga.

Speaking at a press conference here today, Mr. Vasu said the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha leaders would give the names of the dead and the missing if they were shown the list of tribal people in police custody and under treatment in hospitals. He quoted the agitation leaders as having said nearly 15 persons were fatally wounded in the firing.

In a joint statement, Mr. Vasu, Civic Chandran and M. Gangadharan, both activists, said hundreds of tribals were trapped inside the sanctuary after the Muthanga operation and had to be rescued immediately. Tribal people in many places were living in a state of terror fearing police action. Steps had to be taken by the Government to normalise life in tribal settlements.

They said the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha never expected the police action that took place on February 19. In fact, Ms. Janu had arranged for a press conference at the Kozhikode Press Club on February 18. But it had to be called off after a forest fire broke out and some Forest Department personnel were taken hostage by the agitators for starting the blaze.

The social activists alleged that the issue could have been settled peacefully if the Government forces had not entered the sanctuary to evict the agitators. The previous day the tribal leaders had created an atmosphere for a peaceful settlement by releasing the Forest Department employees who were taken hostages.

Mr. Vasu, a former Naxalite, expressed the view that the Government could have solved the problem at the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary by offering the agitators alternative land. The Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha would have agreed to the offer.

Mr. Chandran said the tribal people had a right to demand self-rule. Tribal self-rule has been allowed already in 1,500 villages in the country, including some places in Karnataka, under the Constitution.

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