In school, Kunjukuttan had a paper to study for Class 10: Charithravum Poura Dharmavum – History and Citizen Duties. He learnt about Article 14: Equality before Law, and absolutely loved it. Every person will be treated equally by the state, without discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
Sitting in a classroom somewhere in Palakkad, young Kunjukuttan decided that if he ever owned a vehicle, he’d name it Article 14. And he did. For 27 years now, Kunjukuttan from Anakkara has been riding an autorickshaw named Article 14.
“There are no religious symbols in my auto. No one can guess my religion by looking at my vehicle. That’s how I want it to be,” says Kunjukuttan, who has now suddenly been getting a lot of attention after a CPI(M) leader from Palakkad, MK Pradeep, posted about him on social media, and the post went viral. The story was picked up by TNIE.
It was his late friend VP Suresh who designed the title imprinted on the front and back of his auto, Kunjukuttan tells TNM. “He was an artist who worked with the Deshabhimani newspaper. He died of brain tumour 12 years ago. I didn’t change the lettering he created even though I have changed autos twice afterwards,” he adds.
The name has invited many interesting episodes in his life, Kunjukuttan says. Police would ask him why he named it after a section in the Constitution. Lawyers at the Pattambi Court would smile when Kunjukuttan’s auto stopped there. “And the teachers who see my auto while travelling by bus would later write about it on social media. I came to know that only later. They even identify the auto stand as the Article 14 stand!”
He has also had discussions over the rights ensured by the law with his many passengers. “Some would take it seriously. Some others would be scornful, as if to say, ‘who is he to talk about all this’,” Kunjukuttan says.
He has no complaints. As long as at least one person gets the message he is happy. He realises the significance of his auto’s name at a time when the whole country is protesting for citizenship rights. “I am aware of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens, and I am also against it,” he says.
He reads a lot, he says, and reads anything he can find, even if it is a scrap of paper. “Not that I know a lot but I love to read.” He names MT Vasudevan Nair, his ‘naatukaran’, as a favourite writer.
Kunjukuttan also spends two hours every day to do a bit of social work. This includes planting trees in public places, giving free rides to the poor or buying tea for someone hungry. “That’s as much as I can do, driving an auto. I too have a family to be with, my wife and two kids.”