Prominent environment activist and national convenor of National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), professor Kusumam Joseph has been booked by Kerala Police over her Facebook post, appealed to the government to ensure COVID-19 relief food kits for Dalit and Adivasi families at Arippa in Kollam district.
On 16 April 2020, Kusumam had posted on her Facebook wall about the issue regarding the landless Adivasis and Dalits sheltered in huts as part of the land protest in Arippa, who did not get the much popular and lauded free COVID-19 food kit distributed by Pinarayi Vijayan’s CPIM-led government.
The post was a plea towards the government asking to distribute essentials during the pandemic for the landless Adivasis and Dalits in Arippa.
The Facebook post of Kusumam says; “The landless adivasis and Dalits in Arippa are struggling without food during the lockdown. The free food kit scheme included even the labours and animals and the exclusion of Arippa protesters is a cruelty. Though have contacted MLAs of the left government, there is no action taken. Kerala haven’t reported any deaths due to starvation, the government should make sure to supply the essentials for the people in Arippa before they die without food as they are on the verge of poverty.”
Police had registered a case against Kusumam based on the complaint by Kulathupuzha gram panchayat secretary on 18 April, this year, exactly an year after the incident.
According to the complaint, Kusumam’s social media post was a call for riot.
The acts which has been charged against her are IPC 153- wantonly giving provocation with the intent to cause riot, 118(B),KP act – any person who knowingly spreads rumours or gives false alarm to mislead the police, fire brigade or any other essential service and 120(O), KP act – if any person causing, through any means of communication, a nuisance of himself to any person by repeated or undesirable or anonymous call, letter, writing, message, email or through a messenger.
Kusumam got a phone call from the Kerala Police officials on 28 April and she was asked to surrender within 74 hours.
She had posted a video on Thursday asking people to discuss the matter. She said in the video, she had arranged food supplements for the protesters with the help of some organisations and wrote a plea on her Facebook to supply the free food kit which every individual in Kerala got and why the people in Arippa was excluded.
Activists and political organisations have extended solidarity towards Prof Kusumam. Many have written on social media the allegation against her is injustice and state terror. The case is as similar to the case by Up government filed on the tweet of oxygen shortage is another accusation raised by activists.
In a joint statement, Many prominent activists, including Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey, have asked the government to withdraw the FIR filed against Kusumam Joseph.
Kusumam concluded her recent video by saying that “My intention was not to push the Dalits of Arippa into poverty.”