180 Dalit Families In Kerala Protest For Over 10 Months Alleging Caste Discrimination By Upper Caste
February 2nd, 2018
For over 10 months, 180 Dalit families in Vadayampady village, Ernakulam district, Kerala has been protesting against the caste wall erected by Nair Service Society (NSS). The wall was built on the ground near the Bhajanamadam Bhagavathi Temple, run by NSS. It was alleged that the NSS had erected a 10-foot high wall around the temple only to prevent the entry of the Dalits.
While the protesters claimed that the wall was constructed on public ground, the NSS denied the allegations. “We are only asking the temple authorities to let the ground remain a common property of the entire local community. We began our agitation when they built the wall infringing on our right of way,” said MP Ayyappan Kutty, to The Hindu.
The agitation lead by Bhoo Avakasha Samara Munnani (Dalit Land Rights Agitation Front) began in March last year. They have constructed a tent in front of Bhajanamadam Bhagavathi Temple and started the agitation alleging caste discrimination. “I was the convener of the festival committee in 2012. It was a caste wall built to keep Dalits away from using the playground and the temple,” Kutti alleged.
“They started building the wall in March 2017, and we pulled it down on April 14, 2017, on Ambedkar Jayanti,” Kutty added.
The Dalit families involved in the protest said that the there was no feeling of caste discrimination until 2016.
“They kept the gates locked all the time. It was like telling us not to trespass,” Kutty argued. He added that their demand was to let the ground remain common property. The protesters told Scroll that no one would prevent them from entering the temple.
The Logical Indian contacted an official in Puthencruz police station, Ernakulam, but he refused to comment on the issue.
Police had issued a notice to the protesters urging to dismantle the tent before the temple festival and told them that it would cause inconvenience to devotees, but the protesters refused it. The police dismantled the tent, and on 21st January, seven protesters and two journalists- Ananthu Rajagopal and Abhilash Padacheri who reported the agitation were arrested. They were released on bail on the next day.
Asha Latha, one of the detained journalist’s mother posted on Facebook saying that she and her husband had been standing outside Ramamangalam police station for a long time, but the police did not let them meet their son. “The police have accused them of standing with the protesters and sloganeering and recording live video,” she posted. Many people turned to social media demanding the release of the journalists and protesters.
The Nair Service Society denied the allegations saying that the land was granted by the government to the temple. The community members said that they had received the land from the government in 1981.“Temple committee has the right to protect its property,” said Ramesh Kumar, president of the committee to Scroll. He added that the NSS opposed the practice of untouchability and the wall was built to protect the temple land. “We kept three gates for the local people to enter the ground,” he said.