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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Update As On 11-05-2008

It is 9 months since the campaign to raise the targeted amount of Rs 1.5 lakhs in rehabilitating Chithralekha by restoring her means of livelihood by procuring a new auto rikshaw for her, with the money raised from concerned citizens took off. The whole story needn't be repeated here, as we are too well aware of the background from which this campaign happened to take off.
Presently, we have an amount of over Rs 1,00,000.00/= collected .We feel that this modest effort to raise funds can no longer be maintained indefinitely in time, and therefore, we have to close it without further delay.
We are expecting at least another sum of Rs 30,000.00 coming in shortly ,thanks to promises from various quarters .
Nevertheless,we hope that this will be sufficient to meet the ex-showroom cost of a brand -new Bajaj auto with all expense for road taxes , body make-up and other related expenses; besides, the initial expenses and the expenses for conducting the public function also can be met .Further, after the successful completion of the mission for which the present Committee had taken shape, balance if left any, is proposed to be transferred to the personal account of Chithralekha.
The future course of action whatever will be intimated to all who have co-operated with this campaign.
Chithralekha had been violently deprived of her means of livelihood by political actors encouraged by the characteristically casteist and sexist hate toward a dalit woman who wanted to stand up against the hegemony at her workplace. Eversince her autorikshaw was destroyed in 2005 December by putting it on fire , Chithralekha has been eking out livelihood by going out for unskilled manual jobs in house construction and farming sectors. Hence, immediate steps to rehabilitate her (notwithstanding the outcome of the cumbersome legal battle, in which too, she needs support.) became the imperative for all concerned with the kind of caste-gender violence which had been acted out against her.
The Rehabilitation Committee based at Kannur is now to decide the future course. It is proposed to shortly convene a well attended public function; many leading figures and activists on the human rights front will be invited to participate. The new vehicle which is to be purchased thanks to the support obtained for this campaign, will be handed to Chithralekha, in a different atmosphere of goodwill and better understanding, where the old hostilities are best expected to be rolled back.

[Following is the translated text of an appeal released at a press conference on 26-09-07 in Kannur, by the Chithralekha Rehabilitation Committee, Kannur, Kerala ]

Dear friends,
Despite our pride in having achieved 100% literacy, we have to acknowledge sadly that Kerala's social life continues to be reigned by several unwrit rules of caste and gender, rather than by law. A series of incidents that took place at Edat (Payyanur, Kannur District) starting from organized abuse and harassment of a dalit woman at her workplace, physically attacking her for having complained to the police, and finally seeing her only means of livelihood, an autorikshaw, destroyed by unknown persons setting fire to the vehicle in the dead of night, and to cap these all, a CITU autorikshaw workers' union coming out openly to defend the accused persons, seems to demonstrate this.

Chithralekha had procured her autorikshaw under the PMRY Scheme in October 2004. Nevertheless, she had to wait for three months before the permission to park her vehicle in the Payyanur College bus stop Autostand as well as the membership in the Union was given to her by the CITU Union.
When finally she did succeed in this, she was greeted by an all-male group of non-dalit autoworkers by the following comments"Look, the pulachi ( female gender for pulaya, name of a prominent SC) is coming with with her auto".

Since then, Chithralekha had to suffer a host of humiliations and untold sufferings. On 11-10-2005, Ajith, a fellow auto driver tore the hood of her vehicle. She complained to the Union only to be ridiculed and turned back. Further, a complaint made to the Police ended up with her tormentor being warned by the police. Obviously outraged by this daring act of Chithralekha petitioning against a comrade to the police, Ajith along with Pavithran, Naveen and Rameshan physically attacked Chithralekha at her workplace, the auto stand on 14-10-2005 morning. They publicly dragged her out from the vehicle and drove one of the autorikshaws on to her body, which caused injury to her leg serious enough to stay as inpatient in the Payyanur Govt hospital for many days. As they were doing all these acts of brutality, one of them shouted these words" pulachies of your ilk in future shall never ride auto here, and it is the union's decision"

