Text and pix by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai
A board placed roadside announced,: “Keppapulavu Model Village”.
Houses here are those who belonged to the final batch of returnees from Menik Farm, onetime the world’s largest facility for the Internally Displaced Pesrons (IDPs).
Entrance to the model village
Today, there are signs of a renewal of life, as the returnees are slowly settling in houses that are being built and a new road is under construction. Many of the returnees have small vegetable plats, and children can be seen at play in their homes. Young boys play cricket in scorching midday sun. Life seems so peaceful and normal for a moment.
Mobile ice cream van
Young boys playing cricket
Small vegetable plots
Poultry as a livelihood option
Small green chillie cultivation
These returnees were living at Menik Farm in Chettikkulam last September, when the government expeditiously relocated them to Seeniyamottai.
Road to the Keppapulavu Model Village
For first timers, everything appears normal here, as people go about, attending to their daily chores. Yet, the residents are still hesitant to talk to the media, to be photographed to be quoted by a name. Their fears are many. That’s when one realizes the scars the carry one still raw, four year after the war and six months after relocation.
People of Keppappulavu are farmers and fishermen
In September last year, these former IDPs alleged of being brought to Seeniyamottai “against their will”, and “under false pretences” – claims rejected by the State. The displaced group took to the streets on 24 September 2012, demanding they be resettled in their native village, having submitted a petition to the United Nations calling for an “urgent intervention” to facilitate their return.
With the resettlement underway with fresh and ambition deadlines set, the IDPs living within the 700 hectare Menik Farm were resettled in a hurry. The final batch of returnees comprised 1,185 persons (405 families) out of which 346 persons (110 families) were from the village of Keppapulavu. It had been documented that many of them refused relocation, and wanted to return to their place of origin.
Seeniyamottai site is currently being developed as a permanent IDP village, and the returnees have taken up permanent residence, though still in temporary shelters, awaiting completion of their new homes.
The original houses and properties of the people of Keppapulavu are currently under military occupation.
New houses to be built
“Almost everybody were resettled in their places of origin after the war ended. But, people from Keppaappulavu are still living in a relocated Model Village in Seeniyamottai. I have a house and a fertile farm land currently occupied by the military. I don’t know whether and when I will get my properties back” said an angry woman returnee, who believes having to take up permanent residence here amounts to a violation of her right to return. courtesy: PassionParade