1989 – Right to justice

Our attempts to take back lost land continued in full swing.  Bettakurumbas and Kattunaickens reclaimed land their ancestors had been cheated of in Chembakolly. They parked there in the cold wet monsoon, braving elephant, boar, leopard and bear attacks in makeshift centres. To help consolidate their claims they planted coffee, tea and pepper. This was the first major land reclamation and a historic victory.

It was no easy task though and repossession often led to conflict with government officials. Requests poured in for help with false cases lodged against Adivasis. ACCORD, which had taked about basic rights in the beginning itself, stepped up legal aid classes. People from every area came to the ACCORD office, often camping for 2 or 3 days and were taught their rights by a lawyer.

It was drummed into people that they could not be arrested illegally, that they could demand legal aid and phone a lawyer, that signing on a blank sheet of paper was begging for trouble, begging to be cheated. Slowly, the fear evaporated. Confidence emerged first among the animators, then among local leaders and youth and the reputation and trust of AMS & ACCORD grew among the people.

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