At a time when Kerala is struggling to meet the basic demands of the lakhs of people living in relief camps, Dalit activist Raghu Eraviperur was on Sunday arrested for putting a Facebook update highlighting that women at a relief camp in Thiruvalla needed innerwear.
Raghu’s Facebook status, now deleted after instructions from the police, had allegedly said that the women staying at the relief camp at St Thomas Higher Secondary School in Thirumoolapuram did not have enough underwear.
“I had gone to this particular relief camp on Sunday morning along with my wife and a friend. The inmates there kept saying that they don’t have anything with them. It was my friend who told my wife that those women inmates of the camp were in urgent requirement of inner wear,” Raghu, who is a member of non-governmental organisations Rights and Dynamic Action, shares.
“I had only Rs 2,000 with me at the time, that I had collected from some people. I handed over this to the ward member who was present there and told her that I will try to collect money or supplies that the inmates of the camp may need. I posted the same on Facebook, sharing the name of the relief camp and that inmates urgently required innerwear,” Raghu tells TNM.
However, the lady ward member, whom Raghu spoke to at the camp, filed a police complaint against him, claiming that his Facebook post was “derogatory” and “humiliated women at the relief camp”. By Sunday evening, Kerala police had landed at his door.
Raghu was on Sunday arrested under Sections 119 (1) (a) (Punishment for atrocities against women) and 120 (o) (Penalty for causing nuisance and violation of public order causing, through any means of communication, a nuisance of himself to any person by repeated or undesirable or anonymous call, letter, writing, message, e-mail or through a messenger) of the Kerala Police Act.
Though he was released on bail the same day, Raghu has no idea what he did to get arrested in the first place. “It is disheartening that a section of women and even our police still think that ‘innerwear’ is a bad thing and are reluctant to even say the word,” he says.
Speaking to TNM, Circle Inspector at Thiruvalla police station claimed that Raghu was arrested because he had attached a photo of a woman attached to his post. However, Raghu has refuted this claim.
"I deleted the post in the presence of police officers. It is fabricated that photo of a woman was there in the post," Raghu says.
Ever since his arrest, Raghu has been getting immense support on social media.
“It was after last year’s flood that most of the so-called traditional men of Kerala started to use words like ‘sanitary napkins’ and understood that it is an essential requirement. But just after a year, a social worker is arrested for posting that people require innerwear at a camp. Police acted upon this very enthusiastically at a time when they do nothing to curb people who abuse women activists on social media,” wrote journalist Sreejith Divakaran on Facebook.
Raghu says that though he is happy that he is getting support in social media, there is no need to celebrate it. "Going forward, what we need is a discussion regarding such issues," he says.