Caste hostility against Chakkliyar residents of Govindapuram came to light following media reports and a visit by Thrithala MLA VT Balaram.

Its 2017 but untouchability is still alive and well in this Palakkad village say local residentsPhotos : VT Balram Facebook page
news Caste discrimination Sunday, June 11, 2017 - 08:04

Even as the state celebrated the centenary year of the historic anti-caste Panthibhojanam (inter-community feast) conducted in 1917, another such dining event less than 10 days later is drawing a lot of attention.

This time around though, it was the near total absence of political leaders from an event held at a Chakkliyar temple in the Ambedkar Colony in Govindapuram, Palakkad district that caught the public eye.

The only exception to this complete absence of political figures was Thrithala Congress MLA VT Balram, who took to Facebook to say that caste discrimination was alive and thriving in the area.

“Unbelievable practices are happening in Ambedkar Colony. Here caste is evident in the water and the tea. Two types of tumblers are used in tea shops here. In the case of drinking water supply, one tap is for Chakkliyars and another one for higher caste people. Chakkliyars are not even allowed to touch the water tap for the upper caste people. Today when I visited, in our presence, two Chakkliyar women took water from the other tap which was used by the upper castes. After that we all ate together – it was tasty tomato rice prepared by mothers of the colony,” Balram wrote after his visit to the colony on Tuesday.

What’s most disheartening about Balram’s claims is that Govindapuram had hit headlines 15 years ago for the prevalence of untouchability deployed by Ambedkar Colony’s upper caste neighbours against its residents. Following a media furore, the government of the time acted quickly to tamp down on these practices. 15 years later, however, the colony’s residents say, things have changed little for better, and have grown worse in the recent past.

MLA VT Balaram, Palakkad DCC Vice President Sumesh Achuthan nd few other congress leaders participating in the inter- community feast at Chakkliya temple

Indeed, in the last month, the caste discrimination has spilled over into violence, allege residents of Ambedkar Colony. What ostensibly precipitated the hostility was a case of inter-caste marriage, where a Chakkliyar woman from the colony married an Ezhava man. Since then, allege the colony residents, miscreants regularly pelt stones at their houses in the middle of the night, creating an atmosphere in which the Chakkliyar residents are afraid to venture out of home after dark.

Fearing a stronger attack, many of Ambedkar Colony’s men have even holed up in the colony temple for some days now.

It was this spate of attacks that drew media attention, with Malayalam news channel Media One’s SA Ajim first reporting on the caste discrimination practiced here against the nearly 400 Chakkliyar families living in the colony.

Speaking to TNM, Shivarajan – one of Ambedkar Colony’s residents – says that caste barriers have only been strengthening in the area, even before the recent wedding that has upset upper caste residents of Govindapuram.

“They will not take water from the common water tank, even if they don’t have water, because we use it. Even if we go to their place to take water from the common pipe, we can access water only after they have left the place after collecting water for themselves,” he alleges.

There’s also a system of separate utensils practiced in tea shops in the area, he says, adding that “a few tea shops that Chakkliyar people frequented have even been boycotted by members of other communities.”

Shivarajan said that even separate tumblers were used in the tea shops for Chakliya community “few tea shops where Chakliya people visit been boycotted by other communities,” he added.

Boycotted and denied basic services, says Shivarajan, the community has turned self-sufficient over the years,  and does not now depend on members of other castes for any service, “Many years ago, when we wewnt to barber shops to get our hair cut, the Gounders would simply tell us to leave the shop.  Now we have our own saloons,” he says.

“Earlier we were not allowed to enter their temple. Later we built our own temple. They won’t come to our temple,” he adds.

Shelvarajan, another colony resident, says that the members of the other communities have maintained caste barriers even as they’ve relied on the Chakkliyars for many necessary services.

“They need us to dig the grave after somebody in their community dies. They also call us to clean the compounds of their houses. But, other than that, we are not allowed to enter their houses,” he alleges.

What is most troubling, say Ambedkar Colony residents, is that these entrenched divisions are also reflected in local politics.

“Since the CPI (M) leaders belonging to the Gounder community rule the panchayat, they completely avoid us. A local CPI (M) leader’s son is mainly involved in attacking our houses,” alleges Shivarajan.

Following his visit on Tuesday, Balram wrote that the government seems to show no interest in helping a group of people who are in desperate need.

“The situation of this colony in the name of our leader who wrote the Constitution should be a source of shame to our government. They need immediate attention,” the MLA wrote.

For their part, however, local CPI (M) leaders deny all allegations of caste discrimination in Govindapuram. On Friday, Nenmara CPI (M) MLA K Babu claimed that allegations of untouchability were rumours spread by local Congressmen. He also claimed that there was no harassment of or attack against the Chakkliyar men. Instead, he suggested, the men were indulging in vices gathered together in the community temple.

 “They are staying together not because we harass them, but so that they can drink liquor together. Some Congressmen have intentionally spread such rumours about untouchability,” the MLA alleged.

Edited by Rakesh Mehar

 

 

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