"Government want to end this movement", says Anti Caste Wall Protesters in Kerala
Dalits in Ernakulam's Vadayambadi is been protesting against a Caste wall built by NSS, to check entry of Dalits to Bhajanamatam temple premises. On Ambedkar Jayanti, Dalits broke the caste wall down. Now, prior to a festival in the temple, local administration with the help of police demolished their protest pandal and arrested seven protesters. The police arrested two journalists who were reporting the incident and they are in custody along with KPMS leader Shashidharan who got brutally beaten up by the police. Today, their case will be heard.
"There was a pathi (a worship system of Dalits) inside the temple where Makkotha Pappu used to do puja. Nairs destroyed it. We had no entry to temples and we had no money to buy oil and ghee to worship gods. we, the downtrodden, used to worship gods with things which were affordable to us, be it turmeric powder, be it Kumkum. There was a shivalinga, a thrishool as ours. Makkotha Pappu is a Dalit with SSLC. But he couldn't study further. So he started worshipping at pathi. First, Nairs kicked our goddesses and ancestors who worshipped them. Now they are encroaching our land. This is happening in many parts of Kerala. They are kicking us out to establish their savarna dominance.
Dalit women on hunger strike demanding demolition of caste wall.
photo from May 2017
They arrested me for protesting against this. I was in custody for 18 hours. Nairs doesn't have temples. So, first they kicked us out, owned our goddess and now, they owes our land too." Ayyappankutti, a Dalit youth who is protesting the caste wall built at Vadayambadi, told Narada News about how did the nairs started dominating the space, denying temple entry and access to the land to Dalits.
"From the beginning of the protest police stand was anti-Dalit, till now. Out of one acre and 17 cents land, parting around 95 acres, they had a plan to build a high wall. When they came, our people protested stepping onto the proposed land. That day, police tried to feel the pulse of the people. To know whether they will oppose or not. That was around February. When people resisted, they went back." Joy Pavel, an active member of Daalit Land Rights Struggle Front says. Joy traces the major events of the movement.
They went back to RDO and got an order which is in favor of Nair Service Society, they are provided with police protection as well. The order was given by RDO Ramachandran Nair. They moved a writ in high court. After one week, they came with a court order and properties including JCB. That time, Puthenkurishu police intervened and arrested all the protesters. Around 29 people were arrested. They were kept in custody and helped NSS. That was the first incident of police's anti-Dalit action.
After that, they continuously threatened people here, who were protesting. Actually, none of the administration enquired what is our prime demand. They kept doing this using the political influences. Police officials including SI had been treating us like, we are committing some criminal activity. I am not a Dalit. But I live here. I had been using this ground since very young age. I had been living together with the Dalits here, had been working with them politically, as part of leftist movements. We had screened John Abraham's movie Amma Ariyan here. Such cultural activities were conducted at this ground. Now, police says it is the intervention of outsiders causing such troubles. Organizations like Solidarty, Welfare Party, SDPI, PDP has been in solidarity with the protest, but the police tried to create tension among people with a propaganda against these organizations, branding them as terrorist organizations.
I was with CPIM and I quit it to join CPIM (ML). They are alleging Maoist connection. But these people know about us, they know how do we work. The panchayat is leftist. The Panchayat president also is leftist. This is a Panchayat reserved for scheduled caste people. MLA VP Sajeendran Kunnathunaad is also a Dalit. District panchayat also is Scheduled Caste's. this ward also. But no one responded in favor of us.
When NSS approached Ernakulam court demanding police protection, we approached DYFI's district secretary Arun Kumar. He is a relative of comrades here. But he belongs to Nair caste. He undertook the case and told the court that people here have no objection on building the wall. That is how they could build the wall. After that we conducted a Panchayat march. We demanded to conduct a gramasbha, demanding to withdraw permission for building the wall. According to the three tier panchayat system they can also take a decision, but they didn't. we were challenging RDO Ramachandran Nair's decision. Another Nair in the case. After that we marched to the district collectrate. From the beginning police had been helping police.
