ACCORD (Action for Community Organisation, Rehabilitation and Development) was born in November 1985 out of the realisation that the adivasis of the Gudalur Valley were being cheated and exploited and might soon disappear off the face of the earth. Our vision is to help the adivasi community of the Gudalur Valley in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu to take control of their own lives. In March 1986 out of a small office in Thorapally, Gudalur, we began the battle for adivasi rights. We started with the central belief that adivasis had to retrieve the ancestral lands taken away from them by force and deceit. ACCORD believed firmly that adivasis had a genius of their own and that if people could regain their dignity, pride and self esteem, they could once more take charge of their own lives.
ACCORD began in activist mode to help adivasis organise themselves in order to assert their rights - especially land rights. We chose young people who wanted to stop the exploitation. They became animators, awakening people to the realisation that exploitation was not an inevitable part of life, that to demand justice was THEIR RIGHT. That land was their BIRTHRIGHT. They then formed village sangams to respond to issues of injustice and exploitation. Eventually these federated to form Ďthe Adivasi Munnetra Sangamí (AMS) at the end of a historic 10,000 strong land demonstration on December 5th, 1988. About 13000 adivasis have since become members of the AMS, successfully fighting for Gudalur adivasisí rights.
Land deprivation led to impoverishment and loss of livelihood. For a people who were primarily hunter-gatherers, the nationalisation of forests meant starvation, disease and malnutrition. The economic situation of the adivasi community had touched rock bottom. It was now imperative to remedy that through a massive economic regeneration programme. We also needed to improve the health and education scenario.
We began a multi-pronged attack. On the activist side - community and cultural organisation, people power, legal training camps and advocacy. On the developmental side - health, education, housing and economic development.
ACCORD has right from itís inception, always had two arms. The professionals or support team whose role is that of a catalyst. And the adivasi team being trained to take the community into the challenges of the 21st century. This value was expressed by the adivasi community as well. It was clear, from day one therefore, that ACCORDís task is to make the process of change irreversible and sustainable. Hence, the strategy envisaged for this purpose is to institutionalise the development programmes, train the adivasi youth to manage these institutions by providing necessary managerial and technical skills and to encourage the adivasi sangams to govern these institutions.
Accordingly, ASHWINI has been formed to serve the health needs of the adivasis, Vidyodaya Trust runs the educational programmes for the adivasis and a couple of informal economic development collectives are providing the credit and marketing support to the adivasi members. These institutions are providing the basic services necessary for the adivasis more effectively and appropriately than the existing institutions, be they the Government run organisations or private institutions. Thus, though all development programmes are initiated by ACCORD, they are hived off as different institutions once the activities reach a critical level. The activists of ACCORD, all of whom are adivasis, are constantly on the look out for new issues that need to be tackled to address the development needs of the community.
ACCORD plays a crucial role in providing the managerial, technical knowledge required for the village sangams and staff to manage the different programmes and political activities on their own.
During this last phase of our intervention, we are concentrating on developing the next generation of adivasi volunteers and a governance structure comprising of adivasi sangam leaders. This will result in a broad-based adivasi leadership in the villages. These institutions under the umbrella of AMS and an enlightened leadership will ensure that the adivasi community regains its self-reliance once again.
The focus of ACCORD's work and the history of AMS are very closely related. To understand the detailed history of AMS and the evolution of ACCORD's activities click here. History