The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Arundhati pledges support to tribals

New Delhi, Feb. 22: From the banks of the Narmada to the forests of Kerala — author-activist Arundhati Roy is determined to walk every difficult terrain.

Unfurling the flag of rebellion on her home turf in Kerala this time, Roy has raised her voice against the killing of tribals in the Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary in the forests of Wayanad district.

Four tribals died after the landless Adivasis, who have illegally occupied the sanctuary for the past one-and-a-half months, clashed with law enforcement agencies on Wednesday morning.

Expressing anguish over the violence, Roy has written a letter to Kerala chief minister A.K. Antony. “The unforgivable and cynical delay in delivering the land promised by the government of Kerala to the poorest and most needy of people has resulted in an unfortunate and needlessly brutal confrontation that would make any citizen of Kerala ashamed,” the letter says.

The violence erupted after a force of police and forest officials moved into the sanctuary to clear the area of encroachers. Several rounds of teargas shells were fired. The tribals, however, braved the shelling and clashed with the officials. According to reports, 32 of them, including women and children, were injured.

Lending her voice to rights groups, Roy says: “This is to add my voice to several concerned citizens’ — to request you to make sure that not only C.K. Jhanu but all the other activists and Dalit people who have been remanded in police custody are treated humanely and in accordance with Indian law.”

Jhanu is one of the leaders pioneering the agitation.

“It is also to urge you that the police and government officials who embarked on an inexcusable spree of violence are tried and punished under the same Indian law,” she continues.

“Today the Kerala police have arrested scores of Adivasis and Dalit people. This is to urge you to make sure that no further brutality takes place while they are in police custody, It is your responsibility to ensure that the arrested people are not subjected to any form of physical violence and that the women are not sexually harassed,” Roy’s letter to Antony adds.

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