A group of Dalit families living in Cherukunnu SC colony in Valanchery in Malappuram district of Kerala have alleged that a Muslim family in their neighbourhood has asked them to stop drawing water from them. According to the Dalit families, a woman from the Muslim family informed them that her husband was under pressure from various other people to stop giving them water. The neighbourhood has not had functional water pipelines for over six months now, and people have been managing by drawing water from wells and sharing among each other. The Muslim family did not have a well in its compound, and was pumping water from another well and storing it in his house.
The problem started when a pro-CAA rally was held by the BJP in Valanchery on January 11, and a few young men from the Dalit colony participated in it, say the residents of the colony. “By January 17, a young woman from the Muslim family who was giving us water told us that they were facing threats and pressure from outsiders,” says Shaju, who belongs to one of eight families in the SC colony, “Our eight families were taking three pots of drinking water each from them every day. We all stopped taking this supply from January 18 after they told us.”
According to residents of the colony, photos of the young men who participated in the pro-CAA protests were clicked and circulated on social media. As a result, the Muslim family which offered water to the colony were asked by others to cut off this water supply.
"I have personally not seen these social media posts,” says Anil Kumar, another resident of the Dalit colony, “But a woman from the family told us that her husband, who runs a shop in the town, was receiving threatening calls asking him to stop supplying water to the colony."
However, Sainudheen Kalappadathil, a member of the Muslim family, told Times of India that they stopped supplying water due to technical issues. “My wife never told them anything about CAA. These allegations are fabricated,” he said. He also told the media on Friday that since there was water shortage and the electricity department had pulled him up for using the motor meant for agricultural purposes to pump water, he started rationing the water. "I did not ask them to stop taking, I only said take less water, 2 buckets per family."
Though many sections in the media claimed that the Muslim family was discriminatory, two Dalit families living in Cherukunnu tell TNM that this is untrue, and that they have faced no issues with the Muslim family in question. "We do not have any problems with them. In fact they also do not have a problem giving us water either,” Shaju says.
“That family was just threatened by external forces. Because of us, they should not face any trouble whatsoever. These days, there is a lot of fake news and propaganda being spread. They are making it seem like there is a communal issue between us neighbours. There is no such problem and we are living in harmony here," Shaju adds.
‘Panchayat had nothing to do with the incident’
On Wednesday evening, BJP MP from Karnataka, Shobha Karandlaje tweeted, “Hindus of Kuttippuram panchayat of Malappuram was denied water supply as they supported #CAA2019.” (sic) She added: “Kerala is taking baby steps to become another Kashmir!”
Kerala is taking baby steps to become another Kashmir!— Shobha Karandlaje (@ShobhaBJP) January 22, 2020
Hindus of Kuttipuram Panchayat of Malappuram was denied water supply as they supported #CAA2019.#SevaBharati has been supplying water ever since.
Will Lutyens telecast this intolerance of PEACEFULS frm God's Own Country!? pic.twitter.com/y0HKI4bitD
Following this tweet, there were allegations made by various BJP leaders that the Kerala government was cutting off water to the colony.
Siddique Parapara, Vice President of the Kuttipuram panchayat tells TNM that this is not the case; it is not just the Dalit families, but around 4,000 houses were not getting drinking water supply, which is why they were dependant on wells. “Due to a problem with the pipe and pumping, water supply from the Cherukunnu drinking water scheme had been cut off for almost 4,000 houses for six months,” he says, adding that the problem at the Cherukunnu SC colony was between individuals and the panchayat played no part in it.
The politics over water
For the last three days, the families in Cherukunnu SC colony have been getting water supply through the Seva Bharati – a right wing group associated with the RSS. The Dalit families say they’re happy that the Seva Bharati intervened.
However, the BJP and other groups have been accused of using this incident to spread fears that Hindus in Kerala who support CAA are being socially boycotted. Police have booked Shobha Karandlaje under two sections for inciting communal tension.
Meanwhile, the Seva Bharati has accused the SDPI, CPI(M) and Indian Union Muslim League of pressurising the Muslim family to stop giving water to the colony. The CPI(M) has denied this allegation and has blamed the BJP for trying to create communal trouble in Kerala. The two Dalit families TNM spoke to were not aware who exerted pressure on the Muslim family.
A source close to the Muslim family told TNM that they were under constant pressure from anti-CAA groups and were shamed by people within the community for giving water to a bunch of families who ‘wanted Muslims to be sent to Pakistan’.