Kerala’s Patthanamthitta district is infamous for the highest concentration of granite mining quarries. The hilly region of Konni in the district is where 80-year-old Achan Natarajan, a former daily wage worker, lives. This is also where the district’s biggest granite crusher is located. All his life, Achan has always battled the way mining mafia has spread in the area and snatched land, often forcefully, from natives.
As a form of protest, Achan bought about half an acre of land in the area with his life’s savings. He then divided the land into 10 sub-plots and gifted them to 10 families, thereby making it nearly impossible for the mining mafia to ever take control of the land here. In an interview with The News Minute, Achan said, “I have not given the families their title deeds even though it is ready because I’m scared that the mining mafia may take it away. In the title deeds, Achan has inserted a clause that ensures that ownership of the land cannot be transferred for the next 70 years.
Achan continues to live with his 75-year-old wife in a one-room shed made of aluminium sheets. He has received many threats to his life, but his belief that land should belong to the people who live there is unshaken. Achan chuckles, “They threaten me at this age. They said they’d kill me. I’ll anyway die one day, so am not scared. They try their best to stop me from giving away the land. They offered me a huge sum, but I don’t need it.”
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