How Could You Allow This to Happen? Urvashi Butalia Writes to the Kerala Chief Minister

Dear Chief Minister

Throughout the terrible times we have seen these last two years, it is the news from Kerala that has helped so many of us to keep faith in governance – that a state can be honest, open, participatory, concerned for its people, focused on health, and not play politics, all of these have been remarkable and many of us, Keralites and non-Keralites alike, have drawn valuable lessons from the Kerala experience.

If your state’s response to the Covid 19 crisis gave us cause to appreciate and
admire Kerala, so also has Kerala been among the states that have invested in
women’s education and rights, as well as in the rights of other sexual minorities.

This is why the current drama unfolding in Kerala, over the fate of one of your citizens, a young woman called AnupamaJayachandran, whose infant child has been forcibly taken away from her by her father because her family did not approve of her choice of partner (a Dalit man) comes as such a shock, and recalls another, similar reprehensible incident, the case of Hadiya, where too the father imposed his will on an adult woman. In that case, and today too, state agencies colluded with the family to violate the rights of a woman, seeing her as not deserving of the citizenship rights conferred on all our citizens by our Constitution. It is equally shocking that Anupama’s father has the support of your party – to which he belongs – and the unfortunate conclusion we are forced to draw is that because you have not acted to restore the child to the mother, he has your support too.

How could you allow this to happen, Mr Chief Minister? Do you not believe that women are full citizens of your state and of India? Does an adult woman in your state not have the right to her own, autonomous decisions, to her body, to the child she gave birth to? Why is it that you and your colleagues find
it possible to sustain the principles of the long tradition of Left politics in the public sphere, but when it comes to women, the home, the family, the only recourse seems to be patriarchy and misogyny?

Mr Chief Minister, for those of us in the world of writing and publishing, Kerala has held up other models to admire and aspire to. Literacy, education, writing, publishing have helped knowledge reach far and wide in Kerala, and these have been the very instruments that have made women like Anupama and Hadiya aware of the rights that are now being denied to Anupama. Your
admirable history of women – writers (K. Saraswathiamma), preachers (Prathyaksha Raksha Daiva Sabha) labour leaders (cashew worker Gomathy), pioneers in trained nursing (Rugmani amma and Chandramathy) political women such as Mary Poonen Lukose, Tottaikkattu Madhavi Amma, Anna Chandy and so many others – has equally contributed to this. In denying Anupama Jayachandran the right to her child, and in handing over that right to her family and state agencies, you not only deny her what the Constitution has
guaranteed every citizen, but you also wipe out this rich history of women’s
contribution to your state.

We urge you to take urgent action and restore Anupama’s child to her.


Urvashi Butalia

Publisher and writer

2 thoughts on “How Could You Allow This to Happen? Urvashi Butalia Writes to the Kerala Chief Minister”

  1. The actions of state agencies (no doubt with the support of the government and party) are shocking and hypocritical.
    I hope they will step back, and restore our faith in Kerala as a model in women’s empowerment by ensuring that Anupama’s child is given back to her.


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