A small group of tribal women staged a novel but macabre and scary protest on April 8 at Urlalovakonda, a hilltop village in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam district.
Seeking justice and demanding a probe by the district administration, the tribals made nooses out of sarees, lassoed the nooses around their own necks while tying the other end of the sarees to trees, mimicking a hanging.
The five tribal women—Singarapu Rajulamma, Thokala Rajulamma, Solam Lakshmi, Thokala Erukamm, and Satyavati—and their families were protesting the clearing of cashew plantations deploying earth-movers in order to facilitate mining.
The women claimed that some members of the ruling Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party, in connivance with officials from a mining company, were surreptitiously clearing the plantations in order to allow mining to take place.
The tribal women said officials were branding them as encroachers and foisting false cases against them when they tried to stop the earth-movers from mowing down the cashew trees. The women claimed that if the cashew trees are uprooted,and they (the women) are evicted from the land, they will be deprived of their livelihoods. The women want the mining leases cancelled.
A video of the tribal women mimicking hanging themselves went viral on social media. The women could be heard in the video shouting that they will end their lives by hanging themselves from the trees if their rights are not restored.
Leaders of the tribal welfare group Girijana Sangam told Frontline that the tribals were not encroachers and had been issued “D pattas” for the land. They also demanded that in case the land was acquired, the tribal families must be paid compensation as per the Land Acquisition Act.