Entry into tribal settlements in Kerala: Controversial order amended, but on-ground vigil beefed up

Neenu Mohan

Representative Image / Photo: Shafeeq Thamarassery

The Directorate of Scheduled Tribes Development Department (STDD) is in damage control mode after receiving flak for its controversial order restricting entry of individuals and entities to tribal settlements in Kerala, unless a special permission is taken.

Amid mounting pressure, the state government has maintained that the objective is to monitor research students. STDD now has amended the order in line with the state government’s justification of the move.

As per the new tweak, those engaging in research, field survey, internship, camp organising and film shoots without department’s permission or consent of ‘ooru kootam’ (traditional tribal hamlet administration) will be restricted. Field level visits or data collection will be restricted in such cases, the amendment read.

However, on the ground, the measures to restrict entry and interaction of individuals and entities with hamlet dwellers are beefed up. Field staff, including ST promoters, are assigned to monitor the visitors and type of their interactions. They have to regularly update the matters to the department. The details will be reaching the police too.

When intimated about beefed up vigil, authorities concerned said that the measures are initiated over Maoist threat in the region. The officials claim that pro-Maoist activists may pretend as researchers and social workers to influence the hamlet dwellers.

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