C. K. Janu

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C. K. Janu is the leader of the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha, a social movement that has been pushing for land to be redistributed to landless adivasis and that grew out of the Dalit-Adivasi Action Council. Janu's background is Adiya, one of the adivasi groups in Kerala who used to be indentured laborers (adiya actually means slave) and whose people are still mostly landless agricultural laborers. Janu had no formal education but learned to read and write through a literacy campaign that was conducted in Wayanad, the area in the north of Kerala, near the border with Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, where Janu comes from. Her biography is quite typical of Adiya people: she used to be landless (until she organized a long drawn-out struggle to occupy land with her community and finally got a piece of land) and used to work as an agricultural laborer. Actually, as she never gained much money with her political career--or even lost money on having to pay for her political activities--she still often does this kind of work to get by.

Janu was with the Communist Party for a while in her youth and gained some experience in politics there--but also soon learned that the CPI(M) was not actually interested in the landless poor very much any more (adivasis--a legal category under which many very different groups of people fall--are in total only 1.5% of the population in Kerala). She therefore left the party in 1982. She was an active social worker at the beginning of the 90s and was even, in November 1994, awarded a State award for her efforts in this field. She however returned the award as a critique of the government's lack of responsiveness to the demands of landless adivasis.

In 2001 C K Janu became a prominent person in Kerala as she led a protest march through the state and held a long sit-in strike in front of the Secretariat in Thiruvanathapuram to demand land for landless adivasis. In 2003 she also led the occupation of land at Muthanga. The occupation ended with massive police violence in which a policeman and an adivasi were killed. It came to be known as "the Muthanga incident". Since then the movement has been in the news less and has concentrated on occupying land at Aralam farm, a huge cooperative farm that the government had promised to distribute amongst landless adivasis.

It is quite notable that C K Janu as a woman managed to gain such an important role in politics in the state of Kerala--without her being the wife of an important politician or even having the support of a political party. Indeed, apart from K R Gouriamma (a communist leader, even become minister, coming from a lower-caste--Izhava--background) and Ajitha (a famous Naxalite leader and now organiser of a feminist NGO), there are not many women in Kerala who make it to such political prominence.

Janu has sometimes been described moreover as the first 'organic' leader of adivasis in Kerala: she does not hold strongly to abstract political dogmas but works more from the concrete experiences of adiya life. She cooperated for some time with national and international indigenous people's organizations but was always very wary of being funded by any organization. Most of the activities of the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha are funded entirely through the solidarity of poor adivasis and dalits.

Further reading

*cite book |author= |title=Mother Forest: The Unfinished Story of C.K. Janu |publisher=Kali for Women |location=London |year=2004 |pages= |isbn=81-88965-01-4 |others= translated by N. Ravi Shankar| oclc= |doi= |accessdate=

External links

*Darley Kjosavik. Articulating identities in the struggle for land (http://www.mpl.ird.fr/colloque_foncier/Communications/PDF/Kjosavik.pdf)

*C R Bijoy, Ravi Raman. 2002. Muthanga: The Real Story. Economic and Political Weekly. (http://www.epw.org.in/epw/uploads/articles/2819.pdf).

*Brigitte Schulz. 2002. "I am that woman!" (http://www.montrealserai.com/2004_Volume_17/17_3/Article_5.htm)

*C.K Janu and M. Geethanandan. 2003. "The return to Muthanga." People's Union for Civil Liberties.(http://www.pucl.org/Topics/Dalit-tribal/2003/muthanga.htm)

*Mukundan C Menon. "C K Janu: Experience is my guide". Changemakers.(http://www.infochangeindia.org/changemakers9.jsp)

*Subhash Gatade. "Interview with C K Janu: 'No land even for burial...'" [http://www.sacw.net/Nation/gatade18032005.html)

*Luisa Steur. 2006. "The Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha in Kerala: Resistance and the Reproduction of Political Hegemonies" IDPAD Newsletter.(http://www.idpad.org/docs/Vol.%20IV%20No%201%20-%202006.pdf).

*R. Krishnakumar. 2001. "For land and livelihoods". Frontline. (http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1821/18210500.htm)

*K J Baby. 1993. Nadugadhika. Visthar Bangalore.


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