A Dalit activist from Kerala has alleged that she was cornered and verbally abused by a group of residents in rural Thiruvananthapuram, when she visited a village near Varkala to enquire about alleged discrimination against a dalit community.
According to Vineetha Vijayan, a Dalit activist and researcher, at least sixty residents of Karunilakkod gathered to follow her and her friend Harshavardhan, and subsequently verbally abused them for having visited a few Dalit families.
She told TNM that the incident happened on Thursday afternoon, when she visited the village after coming across a media report that a few Korava families living in the locality were denied access to a public pond.
However, the visit turned chaotic, when local residents blocked the duo and later filed a police complaint against them.
"We were walking towards the houses of the dalit families, when we reached the pond. We have to cross the pond to proceed to the houses, but when we reached the pond, we saw that a few women were taking a bath. Considering a man was with me, in order to respect the women's privacy, both of us waited near the pond for the women to finish. Meanwhile, one of the women quizzed us over why we were there and argued that by keeping the Korava families away from the pond, they weren't discriminating based on caste. She said that people from that community were not clean enough and that was the reason for denying them access," Vineetha said.
However, the woman later returned with a few men who proceeded to question her, Vineetha alleged.
"They followed us to the houses of the dalits and argued that this practice has been going on for years and so was justified. They threatened us saying that we shouldn't meet the dalit families, but we resisted. All this while, the dalit families tried to protect us, but the crowd did not budge," Vineetha said.
After around 2 hours of verbal altercation, the Varkala police was called in. The residents then filed a complaint against Vineetha and Harsha, alleging that they had shot visuals of the women bathing in the pond on their mobile phones.
"The police took us to the station. Instead of listening to us, the police told us to leave. Later they said there's a complaint against us and took us to the police station. After hours of checking our phones, they did not find any such videos and let us go," Vineetha narrated.
Vineetha and Harsha have now filed a complaint against the crowd for manhandling them. Vineetha pointed out that the crowd even hit Harsha during argument.
Varkala police said that two complaints have been registered in the matter, one by a woman who complained that Vineetha and Harsha had videographed her taking a bath in the pond, and another complaint filed by Vineetha. The SI added that while the issue of discrimination against dalit families in the area was resolved by the local MLA two days ago, Vineetha's visit to the locality sparked fresh rows.
The police have not yet registered an FIR in the case.