Forest officials on Wednesday evicted a group of landless families, including tribespeople, who had encroached on a vested forestland at Thovarimala, near Ambalavayal, in the district.
Close to 1,000 people under the aegis of the All India Krantikari Kisan Sabha (AIKKS) and the Adivasi Bharath Mahasabha (ABM), feeder organisations of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Red Star, had encroached on the forestland.
They encroached on 110 ha under the Meppadi forest range of the South Wayanad Forest Division on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections in the State.
The land was earlier under Harrisons Malayalam Ltd. and had been used for cultivating softwood trees to meet the demand of firewood in its tea factories.
The Achutha Menon Ministry in 1970 recovered nearly 5,000 acres, including estate land, at Vythiri and Sulthan Bathery taluks as surplus land. The Forest Department is its custodian. The land was intended to be assigned for the landless but successive governments had failed to adopt steps towards this end.
The agitators erected a few tents there and demanded steps to distribute surplus land to the landless people, including tribespeople.
However, the officials evicted close to 200 encroachers and demolished the tents erected on the land. The Forest Department registered cases against 150 agitators.
As many as 75 forest personnel and 75 policemen participated in the eviction drive.
M.P. Kunhikanaran, AIKKS secretary and CPI(ML) Red Star Central Committee member; Rajesh Appat, CPI(ML) Red Star State Executive member; and K. Manoharan, convener, ABM; were arrested, said K. Baburaj, Meppadi forest range officer, who led the drive.
Later, the evictees began an indefinite strike in front of the collectorate.