C. K. Janu

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C K Janu
Born 1970
Thrissileri, Vellamunda, Wayanadu, Kerala, India
Nationality India
Occupation Social activist
Home town Vellamunda, Wyanadu
Religion Ravula

Chekot Karian Janu is an Indian social activist,[1] the leader of the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha, a social movement that has been agitating since 2001 for redistribution of land to the landless adivasis in Kerala state, South India. The movement has now positioned itself under the aegis of the Dalit-Adivasi Action Council.

Early years[edit]

C. K. Janu was born in Thrissileri Chekot colony,[2] near Vellamunda, a tribal village, in Wayanad district, Kerala to poor adivasi parents who were from Ravula community, called Adiya due to their historical background, one of the several adivasi groups in Kerala who used to be indentured labourers. Adiya literally means slave and are mostly landless agricultural labourers. She did not have any formal education but learned to read and write through a literacy campaign that was conducted in Wayanad, an area in the north of Kerala, bordering Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.[3]

Janu started her career as a domestic servant at a local school teacher's house, at the age of seven where she spent 5 years. By the age of 13,[4] she started working as a labourer for a daily wage of INR 2 (3.5 US cents). Later, she learned tailoring and started a small shop which, subsequently, had to be closed down due to financial constraints.[5]

Political and social career[edit]

Janu, in her early years, was influenced by Comrade Varghese who led a tribal uprising in Tirunelli forests of Wyanad[2] and started her social career by speaking out from personal experience. Soon she became identified as the voice of Adivasis. Janu began her activism as a member of the Kerala State Karshaka Thozhilali Union (KSKTU), a union of agricultural labourers affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and continued to be involved on the party's invitation. She worked as a campaigner for the Union till 1987 when she quit the party after becoming disillusioned with them as she felt the party was less interested in the cause of the tribals.[6] She then embarked on a tribal tour to understand their problems and to mobilise them for struggle.[5]

Her stint with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) helped her to gain experience in party politics. In 2001, Janu 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 which lasted 48 days and resulted in convincing Kerala Government to distribute land to the adivasis.[5] In 2003, she also led the occupation of land at Muthanga.[7] The occupation ended with massive police violence in which a policeman and an adivasi were killed.[8] It came to be known as the Muthanga incident and Janu had to undergo imprisonment and face 75 cases filed against her.[3] After the Muthanga agitation, Janu shifted her concentration onto occupying land at Aralam farm, a huge cooperative farm that the government had promised to distribute amongst landless adivasis.

Janu is sometimes described as the first 'organic' leader of adivasis in Kerala[9] and holds status among notable women politicians in Kerala such as K. R. Gowri Amma (a former communist leader who became minister several times, coming from a lower caste, Ezhava background) and K. Ajitha (a former Naxalite leader and now organiser of a feminist NGO). She is reported to be devoid of abstract political dogmas. She has often cooperated with national and international indigenous people's organisations but was always very wary of being funded by any organisation. Most of the activities of the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha are funded entirely through the solidarity of poor adivasis and dalits.

An autobiography, a small book consisting of only 56 pages, 'Janu: The Life Story of C K Janu, was published in Malayalam by DC Books in 2003. The book was later translated into English by N. Ravi Shankar under the name, Mother Forest: The Unfinished Story of C.K. Janu.

Muthanga agitation[edit]

Main article : Muthanga incident

C. K. Janu
Location Muthanga village of Wayanad district, Kerala, India
Date 19 February 2003
Deaths 5
Assailants Kerala Police
Motive eviction / protest

The Muthanga Incident refers to an incident of police firing on the Adivasis (tribal clans) in the Muthanga village of Wayanad district, Kerala. On 19 February 2003, the Adivasis had gathered under Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha (AGMS) to protest the Kerala Government's delay in allotting them land, which had been contracted in October 2001. During the protest, Kerala Police fired 18 rounds resulting in two immediate fatalities (one of which was a police officer). In a subsequent statement, the Government placed the official death toll at five. A video of the firing was aired on several news programs[10] and prompted noted author, Arundhati Roy, into writing You have blood on your hands.[3]

The agitation was deemed a success as, according to Janu, nearly 10,000 Adivasi families have received land following the 2001 agreement and over 4,000 hectares of land including the Aralam Farm land in Kannur district has been assigned to the landless Adivasis.[11]

Awards and recognitions[edit]

In January 1994, the Kerala government presented her with the award for the best Scheduled Tribe Social Worker; however, she declined the award because the government had thus far not acceded to the thirteen demands of Kerala tribals.[12]

Janu represented India at a UN Conference of the tribal leaders from all over the world. She also toured Europe in 1999 on behalf of the Peoples' Global Action Group and gave speeches at more than 120 locations in eight countries. In 2000 Janu participated in the second International Conference of the People's Global Action Group in Bangalore.[12]


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