The status of tribals in Kerala which became the subject of political debate in Kerala, after prime minister Narendra Modi raised it is getting murkier by the day. Modi comparing the lives of tribals in Kerala with that of people in Somalia has attracted a lot of flak from Keralities, in general.
It was trending on micro blogging site, twitter for two days. Sensing that prime minister’s remark might have hurt the Malayalee pride, the BJP has now fielded its national leaders and spokespersons on a damage control mission.
BJP president Amit Shah on Saturday lead the counter offensive by trying to highlight the living conditions of the tribals in Kerala. He defended the PM saying that he was not comparing Kerala with Somalia, instead he was trying to highlight the actual living conditions of the tribals.
For this he liberally quoted from various media reports. This also included an issue of Outlook magazine which had carried a cover story in July 2013 on the pathetic condition of tribals in Kerala, especially in Attapadi, a tribal hamlet that borders Silent Valley in Palakkad district.
The cover picture Outlook magazine had carried was reflective of the extreme poverty prevailing in tribal areas of Kerala, or it seemed like that.
But the image printed on the magazine cover, the BJP leaders are now using to defend prime minister’s statement on Somalia is itself very deceptive.
It now appears that the the photo that the Outlook magazine carried on its cover was not from Attapadi or Kerala.
The photo was used in the 2009 US State Department Report to Congress on “Incidents During the Recent Conflicts in Sri Lanka.” The report was published in 2009.
And Sri Lanka had taken exception to many of the findings in the report.
Outlook magazine did the cover story on Attapadi, when children were dying in that area during malnutrition in July 2013.
It appears now that the Delhi based magazine used the photo of the mother and child on the cover to add to the visual impact of the story. Interestingly the magazine had not included the cover photo inside the report, wherein it has used pictures from various tribal hamlets in Kerala.
BJP leaders after the drubbing they got on the social media is making all efforts to establish that the situation in Kerala’s tribal area are almost equal to that of the living condition of the people in lawless Somalia.
The cover photograph the Outlook magazine carried in the 2013 report is being extensively used by the saffron party to defend the foot-in-the-mouth disease of its star campaigner.
But now it has become clear that the cover picture, the magazine carried, itself is not from Kerala, but Vanni in northern Sri Lanka.
This is definitely adding to the worries of the BJP.
It has also brought Sri Lanka in, unwittingly like Somalia, into Kerala’s pollscape.