Dalit Camera: Through Un-Touchable Eyes
This is a transcript of the third 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 Shahal B.
My name is Tinu. My home is nearby, Pallippad. I was one of the main persons working in the camp. I only know what I heard from others, and things from the second day onwards.
Interviewer: You are the one who called?
Interviewee: Yes yes. So the thing is, two weeks before this flood, when water had risen, the camp had started on July 18. In Kanjirangod LP School. The school is in the 3rd ward of Pallippad Panchayat and it is the school of Christians. But, things are done by the government only.
The camp was started in the afternoon on 18th. When it started, not everybody could reach there. Many were trying to keep things somewhere safe. Some ladies and others were staying back. They brought the food items to the camp at that time. Under this camp, at that time, there were eight sub-camps.
The main camp was the Anjiramudi camp. Sub-camps are ther because not all people could reach the main camp. So all the food items for the sub-camps were brought to the main camp. After that it was divided into eight parts.
In the Anjiramudi camp, there were people from two communities mainly. We Pulayas and Christians.
Interviewer: Syrian Christians?
Interviewee: Yes. They, the Christians, were about 27 families and we were 23 families. Rachel Patrick, a Christian woman, became the first convener of this camp. So when the food items were brought to the camp, they divided them into two portions. One part for the Pulayas and the other for the Christians. Thus the start itself was casteist.
So we intervened in it when somebody raised the issue. The convener of the camp was Uthaman who was a Pulaya and a Congress sympathiser. Since he could not stand against them politically, he divided food into two parts.
We got to know about the issue only after that division. The next day, supplies for these 8 camps came to the main camp. So almost 15 of them including Rachel Patrick came to the camp claiming half of the supplies. They asked for half, and we said it is not possible.
We called ward member, who is also the Vice President of the Panchayath, at this time. She had contested and won from the Congress panel from a reserved seat. 6 months after winning the election, she converted to Christianity. She was protecting them.
The ward member came and we told her that the division is not possible. Either 50 families would eat together or we should abandon the camp. But it was not okay for them because, they said, they cannot live with Pulayas. They started abusing us using casteist slurs like, you people used to clean dishes in our homes.
The ward member stood with them. She said the supplies have to be divided because ‘my vote bank is Christians. You Pulayas were not the ones who elected me’. So that was the stand of the ward member.
So while they were using casteist slurs, a plus two student among us took a video of it. Then they started saying that we were taking videos of girls among them to misuse. The accused became the accuser. They threatened that if you put it in Facebook they will chop off his leg, and then they left.
After that we talked to the Village Officer and he took a stern stand. He said supplies cannot be split like that. Those who want to stay back can stay back and others could leave. After this, on 20th, the leader of the opposition, Sri Ramesh Chennithala visted the camp.
On that day, they started cooking using these supplies from a shed of a CPIM leader. So when Ramesh Chennithala came, he first visited these pro-Congress people who were living separately and did not come to the Pulayas.
After hearing their complaints, he came to our camp, the main camp. When he came, he asked right away whether we have rice and other supplies. But for us, food was not bigger than the humiliation. It was not bigger than this castiest mob’s verbal abuse and humiliation.
So when Chennithala asked whether we have supplies, my father’s brother came and said ‘Sir, we have a complaint’. We were recording the video when he came. Even now people around me were taking video. He did not even listen to what the complaint was. And he said, I will send you some rice tomorrow, as if it was from his home. And he left. He did not listen to us.
Next day, they asked for a meeting, including the Village Officer, Tehsildar, Ward Member etc. Because of some inconvenience, Uthaman could not go. Instead, I went. So in this meeting, there was one representative from Christians also. Tehsildar took two papers and the 50 KG rice was split into two parts of 25 Kgs each. The camp was also split as Arinjumudi North and Arinjimudi South.
So two camps were formed. We Pulayas live very close to Achan Kovilar river, about 3 metres away only. They did not even need such a camp because they were living almost 50 metres away from the river and close to the road. Still they got a separate casteist camp, with the help of a ward member who won from an SC seat, the leader of the opposition, Panchayath President Kurupp etc.
After the split, when we went to buy supplies for the camp, Police came to the camp. They came and right away asked, who is looking for romance here, and all. They talked in a very demeaning manner. We are experiencing this casteist abuse for years.
Even when I was a child, this camp was there, we experienced this discrimination. We decided to move legally. We informed Nation Human Rights Commision, SC Commison, the District Collector, Chief Minister, Dept. of Local Administration, etc.
After this, maybe to convince us that they have filed a case, two police offiers from the Commisioner’s office came and collected evidence. After this without intimating us, DySP published a statement in the newspapers saying that such an incident did not take place and it was just some issue created by people who came from outside.
The case is still going on, but before the conclusion DYSP published such a statement that there was nothing casteist here. We have not got any benefit of the law as of now. We are not taking a step back in this matter for any reason. We will take this forward until we get justice.
Because what they should undertand is, earlier we did not have education. Then you could give us rice so that we would mingle with other society. Maybe our forefathers did not know. But today we are EDUCATED. We know what is right and wrong. We will go like that.
They have made us into troublemakers. If it is politicians or revenue officers, first they would tell us not to make an issue. What does it mean? They have decided that we are troublemakers. When the camp started in Anjirmaudi LP school we could stay there for only one day because water was raising.
Then we moved to a private school. Because of the intervention of Sarach Chandran, my brother, a vehicle from Aluva with supplies was coming. They reached a junction which is just 100 metres away from the camp and they contacted us. When we went there, Mangalam Babu, newspaper agent, who supported the casteist Christians was there. He is the agent of Manorama.
He told them, you should not give supplies to them because they make problems in the community and that is why because they are separated from others. We 23 families are living sepreately here. They have been separated by the intervention of the Panchayath. They are not given any benefits. So you should not give it to them and I will show you another camp. While he was saying that two of us reached there.
They came to the camp and took a U-turn and left. The said they will just come back, and they left. They came in front of the door and ….We thought they will return. But they left. It was supplies for our camp. They dopped those who contacted them there and left.
We posted it. He (Mangalam Babu) is now claiming that, I did not say that and where is the evidence etc. He was the one who connected them to K.C. Venugopal, Saji Cheriyan, Shobhana George etc and made the case into nothing. Also, Onam Kit from Reliance was supposed to distributed in this village. They were giving it based on wards to those who had slips. They gave slips to only 4 of us, SCs, secretly. It was some political game.
None of us got that. Only 4. It was political. The President intervened and gave slips to these 4 people. Similar to that even today even during natual calamity we are discriminated against. We are made lowly citizens in all ways.