Social activists, writers, film makers, academicians and members of the civil society have condemned the police brutality unleashed by the Kerala Police against the Dalit Atmabhiman Convention organized by the Dalit Bhoo Avakasha Samara Munnani (Dalit Land Rights’ Organisation) in Vadayampadi, Kochi on 4th February. Prominent signatories include Aruna Roy, Prafulla Samanthra, Kavitha Srivasthava, Teesta Setalvad, K. Sachithanandan, Paul Zakharia, Javed Anand, John Dayal, Sarah Joseph, BRP Bhaskar, M. Geethanandan, Sunny Kapikkad, Anvar Ali, K.P.Sasi, TT Sreekumar, B. Ajith Kumar, C.R. Neelakandhan among many others. Text of the statement:
We activists, writers, film makers, academicians and members of the civil society, hereby express our deep concern on the police brutality unleashed by the Kerala Police against the Dalit Atmabhiman Convention organized by the Dalit Bhoo Avakasha Samara Munnani (Dalit Land Rights’ Organisation) in Kochi on 4th February. The convention was taking place peacefully while it was suddenly attacked by the police in the morning. As the police broke-in, many activists including the Chairman of Samara Munnani, C.S. Murali (also the President of Kerala Dalit Masabha) and Gomathi from Penpillai Orumai, were injured. Activists present at the protest site were dragged through the road and arrested.
For the last few days the NSS (Nair Service Society) has been occupying the public ground surrounding the Vadayambadi Temple in Vadayambadi in Ernakulam district, Kerala. Fortifying their occupation, NSS has built a ‘caste wall’ in order to prevent the Dalits entering the temple. A protest has been going on for the last few weeks by Dalit Bhoo Avakasha Samara Munnani to make available the property for public and to demolish the ‘caste wall’. The ongoing events are on air and many organizations and individuals have expressed their support to the movement.
On Ambedkar Jayanti last year (2017), a similar wall erected by the Society was pulled down by the protesters. The NSS then went on occupying the land producing fake land records and promptly built a huge arch entrance including a wall. The present protest programme, demanding the demolition of the wall, has been continuously facing threats from the government and police since its beginning. The activists till now have confronted all such threats and continued with the protest.
This uncompromising attitude, we feel, has resulted in successive attacks on the protest site and arrest of the activists, and even the media persons. During a similar incident on 21st January, two journalists Abhilash Padacheri and Ananthu Rajagopal Asha, along with one of the leaders of the movement, Mr. Sasidharan (KPMS Taluk Secretary), were arrested on false charges. Following their arrest, activist V.K. Joy was also put into custody.
The 4th February convention was organized to protest these recent happenings, particularly against the anti-Dalit attitude demonstrated by the Kerala government and the Police-Raj going on the state. However, the protesters were continuously harassed by the state officials in order to suppress the voice of dissent. Last day the Collector denied the permission to conduct the convention. In a way, he threatened the protesters for any possible circumstances. In the morning of the day of the convention, the goons of the Sangh Parivar and other right-wing fundamentalists approached the protest site and created ruckus by manhandling and threatening the protesters.
As of now, police seems to be silent and not ready to take any action against the perpetrators. In contrast to the lawful duty entrusted upon a public servant, The SI of the concerned police station, Sajan Saviour has been trying his best to suppress the movement with different means including public caste defamation. Eventually, he is same person who led the force today to the arrests. Among the activists, Gomathi, has been badly injured during the police action and was denied the hospital facility. Dr. P.G Hari, who questioned this discrimination at the police station, had to face their rage and he was physically manhandled by the policemen.
We strongly feel that these incidents are a clear indication of the growing fascist and anti-dalit attitudes in Kerala State as much as elsewhere. We appeal to all secular and democratic individuals and organizations to express their concerns, support and solidarity in this grave social movement.
We also appeal to all sections within the left and secular forces in Kerala to maintain the values against casteism and communalism that is enshrined by Babasahib Ambedkar in our Indian Constitution, since this is the only document to bring together all sections of people as citizens of this country. The political leaders have an additional role to preserve these values since they have taken an oath to protect the Indian Constitution before becoming any State or Central Minister.
We hereby demand that all the arrested persons should be released immediately and the charges against the arrested persons should be cancelled immediately. We also demand that immediate actions are taken against the police officials who are responsible for such brutality.
We also condemn the attack by the Sangh Parivar on Kerala’s people’s poet, Kureeppuzha Sreekumar for supporting the Vadayambadi struggle. We appeal to the public consciousness in Kerala to isolate all forces which build caste and communal violence through their own ideological terms.