Geetha Vazhachal: Kerala’s first chieftain

Geetha Vazhachal, a 30-year-old tribal woman is the first woman chieftain of a tribal community in Kerala. The chieftain of the Kadar community that lives within the Attappady Reserve Forest in Vazhachal, was honoured Eastern Bhoomika Award 2018 by Eastern Group Managing Director Firoz Meeran for being a symbol of boldness for her service chapter.

One would imagine, she would be fierce, as women chieftain or moopathi is a rarity. With soft spoken words, Geetha amazes each one of us, breaking the preconceived image of a moopathi. Her determination is to hold back her community from displacement for the proposed hydro-electric Project at Athirapally. Each time she opposed government for making way for the construction of a dam deep inside the forests of Kerala, she has been threatened.

She is the first from her village to complete SSLC and further education from a boarding school in Palakkad. Geetha’s childhood memories are overflowed only with displacement and struggle the community faced. The only thing that she concerned about was about the tribal rights and survival. Remember Geetha was only a teenager when she started a legal battle against the damsite report. The report prepared by the TBGRI was a pack of lies saying there were no inhabitants within project area triggered her to establish the community’s right to live. The idea of dam has uprooted hundreds of tribal people right from the beginning.

Without a second thought Geetha showed the courage to write to then Forest Minister about the left out facts of the damsite report. Filing a complaint against then Union Enviorment Minister for issuing show cause notice to KSEB is what provoked the government. A seriesof threats followed her activism against the Athirapally Hydel Power Project.

It took long two years for her to compile required information that is required for the implementation of the Forest Rights Act for her community. Geetha was elected as moopathi, the whole community could feel the safety and security under her. Still the battle continues for the existence of her community.

For Geetha forest is life and suffering of her ‘people’, the tribes, is the main cause for many uncompromised battles. It is under her powerful words that they stand united as one where an uproot remains as a dream. Preserving the community way of life and rights of her people are her main life agendas.

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