We are not afraid to lay down more lives for our rights

  • 14/08/1999

What is the problem in Chilika?
The local fisherfolk in Chilika for many years have used traditional methods to catch fishes to earn their livelihood. The problem started when the prawn culture began in the early 1990s. Big money lured the mafia, who comprise of non-fisherfolk, and influential people such as political leaders and ias, ips officers. For some time even the Tatas showed an interest in Chilika. But their plans met with stiff opposition from the local people. Gradually, the prawn mafia encroached upon areas the local fisherfolk had used for ages. With money and muscle power, they harassed the fisherfolk and deprived them of their livelihood.

The issue took a new turn when in 1991, the former chief minister, Biju Patnaik, granted fishing rights to even the non-fisherfolk. The matter went to the high court which ruled that there would not be any prawn culture in Chilika. Even the Supreme Court gave an order which was favourable to the local fisherfolk. Despite all this, the government continues to operate in clear violation of the court orders.

Are political parties behind CMMM?
The cmmm came into existence in 1991. It is an offshoot of an organisation called the Navajagaran Nari Sangathan ( nns) . We are an independent body comprising of women from the fishing villages. We are fighting for our rights and do not act under the influence of any political party. Although there are some leaders and organisations that support us, our decisions are not influenced by anybody.

What are the activities of the CMMM?
We have branches in 156 villages. We are trying to consolidate the power of men and women in the villages. We go from village to village creating an awareness of their rights among the people. Today these rights are in danger of being taken away.

What prompted the NNS to take up the movement?
Women are an indispensable part of the whole process from fishing to looking after the house. Earlier, there was good income for the fisherfolk. But with the advent of the prawn culture and subsequently, the mafia, which is hand-in-glove with the government, we were deprived of our livelihood. This set off a process of migration and people left for places like Surat, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Mumbai to look for work. In times like these, women suffer the most. Not only do they have to do manual labour they look after their children as well.

What is the role of the women in this movement?
The attitude of the women in this agitation has been

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