Protestors at the site.
Photo from October, 2017
They are telling it is outsiders who organize the protest. They have already set this agenda for attacking the movement. Jignesh Mevani can come here, Narendra Modi can come here, Mohan Bhagavat can also come. That is not an issue. But we can't enter and work. That is their problem. With well planning, they are spreading lies to people. They are using newspapers like Mathrubhumi for that. Today's Mathrubhumi gave a report stating that the movement has Maoist links. Kerala kaumudi also gave a police version report. Kerala police's anti-people's movement stand is clear in those reports. That is the core issue. All the movements by people are branded as that of Maoists. Look at Pomblai Orumai movement.
The latest move is when we got a letter from police. It said the protest pandal is illegally built and we must demolish it within 24 hours. We replied it on next day morning. District collector is involved in the case. They didn't demolish the pandal on that day. Next day ADM called for a discussion. Two of our representatives participated in it. DYFI members, panchayat secretary, panchayat president, Tehsildar, NSS representatives etc were present. Ayyappankutti, protest committee convenor represented us. We made our point clear. They replied we must demolish the protest pandal. Discussion ended. Next day, they all came in a decision not to demolish it. But by evening, they changed the decision to demolish it.
When they decided this, we thought we will start indefinite hunger strike, till then we were doing relay hunger strike. Arun and Scheduled Caste protection committee convenor Rahul started indefinite hunger strike. Protest pandal became very live. Next day three big police vans and two police jeeps arrived the site. It was in the early morning they started demolishing the protest pandal and started attacking the protesters. When they demolished it there were around seven people. They picked up people who were sleeping. The force was larger than the force which we had seen in Muthanga struggle. That time Shashidharan reached the site. He tried protecting the protesters. Women were sloganeering. The police blocked us all. They have no legal right to do this. Around 8 in the morning Abhilash and Ananthu reached. Ananthu was reporting the incident. Abhilash was going live. They broke the pandal and took it away in their vehicle.
We could somehow overcome the police force and we could conduct a march to Puthenkurish police station. Around forty people joined us. DYSP was talking against the protest pandal. Pandal was close to the road. Later the police helped them to place an arch for the festival. Though it is a case pending in the court they act like they own the land. Police helped them well. When we talked about this to the SI, he told that DYSP asked not to allow the protest pandal to continue there. He told us that he is in the lowest rank and he is being forced to do this. DYSP didn't respond after that.
This is a very treacherous move. They came with huge police force to demolish the pandal and to remove the protesters. Still there is police. Police blocked the temple entrance.
Today we're meeting the district collector. We'll inform that the DYSP violated statusquo. Dalit protestor and KPMS leader Shashidharan was brutally attacked by the police. It was Chottanikkara SI who attacked Shashidharan. He also shouted at the Dalit women who were sloganeering, "stop this otherwise we'll beat you down on this road". Shashidharan, Abhilash and Ananthu are charged with IPC 353 , Kerala police Act 117 e. Piravam magistrate had told us that they will be granted bail if two bailees are available. But they intentionally delayed transferring of case files to Kolanchery Munsif court. We had moved quickly but they made it very late. I have no idea what is going to happen now. Police asked things like why Kannur native Abhilash working in Kochi? They asked Ananthu's ID card, which media house provides ID card for interns? The police and state doing this because they can not take action against NSS, a major savarna, caste organization. And the practice of untouchability and hatred towards Dalits. They want this movement fail. We had made it clear that we have no issues with the festival. But we demanded, add us in the festival committee at least. They didn't do that. Chothi Velichappadu's sword and chilambu was also there. Nairs destroyed everything.
Makkotha Pappu is the one who started worship inside the temple, for Parayas and Pulayas these groves are the places where they worship their own gods. Makkotha Pappu is the one who inaugurated our protest. He passed away recently. We will go on with the movement, that is all I have to say." Joy Pavel said.