They were the women who spearheaded an agitation against tea giant Kanan Devan in the hills of Munnar. The Pembilai Orumai – women’s unity – as they are called, ruffled many feathers rejecting trade unions, refusing to let them take any credit for their historical strike in September for better wages.
But the Pembilai Orumai went one step ahead and contested the recently concluded local body polls and registered victories there too. Three of its candidates won in Idukki district, and the development does not appear to have gone down well with the Left parties in Munnar. One of them, was allegedly assaulted by members of trade unions affiliated with Left parties.
Gomathi Augustine, the Pembalai Orumai leader who won from the Devikulam ward in Devikulam block panchayat sustained minori injuries when she was assaulted on Sunday evening during a victory procession. Later that evening, allegedly by Left trade union members, her family was targeted.
“We had gone to the voters to thank them for voting for Gomathi. A woman (Indrani) who was initially with us, but later joined the CPI (M), rushed out of her house along with her husband and started hitting Gomathi. Others joined them,” Lissy Sunny of the Pembilai Orumai told The News Minute.
Gomathi was admitted to the Adimali hospital after having sustained minor injuries.
That night, a group of four or five people, alleged to be trade unionists, assaulted Gomathi’s husband and sons in their house. Pembilai Orumai have registered two complaints, but the police have made no arrests yet because they are yet to identify the attackers.
CPI(M) MLA S Rajendran admitted that the attackers were Left trade unionists and justified the attack, calling it a “retaliation” for the ‘provocative celebrations’ by Pembilai Orumai.
"It was not a pre-planned attack. They took out a celebration procession in Munnar, though she had won in a ward that is 15 kms away from Munnar. Some men in the group were aggressive and threw crackers inside the houses of trade union leaders,” he told The News Minute. He claimed that Pembilai Orumai had thrown crackers inside a house and assaulted children and women during the procession.
Reacting to Rajendran’s comment, Lissy said, “Politicians will lie, our lives have been made miserable by them for years. Thankfully, she did not have any major injuries, but the anger against us is rising. Gomathi’s family was also not spared,” said Lissy.
Idukki district Superintendent of Police KVJoseph told The News Minute, “It was a clash, I won’t call it an attack. But there was no provocation from the Pembilai Orumai group, no incidents of throwing crackers into people’s houses,” he said. He also denied that children or women were assaulted by Pembilai Orumai members during the procession.