Dalit Camera: Through Un-Touchable Eyes
This is a transcript of the second video in the series of interviews Dalit Camera had documented in Kerala on the flood relief operations. The video was taken by Dr. Ravichandran Bathran; the translation was done by Mrudula Bhavani.
Interviewer: Can you tell us about the caste porridge protest?
Interviewee: On the second day in the relief camp I got a call from a native, who told me there is caste discrimination in the relief camp. The discrimination is explicit. They are going to start a separate camp, we need to oppose this. I told him, let me ask about this to the village officer. The village officer said there are no such issues and there won’t be such issues. The next day I received videos on WhatsApp, where the discrimination was seen as very explicit. Even on the way, they shared relief materials was discriminatory. When I decided to meet the village officer I met all the youngsters in the camp. All of us together filed complaints to the village officer, tahsildar, and district collector. They didn’t enquire about the issue even after we filed the complaints, they protected those who behave discriminatorily. Even the opposition leader’s response was similar. he came here and said we will give you rice and grains but we told him at least be ready to consider our complaint.
Their attitude to this complaint was evident in their very body language. He left. We talked with the village officer at his office. By then the separate camp came to an end. The next day we were called by the tahsildar for a discussion on the matter. The meeting was scheduled at 2.00 pm. The complainants got calls at 1.55 pm, 1.50 pm, and 1.45 pm. They had a preset agenda in doing so. They imposed it on us. We decided not to go for the meeting because of the same. We boycotted it.
That was our first protest. After that a day after we went to meet tahsildar because he called us. We read a news report in Madhyamam daily and The Hindu– the report says activists who came from outside created problems in the camp, that they clicked pictures of women etc. Police too had come here. We told him before looking into our complaint you issued a press statement where we are portrayed as mischievous. So you have to take the word back and issue a new press statement saying the previous one is baseless. He said he will not do that and he had no role in anything. We had around 20 minutes conversation with him and left. No member from political parties intervened in the issue or took a stand in the case.
Last day DYFI area committee was protesting about some issue related to cleaning works. They didn’t react when this issue came up. That means as I understand they are enjoying the caste system. They are enjoying it. Just for 5000 rupees for food, they gheraoed the panchayat office. But they didn’t react on the burning social issue in india. DYFI or Youth Congress activists were not even ready to have an opinion about this. So we thought we need to protest this strongly. We contacted with BSP’s Alappuzha and Kottayam district committee members. So as a public protest against the leadership of BSP district committee we conducted anti caste porridge protest. Beyond political parties, including religious leaders participated in the protest. Beyond a protest, we see this as a sharp reaction. At least the future generations should understand how casteist is the politics being played here.
I think we must go to politics from the understanding of caste. The forthcoming days would witness some changes definitely. There is some realization about things now. We hope that there would be discussions regarding this with tahsildar and collector. We have complained to SP. We are not seeing it as social change. They have created a counter case. DYSP made a statement that outsiders who enter the camp are creating problems and there is no problem in the camp as such. The funniest thing is, a section of people who moved out of the camp saying they can’t stay with us belongs to many political parties. There include people from Mani Congress, CPIM local committee, there is a Deshabhimani (mouthpiece of CPIM) news paper agent as well. These are people who say we don’t have caste. Majority belongs to Congress. These people are advocates of Socialism or secularism expressed their caste beyond their politics. They acted according to their castes. That is what embarrassed us. Even though they are working with these political parties, caste is deeply tattooed in their minds. We are ready to move legally and protest to any extent we can go. We hope there would be further actions taken. We will move forward.