Poet and social activist Sugathakumari has ignited a controversy with her comments against migrant labourers in Kerala.
In an opinion piece for the newspaper Mathrubhumi, the poet referred to migrant labourers as uneducated criminals. She also said that it would be dangerous if migrant labourers married and settled in the state.
“The migration of labourers from other states will be the biggest problem Kerala has to face. It could cause a cultural disaster in Kerala. The people who come here are not a match for our culture. They are not only uneducated, they have criminal backgrounds too,” she wrote.
Sugathakumari’s statements have drawn much ire on social media, with many people saying that such words were not expected from a popular poet, and that her comments were an insult to the culture of Kerala.
Her statements have also been condemned by politicians in Kerala, with Thrithala MLA VT Balram, saying in a Facebook post, “This is racist and anti-constitutional. I strongly condemn this. Kerala should move ahead by accepting cultural and racial differences.”
PS Sreekala Director of the Kerala Saksharatha Mission, the state literacy mission, told mediapersons that Sugathakumari’s comments were an insult to the concept of fraternity enshrined in the Constitution. She said that the poet seems to have forgotten the national pledge that “All Indians are my brothers and sisters”. Sreekala added that Sugathakumari should remember that migrant labourers are not foreigners, that they are citizens of the country and work hard to earn a living.
Kerala has been witnessing a virulent debate on migrant labourers for some time now, particularly in the wake of the rape and murder of law student Jisha in Perumbavoor. Most recently, the district police in Idukki proposed a slew of regulations for migrant labourers, including the installation of CCTV cameras in the labour camps in which they live. This move has come under criticism from activists, who say that such a move is a gross violation of human rights.