The police investigation about the bomb blast at the Kollam Collectorate on 15 June 2016 has now turned against us. Neither the organization nor its activists have any involvement in this incident. The accusation against us is just a ploy to use draconian laws such as the UAPA to destroy dalit-adivasi resistance.
The demeaning and enslaving social norms in Kerala have, since centuries, denied dalit people the most basic human rights such as the right to education, the right to decently clothe one’s body, the right to travel on public roads, and express one’s views. But India became a democracy that aimed for social democratisation, and Dr B R Ambedkar raised the possibility of social equality and reservations for the underprivileged groups through the Indian Constitution. Yet, sixty-five years later, the classes fundamental to this society have made no social, economic, or cultural progress and they continue to endure caste slavery and and exploitation in all areas of public life. The mainstream political parties who surfaced as the protectors of these classes have never offered them complete protection at any time. Though they have been faithful followers and workers of these parties, members of the disadvantaged groups have had little economic security; they have lacked social education; they have had to cry out for tiny parcels of land. They are now enslaved by drugs and face even deaths from poverty. At this rate, it appears that these groups may even die out in some thirty-five or fifty years.Considering the present plight of the dalit-adivasi people and their strength, it appears that the solution lies in organizing them to strengthen their collective presence and to make them self-reliant. Like any other people in India, the dalits and adivasis also have the right to organize. The Dalit Human Rights Movement was registered in 2007 with this realization, and it began to organize consciousness-raising classes in Kerala’s dalit colonies aimed at freeing the people from caste, intoxicants, and slave-labour for political parties. These proved to be very effective; many men with criminal backgrounds abandoned their pursuits and began to devote time to caring for their families. When such activities grew in strengthen in the southern districts of Kerala, the withdrawal of people who had traditionally worked as suicide squads for the left parties affected them in many local areas.
When the then-ruling LDF realized that the concentration of dalit votes by the DHRM through elections was eroding their influence there, the CPM stepped forward to brand DHRM as ‘terrorist’. It was able to generate false evidence to put the responsibility of a murder in Varkala on the DHRM leadership. There were many, many attempts after this, to foist responsibility for violent incidents on the DHRM. The accusation in the Kollam incident is the last in this long series. This continuous assault led to violent attacks against the DHRM in dalit colonies by the police and the CPM. The police assault on a pregnant woman that led her to lose her baby, another attack on a woman which damaged her urinary bladder grievously, the stripping and parading of a young woman, the torture of male activists picked up by the police to make them confess, including rubbing chilli powder on their penises and anuses, hanging them upside down, and thrashing them on the spine with bricks and coconuts – these were just a few of the tactics used by the police then. Small children going to school had to hand over their lunch boxes for bomb-checks; they were even accused publicly of being ‘the children of terrorists’ and thrown out of school. When we tried to complain against local elements who were attacking us, the local police would tear up our complaints and throw us out.
After 2009, however, we gradually gained acceptance in the public and our work in society began to get noticed. Our casteless-no dowry marriages, consciousness-raising against intoxicants, our efforts to acquire and allot land, and the home-school plan to improve English learning among children gained momentum. To facilitate these, the Native Buddhist Trust was formed and contributions from members were amassed to acquire land to expand the home-school project in Kottarakkara, Kollam. Right from the outset, the local CPM workers let loose widespread slander about the school and on 24 May, they broke the electric meter board there and indulged in general destruction. We complained about this to the police at Puthur, but no action was taken. Later, as the construction there progressed, the vice president of DHRM, Saji Kollam, and a fulltime activist, Manu Gopi, who had visited the site to monitor the progress and pay workers their salaries were attacked by CPM supporters with iron rods aimed at their heads. Their vehicle was damaged too. These attackers are a menace locally, and there are many complaints registered against them for attacking the homes of DHRM workers. The Puthur police however remained inactive. In protests, we organized a protest on 14 June in front of the police station. Later it became known that five people were arrested but let off without attempted murder charges being registered.
We have come to know through the media and police sources that the police is trying to link the incidents at Puthur with the bomb blast in the premises of the Kollam Collectorate. The DHRM stands for the Indian Constitution and the humanism represented in Buddhist culture. We seek to voice the pain and sorrow that we experience collectively and seek solution to it; we advocate human rights. We call upon the government and the responsible police officers to desist from preventing our progress, protect the innocent, identify the real culprits and charge them with anti-nationalism.
Seleena Prakkanam, Chairperson, Dalit Human Rights Movement, Kerala.