M.S. Selvaraj

M.S. Selvaraj

Work area : Nilgiris district, Tamil Nadu

Selvaraj has been leading a vibrant people’s movement in the ethnically fragmented Nilgiri Hills since 1991. Selvaraj organised communities to challenge the Illegal eviction of forest dwellers and frequent atrocities by the Forest Department.

He has played a pivotal role in establishing the School for Social Change in Tamil, where he has been actively involved in cultivating local leadership and grooming the upcoming generation of community leaders. As a filmmaker and artist dedicated to preserving the culture of common people. Selvaraj takes a deep interest in music, documentary films and history.

In 1996, Vivasayigal Thozhilalargal Munnetra Sangam (VTMS) was formed by the local people which envisioned itself as a working-class alliance to assert the rights of the hill people and their constructive role in conservation and biodiversity. VTMS has organised and led a series of struggles on several issues. In many ways, the core work, the struggle for secure land rights, has dominated the organization’s agenda since it was founded. There have been two aspects to this struggle- Land for the landless and secure land rights for smallholders, who are vulnerable to eviction and harassment at any time. They have also demanded basic facilities for estate workers (Estate Workers’ Rights and Tea Cultivators’ Rights) and for the handover of failing estates to worker cooperatives.

Selvaraj has now been working across the state of Tamil Nadu to spread awareness about the Forest Rights Act and works closely with the communities and their leaders to create momentum around the issues across the broad spectrum of natural resources in the state. As a member of the Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), he promotes the coming together of progressive groups and individuals to take up the issue of recognised rights of forest-dwelling communities.

About Vivasayigal Thozhilalargal Munnetra Sangam

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