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Eviction in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and Muthanga Adivasi agitation, Kerala, India

Protest against an animal reserve (elephants, tigers) and for recognition of land rights. Known in 2003 as the Muthanga agitation, Wayanad tribals fought for land in that year and afterwards.


Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary was constituted as a separate entity in 1985. There are about 107 settlements comprising 2,613 households within the boundary of the Wildlife Sanctuary. The total population of these households is of 10,604 (info from the WWS Plan). These households comprise different tribal communities, OBCs and others. The PVTG adivasi of Kattunaikar and Mullu Kuruma, are the majority in the area, and they are considered the “real” forest dwellers of the sanctuary as they have a closer relationship to the forest. The Adivasis of this area have been struggling to reclaim their land since decades; one of the most important struggles took place in 2003 under the name of ‘Muthanga’ where thousands of Adivasis occupied the Muthanga range of the WWS to occupy the land considered by them ancestral territories[1] .

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Eviction in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and Muthanga Adivasi agitation, Kerala, India
State or province:Kerala
Location of conflict:Sultan Bathery
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Establishment of reserves/national parks
Specific commodities:Land
Biological resources
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary was notified in 1973 by carving areas out of the Wayanad and Kozhikode Territorial Divisions. A separate Wildlife Division, the Wayanad Wildlife Division was constituted in 1985. There are 13 Reserved Forests in this sanctuary. The Sanctuary is a part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and Project Elephant Reserve No. 7. It is contiguous with Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary of Tamil Nadu and Bandipur and Nagarahole National Park of Karnataka.

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Project area:34,440
Level of Investment for the conflictive project20,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:10,600
Start of the conflict:01/09/2001
Relevant government actors:Kerala Forest Department
International and Finance InstitutionsWorld Wildlife Fund (WWF) from Switzerland
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Adivasi Dalit Action Council – which later became the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha (2003)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Landless peasants
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Indigenous group of Kattunaikar and Mullu Kuruma. Adivasi woman leader C.K. Janu
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage)
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Health ImpactsPotential: Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Violent targeting of activists
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:Local people supported by the forest department ae failing individual and collective forest rights.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The protest of people since 2003 led to promises of land allocation and later led to suspend the plan and trying to convert the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary into a Tiger Reserve. However displacement is carried out by the Forest Department although it is not a Tiger Reserve yet, and the communities have been induced to move out of the forest place, often with a false promise of land and money.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, 2006
[click to view]

[1] The Hindu. "Two kills as tribal, police clash". February 20, 2003. Author: Madhavan Nair
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[2] The Hindu. "Tiger-rich Wayanad yearns for support". Jan. 22, 2015. Author: K.S. Sudhi
[click to view]

[3] The Hindu. "Settlers in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary to be relocated", April 9, 2012. Author: E.M. Manoj
[click to view]

[4] MOEF Websiet data
[click to view]

[5] The Hindu. "State seeks Rs. 100 cr to relocate forest dwellers". Sept. 17, 2017
[click to view]

[6] PA Updates, February 2013, ( No 101) pg. 6
[click to view]

[7] The Times of India. "Wayanad sanctuary relocation plan delayed as families protest". Feb 28, 2018. Author: K. R. Rajeev
[click to view]

[8] The Hindu. "No move to declare Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary a tiger reserve: officials". August 29, 2014. E.M. Manoj
[click to view]

[8] Times of India. "Villagers of largest settlement to move out". Juen 28, 2018. Author: K R Rajeev.
[click to view]

[9] Muthanga agitation, 16 years after 2003. Interview by Kora Abraham with CK Janu, one woman Adivasi leader of the Muthanga agitation and leader of the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha (AGMS)
[click to view]

[9] Down To Earth. "Tribals are being treated like stray cattle". July 4, 2015.
[click to view]

[10] The Forest Rights Act and Wayanand's Paniyas. In Current Conservation. Author: Poorna Balaji, Siddhartha Krishnan
[click to view]

[11] Down To Earth. "Tribals are being treated like stray cattle". July 4, 2015.
[click to view]

The Hindu. "Settlers in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary to be relocated". April 9, 2012. Author: K.M Manoj
[click to view]

The Times of India. "Voluntary relocation project in Wayanad faces hurdle". Jan 30, 2019. Author: K R Rajeev

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Scroll in. 19 Febr. 2019. In Kerala, Adivasis continue to fight for land rights 15 years after violent agitation.
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Meta information
Contributor:Eleonora Fanari, [email protected], ICTA
Last update23/02/2019
Conflict ID:4030
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