On last count, there were over 25 lakh migrants who came here in search of a livelihood

Migrants are the new punch-bag for an increasingly callous Kerala society
Voices #JusticeforKailash? Thursday, May 12, 2016 - 15:55

Kailash Jyoti Bohra died the same day he landed in Kerala looking for work. The 29-year old had come all the way from Assam desperately looking for work…what none of us then knew was that he had also come to ‘God’s Own Country’ to simply keep starvation at bay. His only fault was that he was…a migrant.

Mistaking him for a thief, he was trussed up by the locals at Chingavanam in Kottayam on May 4 and left out in the sweltering heat for over two hours. Struggling to free himself right upto his last breath, over 50 passers-by reportedly watched him foaming to death. None responded. None reacted. Their excuse: He spoke in a different tongue!

We needed a post-mortem report to be convinced of his innocence. After all, we swear by the adage: Prevention is better than cure. So what, he died…but in the present times, can we be blamed for being wary of strangers.

We blame the rest of the country for being so divisive in their socio-political thinking while we pride ourselves on our rich leftist history. But somewhere deep down, the Dravidians are out to trash all historical talk about Aryan supremacy.

And we are apparently the most literate state in the country. After all, Malayalis have always left their mark wherever they went. We are the brains, man…second to none. In the mad rush to make it to the top in most developmental surveys, we however seem to have left our hearts behind.

A recent Malayalam blockbuster ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ -released last December- which dealt with child abuse had a migrant as the villain. The psychology at work here is preying on the fear of the unknown. A known devil is better than an unknown angel, so the sages say.

On last count, there were over 25 lakh migrants who came here in search of a livelihood. Most of them hail from Assam, West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Just like Malayalis who migrate to other states in search of better job opportunities, these migrant labourers land in Kerala in a bid to keep their hearth warm back home. It is sheer grinding poverty that makes most of them drop out of schools and colleges to look for greener pastures down South.

We Malayalis are so quick to point fingers at all those who deride us by clubbing anyone this side of the Vindhyas as Madrassis. It was just the other day a friend spouted irritation at being called a ‘Mallu’.

But then are we not guilty of the same offence by casting the whole migrant lot as a bunch of thieves and murderers who are out to kill and loot us of our rightful inheritance?

Are we such a diseased lot that we fail to see ‘humans’ around us, most of them just struggling to stay alive? Is it mandatory that we need to categorize each and every one who comes our way into the ‘Good, Bad and Ugly’?

Kerala for all its talk of a progressive culture is rapidly sinking into a blinkered society bordering on the callous, especially in its approach to our migrant brethren from up North, majority of whom are out on the streets simply trying to eke out a living.

Is it so difficult to accept them for who they are? Maybe, Swami Vivekananda was after all right in his assessment of Kerala as a sociological madhouse.

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