A Direct Report by K.Vasu
While the war was fought and after the end of the war, several Tamil Villages in the North and East, which are the traditional homelands of the Tamils, were acquired by the Army. Likewise few planned colonisations were undertaken and are being undertaken even now.
In this context, Tamil political Leadership and the people representatives in North and East are raising their voices in protest in numerous ways. But some border villages are about to be plundered without any fanfare. Although the people have come forward to fight against this, it is saddening to note that the Political Leadership had not shown any concern over it.
Vinnangampiddi village which had been transformed into a jungle land because people had not lived there , and the adjoining villages , parts of which are already encroached are about to be plundered. These lands belong to Paddikudiyiruppu GS division of Nedunkerny DS Division in Vavuniya District. These are the Border villages of Mullaitheevu and the Sinhalese settlements.
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Earlier the Paddikudiyiruppu GS division was around 19,000 square Kilometers in extent consisting of Thuvarankulam, Paddikudiyiruppu, Pavatkaykulam, Thanikkallu, Kunchumari, Senapparkulam, Pallampulavu, Vinnankampiddi, Sooriyanaru, and Ariyakondancholai. But today, a mere 550 Square Kilometer area remains inhibited by the Tamils, inclusive of Thuvarankulam, Pavatkaikulam, and Paddikudiyiruppu.
Large land areas like Sooriyan Aru (now under the name Weli oya) and the adjacent villages of Ariyakondan, Ceylon Theatres, Anantha Farm, Dollar farm, and Othiyamalai are under the Army control and subjected to planned colonization. The position of the Tamil villages of, Vinnangampiddi, Thanikkallu, Kunchumari, and Senapar kulam which earlier consisted of Agricultural lands, Irrigation tanks, and houses had become a question mark.
Signs of being inhabited by people have disappeared from these villages and they have become the thick forests and habitats of elephants. However the remains of wells which were constructed during the periods when people lived there stand as the only evidence of people lived there once.
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These lands which overgrown by forest, were given to people by the government for agricultural activities in 1972.people are in possession of Deeds for these lands. Earlier 24 families had built houses and lived in them. Several of the permanent wells constructed by these people are to be found even today, in the forest area, in depleted state.
All the people from these villages abandoned these border villages, following the 1983 Othiyamalai massacre. A fear psychosis is still prevailing, preventing these people who were displaced several times, from going back to their own lands. The Paddikudiyiruppu people were resettled with only a bag each after 2010.However, Vinnangampiddi and other neighbouring villages were not resettled. They still remain encroached by forest and without being inhabited for more than 35 years.
When people resettled in 2010, 250 acre of agricultural lands in Thanikallu, neighbouring Vinnangampiddi were being used by the people of the majority race. But after a long time struggle with the aid of their deeds these lands had come into the hands of the legitimate owners.
But the people here are nursing a fear, whether they could continue to safeguard these lands.
The people living here are without the economical strength to de-forest their lands and utilize them. More than that they are being continued to be threatened by the elephants living in the forests that have encroached their land where they lived earlier. It has become a routine occurrence now, in the lives of these people, that, elephants coming into their present habitat and damaging their houses and their cultivated lands and people getting together to drive away the elephants. Herds of elephants are to be seen roaming on the roads after 4.00 p.m.
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In this context, people came forward to hand over their lands to a private person, on a contract basis, for Bamboo cultivation, with a view to protect these border line villages and to clear the forest and re-claim their lands. The initial work for this was also largely over. In some areas, even the forest was cleared. At this stage, the Forest Department Officials who came there claimed these areas as forest lands. However the people produced their deeds and identified their lands.
Later, these people say that the Minister of Agriculture, NPC had prohibited Bamboo cultivation there and had informed that permission could not be granted to cultivate Bamboo there. 3,000 acre in Mannar is cultivated with Bamboo. It was not prohibited. But we tried to protect our lands and clear the forest and reclaim our lands and increase the income of the people, by the cultivation of Bamboo. But they are preventing us. He is the Minister of our own TNA. Why can’t he come and explain us, why bamboo should not be cultivated here? they ask. if he comes and explain we might accept his explanation.
We want our ancestral lands. Hence they should help us to protect our lands from being plundered. Instead of that, if these lands continued to be in un-cleared and abandoned state, there exists a danger of these lands being plundered. The local people say with tears that they shoul come forward to prevent this.
Hence, what will the people’s representatives and the political VIPs do to protect the Ancestral lands of Tamils which are currently overgrown with forests and in a danger of being plundered, is the expectation and anxiety of everyone concerned.