August 2018 was a terrible month for Kerala. Around 500 people died in the worst flood that the state has witnessed in a century. Lakhs of people were displaced, and the damages in the state are estimated to be worth thousands of crores. But inside this statewide tragedy, a tale of severe discrimination unfolded. Activists and residents say that even at this time of adversity, caste and casteism reared its ugly head.
Activists say that marginalised communities are affected worse than others in the floods, for several historical reasons, including the places where they live. Santhosh Kumar, an activist from Wayanad, tells TNM, â€śBecause of the social location of dalit and adivasi communities, they are the most affected in the Kerala floods. Historically, because they were slaves in agriculture, they lived near wetlands and marshy places â€“ places that are conducive to agriculture. So the flood affected these communities most, including in places like Kuttanad and Wayanad.â€ť
â€śInvariably, there are 27,000 dalit colonies in kerala which are situated next to water bodies. We are the first ones hit by the flood. it is a perennial flood we are victims to,â€ť says Ajay Kumar, an activist from Thiruvalla, â€śWhy we are pushed into water bodies is a different political question altogether.â€ť
â€śSo when it comes to a larger flood like what happened now, we are the first ones who moved to the camp, and we are the last ones who are able to actually go back to our own places,â€ť Ajay says.
But while the Dalit families spent the most amount of time in relief camps, they also faced the most amount of discrimination while there. Ajay Kumar says, â€śDuring the rescue, there were complaints from Pathanamthitta, next to Thiruvalla, that the Nair people came and rescued only the Nair people, and Syrian Catholic people came and rescued only the Syrian catholic people. And dalits actually were left in their respective places and only the government system, which activated little later, went and rescued the dalits.â€ť
Watch the full documentary here: