In God’s Kerala, Where Communists Ruled, Chitralekha Fought Against Caste For 11 Years

Amar Khade 

You may portray An ‘American Female Astronaut’ carrying the sculpture of so called divine God with an elephant head and also carrying the Caste / Varna propaganda book in space as a need of personal Spirituality in the space. You got a panel discussions , asking more about the Spiritual Influx in space due to the sculpture and reading of Holy verses.

The intersectionality of science and spirituality where the discussion more converges to personal spiritual aspect rather the more scientific practical aspect of Space Science and Technology. This is the role model portrayed to younger generations.

On the contrary , We have a woman , she wants to drive an auto rickshaw for her livelihood and the very system inflicting all kind of violence towards her abhorring the very basic right. When are we going to discuss this particular aspect in our various academic discourses ? Why are we reluctant enough to portray this particular Woman as role model to younger generations ?

So here the story of struggle of Chithra Lekha

Who is Chithralekha?

Chithralekha is a Dalit woman auto-rickshaw driver from Payyannur, which is located in the Kannur district of Kerala. Since 2005, she has been fighting against caste and gender violence committed by Centre of India Trade Unions (CITU)/ Communist Party of India (Maxist) comrades in her locality. Her 11 years of struggle for livelihood and security has been largely neglected by the mainstream political parties and ‘progressive’ intelligentsia. However, Chithralekha’s struggles and negotiations with the Government of Kerala led to a promise of land and job for her by the then CM after 122 days of relentless struggle and dharna in front of the Kannur Collectorate in 2014. Once again Chithralekha was forced to carry out her protest more vigorously in front of the Kerala Secretariat for nearly 50 days since January 2016. After 11 years of struggle and strong determination, Chithralekha succeeded in her mission by making the Kerala government to approve her demands. But the casteist and patriarchal violence of CITU/CPI(M) didn’t end there. Despite her legal achievement, her autorickshaw was once again deliberately vandalized by the CITU/CPI(M) Comrades on 4th March 2016. The super-progressive Left in Kannur is ably supported by paid goondas, with men from Backward Caste communities made to act as its leaders, foot soldiers and comrades, in a highly casteist and repressive manner.

Why CITU/CPI(M) Comrades deliberately attack Chitralekha ?

The inter-caste love marriage of Chitralekha (who belongs to Pulaya of Dalit community) with Sreeshkant (who belongs to Tiyya of OBC community) was the primary cause for the casteist violence to be unleashed against her by the local Thiya- CITU/CPI(M) nexus. The ugly casteist attack against Chithralekha and her family began when she made an effort to become an autorickshaw driver. Chithralekha said, “when I went to park my auto in the auto stand, the first response was the name calling “Oh..polachi (caste name), came with the auto?”. I was the only Dalit (female) at that autorickshaw stand. The parking area was ruled by the auto drivers from ‘Maniyani’ caste. The Maniyanis (OBC) were the feudal lords or acted as feudal lords in the history of Payyannur. They tried to show their supremacy of caste against me, their ‘ruling’ character, when I entered their space. They couldn’t afford to have me in their ‘space’ as I am a Dalit woman. There started the history of caste oppression and untouchability against me.”
It clearly shows that how caste and gender based discrimination is operating within the so-called progressive state of Kerala where the secular-left politics has been dominant for years while also appropriating the struggles of the Dalit-Bahujans. The continuous attack on Chithralekha and her family prompts us to question the liberal secular progressive left intelligentsia, activists and their patronising trend of politics. Their selective appropriation to become saviours for the liberation of Dalits, Adivasis, women and minorities needs to be scrutinized in these times of appropriation of the issues of the marginalised sections, which is evident in issues like ‪#‎justiceforrrohith‬ where the Left has taken over the moral legitimacy from the Dalits, Bahujans to maintain its political hegemony and Delhi does not appear so distant from Kerala when it is about appropriation!! We condemn this ghastly act of the CITU/CPI(M) comrades unequivocally and appeal to the democratic forces in the university to take a stand on such issues that often gets erased in the mainstream, left-driven discourse and as well submerged within the pomp and splendour of ‘‘International’ ‘Women’s’ ‘Day’ ‘Celebrations’ ’!!

The article was originally published in The Republic.

  • Binod Nirmal

    It is true that a decade ago there was an issue involving CPIM members that restricted her freedom , but once this came to notice by the CPIM district /state leadership they openly apologised and gave all support for her future . Unfortunately chithralekha being a dalit started exploiting this and succeded in getting donations / compensations for each issue she raised which later dint have any CPIM involvement. Even the latest issue where she says her auto was destroyed , she just accuses CPIM but unable to name any party members.

  • Binod Nirmal

    This is a document recieved through RTI which sh she has already recieved around 5 lakh rupees from sc development board alone, apart from this various amounts were donated to her by lot of political parties and other organisations.