Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Brutal silence of State and Public: Homicides of Adivasis in Kerala

Kerala, the state which has always been bragging about its hundred percent literacy and renaissance, this society looted the land and resources of Adivasis and then took away the dignity of the Gods of their clan, women and young girls. We were shooed away from our own land. Our very culture was erased. They killed us one by one and even the dead bodies were disrespected. They acquired our land and made fake charters for the ownership of the properties.

Adivasi women in Kerala were physically abused and had them conceived. The employers and the migrant landowners gave them the delivery pain. Thereby many landowner humbugs called her ‘prostitute.’ The one who has gone through sexual abuse and gave birth to a baby was called a mother (unmarried) by the government. She was persecuted in front of the law. The goddess of law has ridiculed her and out of contempt accused her at the verandah of court. Afterwards, the court, law, and justice defended the assaliants. Since the hunters were from upper caste, the court came up with a verdict which would protect their “dignity and social status”. They were declared not guilty. When the Scheduled Tribe Development Cell is ready enough to disburse grants to protect the women who survived the sexual harassment and gave birth, then there is no harm in leaving the perpetrators without any punishment. Everything will be facilitated for that, including the special mobile squad, and  SC/ST court will give them the opportunity.

The Adivasis are a community who have lost everything but definitely have a certain culture. That is why they respectfully address our society as ‘chettan’ (elder brother) and ‘chechi’ (elder sister). Nevertheless, we call our elders by their names in our villages. Let me remind you that none of the Adivasis who were alleged as thieves didn’t impregnate your sisters or daughters. They didn’t go to jail for killing their wives for not giving enough dowry. They are not the ones who abandoned their parents in old-age homes after a dispute for the share of the inherent property. Even if we had gone through innumerable conflicts, miseries, and problems we haven’t gone to the family courts for divorce petitions. When the Adivasi activists address the issues mentioned above, they have been labeled as Maoists and terrorists by the bureaucracy and thereby trying to nullify the functioning of us is not something new. 

If mob lynching has happened in Uttar Pradesh, the revolutionary parties and fake activities would have built a human chain out of their ideology of revolution in the streets and cities of Kerala. There would have been protests that arose in the form of covering eyes with black clothes and lighting candles. It was our brother who was murdered. It is on 11th of this month, Viswanathan, an Adivasi man was manhandled by a mob in the Kozhikode district of Kerala alleging that he had stolen money. He actually accompanied his wife who came to the hospital for the child delivery. The next day, he was found dead hanging himself on a tree in front of the hospital. As per the report of the authorities it is a suicide but he didn’t know to climb the tree was his family’s claim.

In 2018, Madhu, an Adivasi man was manhandled by a mob, accused of stealing food from a shop and later in the hospital he passed away. Why there is no end to mob lynching in Kerala? In 2007, Babu, an Adivasi boy from Vellappatt thorp at Sulthan Bethery, Wayanad, had eaten some rice from the house of a priest, who was his neighbor. He was starving while he was playing. Even though the incident happened when Babu was just 14 years old, the bureaucracy forged a false case against him and jailed him when he was 24. Following that, Gopalan, Usha, Thanga, and Karuppan in the same village were arrested. They were the ones who came to the Bethery Court to take bail for Babu. At last, the inhumane bureaucracy killed Babu. The alleged cases against innocent Adivasis are constantly recurring.

In 2013, under the jurisdiction of Kambalakkad police station, another Babu was forced to give up his life. The house owners for whom he had been doing errands for a long time, forcefully gifted him an old abandoned speaker and asked him to listen to music. The house owner and his son together gave him the gift. Nonetheless, the next day, there broke out a rumor that Babu, an Adivasi who belonged to Paniya caste had stolen the speaker and the accusation of him as a thief arose in the air.  It was announced that the culprit was caught and the people celebrated it by drumming the tin cans and exhibiting him in front of each house, hanging the speaker on his neck. People were calling him a thief and were laughing at him. The state which always blows its own trumpet about being cultural and reformed became the place were Babu committed suicide due to mental harrasment, manhandling and digrace.

It is in this same state, in the heritage village ‘En Ooru’, Balram, the owner of a hotel named Gadha, passed away and his remains were not allowed for a public view by the village authorities. Even the mortal remains of Adivasis are disrespected. The law, and justice which are supposed to protect the Adivasis remain in mere papers.

The mainstream political parties, bureaucracy, and the public come together to kill Adivasis. The government should answer this. Who is here to give an answer? To acquire social justice, and to fight legally, we should stand in solidarity with the Adivasi community.

Ammini Wayanad is an Adivasi activist in Kerala and she is the president of Adivasi Vanitha Prasthanam. The article is originally published on Campus Alive magazine in and translated into English by Sabari Girija Rajan.

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