A day after controversy erupted over Kerala poet Sugathakumari’s alleged comments describing migrant labourers as uneducated criminals, the poet said that she had been misquoted.
In a clarification published in the Malayalam daily Mathrubhumi, Sugathakumari denied making such remarks and said that she was “not naïve to have said so.”
The newspaper had carried an opinion piece by the poet on Saturday in their weekly column “Kettathum kelkendathum”.
“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,” the piece had said.
In a clarification titled “Those are not my words”, Sugathakumari admitted to saying that the mass migration of labourers to Kerala can be seen as dangerous.
However, she denied calling migrant labourers uneducated criminals.
Saying that she does not consider Malayali culture to be supreme, the poet wrote, “I will only be glad if men from the North marry women from Kerala. Kerala is not a huge state. The number of migrant labourers in the state currently is over 50 lakh, I hear. If more migrant labourers were to come to Kerala, does the tiny state have enough carrying capacity? How will we meet land, water and other requirements? We should also remember that Keralites who migrated to other parts of the world are also returning to the state."
Stating that there was a lot of difficulty in tracing the whereabouts of the accused in the Jisha murder case, she wrote, “Do these labourers possess identity cards? Does that mean any criminal who wants to hide himself can safely come to Kerala? Isn’t the mass inflow of migrants also a reason for the increase in cases of drug abuse?”
In order to solve this, Sugathakumari wrote, the rich and their contractors, who exploit the poverty of these labourers, should limit their inflow to the state. She also added that majority of these migrant labourers are involved in construction work and questioned the necessity of constructing so many buildings.
“Where are the resources for all this? Where are the stones, where is the water, where is the land?” she wrote.
Sugathakumari ended the note by saying that misquoting another’s words and publishing them was an unethical practice.