After a photo of Janu driving her car was published she was criticised saying the act didn’t befit a leader of the marginalised community.

Why a photo of Kerala Adivasi leader CK Janu driving a car created a needless controversy
news Social Media Sunday, June 25, 2017 - 17:02

Being the leader of a marginalised community comes with its fair share of pros and cons. While on the one hand you are hailed as a hero for being the voice of your community, on the other hand every little action of yours is up for public scrutiny.

For CK Janu, a tribal leader from Kerala, who spearheaded many protests for the Adivasi community, including the Muthanga stir, the purchase of a Toyota Etios became a point of contention on social media.

After a Malayalam weekly published a photo of Janu driving her car that was bought nine months ago, the Adivasi leader was trolled on social media saying that the act of buying a car didn’t befit a leader of the marginalised community.

Some comments went to the extent of calling her a betrayer of the adivasi cause. A Facebook post calling Janu Mothalali (Janu, the rich) says,  "It was Muthanga stir tat mde Janu famous. We don't forget that she took part in a United Nations programme too. But she used the fame for her own growth. Joining of hands with communal BJP group was another contradiction in her life. There has no other person who have betrayed people of own community as Janu did. Now she has a luxurious life while the poor tribal continue to live in distress.” (sic)

Another post, apparently by a Left follower read: “Janu has changed a lot. But nothing has changed for the adivasis. Let the adivasis live accepting the crux of the life of downtrodden people. Only Communism will be with those people forever.”

In April 2016 Janu had floated a political party under the banner of Janadhipathya Rashtriya Sabha and became an ally of the National Democratic Front led by the BJP. The act of joining hands with the BJP had raised many eyebrows at the time.

She contested the Assembly election in May 2016 from Sultan Bathery on Wayanad under NDA, but lost. A few months ago in January 2016 Janu had made news by adopting a girl child from Chattisgarh.

While her buying of a car attracted severe criticism on social media, there were also many supporting Janu, saying that those criticising Janu are just being resentful towards the progress made by an adivasi. One post even urged Janu to go and buy a BMW.

Another post in support of Janu read, “The attack on Janu by the CPI (M) workers and followers show how ideologically poor they are. The criticism is born out of the CPI (M)'s middle class bourgeoisie thought that the party will get followers only if the tribals continue live in starvation and remain homeless.”

Noted social activist and veteran journalist BRP Bhaskaran also defended Janu in his Facebook post. “There have been some snide references in FB to Adivasi leader CK Janu going around in a car. Considering the extremely backward condition of Kerala's small Adivasi community, Janu's acquisition of a car is indeed a development worthy of notice. Considering the decadent state of Kerala society, the snobbish undertone of most of the FB posts and comments is also understandable,” it said.

“Some friends, in their posts and comments, have sought to link Janu's car with her party's membership of the BJP-led NDA. I do not want to make any insinuations about how any Communist leader of Kerala became a car owner. But I will tell you how President Ramon Magsaysay broke up the Communist Party of the Philippines in the 1950's. A member of the banned CPP's Politburo told the government how to reach the hideouts of all Politburo colleagues in exchange for just enough money to buy a second-hand car,” BRP’s post said.

In response, Janu told the media, “What has been circulating in social media about me buying a car is the society’s' attitude towards Adivasis. I am a farmer and I have one acre and twenty cents of land in which I cultivate pepper and coffee. I have bought the car with the revenue I earned from farming. I made the initial payment of Rs 4 lakh and the rest is loan. I have also built the house with the earnings from farming only. I did not apply for a single rupee from Adivasi fund of the government to build the house. The allegations against me began when I started my public life. I remind those who criticise me that I own a jeep as well."