The above incident has been booked by the Payyanur Police under various sections of IPC as well as under sections of the SC/ST Atrocities (Prevention) Act of 1999. This case with FIR No 367/05 is presently posted for trial before the Special Court (SC/ST Atrocities), Thalassery.
We believe that but for the timely intervention of the District Level Monitoring Committee which is a statutory committee for monitoring such cases of atrocities against dalits, the above mentioned case would not have been booked at all; on the contrary, the dominant caste-gender set up in combination with the generally existing status-quoist bias of individual police officers would have ensured impunity for the offenders and further institutionalization of such crimes.
Even against the successful intervention on the part of the Dist Level Monitoring Committee to get the case booked and properly pursued, collectively expressed hatred and openly displayed hostility against Chithralekha were only heading to a point of vantage. In the night of 31-12-2005, her vehicle was burned by unidentified persons. This incident was registered as FIR No 474/05 in the Payyanur Police Station.
As we hear further stories of intimidation and demoralizing of witnesses by several quarters of vested interests with a view to weakening of these cases as such, we notice that unless the civil society actively involves in the process of bringing justice to the victim, this kind of crimes motivated by caste and gender is going to get institutionalized.
Chithralekha is presently dependent solely on the Monitoring Committee that includes a few civilian(dalit) representatives and the State mechanism available. While it needs to be clearly reiterated that without such State mechanism it would not have been possible to bring the culprits to book under the relevant provisions of law, the ridiculously unwarranted attempts to impose virtual compromise on the victim by intimidating and demoralizing her witnesses and in many other ways need to be resisted. The absolutely unfair interventions of political manipulators to protect the non-dalit, male accuseds from the reach of law, in this case, should be effectively challenged by vigorous pursuit of the Rule Of Law by an informed civil society.
It is worth mentioning in this context, that a citizens' action committee based at Payyanur was indeed on the scene until April 2006 to support Chithralekha. The committee though succeeded in getting an auto for her on rental basis and as part of their endeavour to restore work to Chithralekha, it became defunct soon after the election campaign for the Kerala Assembly picked up momentum. Due to several reasons, Chithralekha was virtually compelled to return the hired vehicle to its owner. Since then, she had to support herself and her family by going outside for unskilled labour in the building sector, evenwhile she refused to compromise in her determined struggle against the cast-gender hostilities still propagated against her.
On the 29th August of this year, a new initiative to support Chithralekha came to existence by forming a new forum based at Kannur, the District headquarters. The meeting convened by Dr D.Surendranath was personally attended by Mr. K.K.Kochu,the well known dalit leader.Several other prominent dalit activists and intellectuals had also extended thier support to this initiative. This committee was named as Chithralekha Punaradhivasa (Rehabilitation) Committee and it took stock of the situation as a whole.,against the background of conspicuous lack of any collective expression of solidarity with her continuing struggle.The next meeting of this committee on 4-09-2007resolved to extend unconditional support to Chithralekha in her struggle for justice.The committee identified the urgent need of rehabilitating Chithralekha, with the work as well as a nightmares-free workplace restored to her. For this, it was decided to purchase a new autorikhshaw for her by collecting the necessary fund from the people. For carrying out this effectively and transparently, Dr Surendranath(Chairman), Mr.P.K.Ayyappan (Treasurer) and Mr.K.M.Venugopalan (Convenor) would jointly operate an account in the Thalap branch of the Kannur District Central Co-operative Bank in connection with collecting and depositing of a targeted fund of Rs1,50,000/=
While we ourselves fully endorse the above mentioned objectives of the Chithralekha Punaradhivasa Committee,Kannur, we would like to request the entire civil society of Kerala to come forward in support of these causes ,viz; of ending hostilities toward a dalit woman and allowing the law to take the right course on the one hand, and helping rehabilitation of Chithralekha by restoring her means of livelihood and work.

Among the persons who have already signed this draft are ---Bhargavi Thankappan (former Dy Speaker,Kerala Assembly), L.Natarajan ( Retd IAS),K.C.Venu ( Retired Director, Public Relations, Thiruvananthapuram) K.K..Kochu (Dalit activist and writer),Sunny Kapikkad (Dalit writer and activist, Kottayam) , M.B.Manoj ( Poet and Dalit activist, Kottayam), Rekha Raj (Dalit Women's Forum, Kottayam), K.Panur (Senior campaigner and writer on Adivasi-Dalit issues & Human Rights, Kannur), K.Venu , Dr.M.Gangadharan, Dr .A.K.Ramakrishnan (School Of International Relations, MG University, Kottayam), K.Ajitha (Campaigner in Womens' issues and the leading activist in Anweshi, Womens'Organization, Kozhikkode) , A.Vasu ( Human Rights activist, Kozhikkode), Dr.J.Devika (CDS, Thiruvananthapuram), V.P.Zuhara ( Nisa,Organization For Progressive Muslim Women, Kozhokkode) , Anivar Aravind (Greenyouth Forum& GAYA, Trissur), B.R.P.Bhaskar (senior Human Rights campaigner and journalist, Thiruvananthapuram), Dr.V.C.Harris (School Of Social Sciences, MGU, Kottayam) , C.K.Janu (leader, Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha, Wynad), Prof Sara Joseph ( Literatuer and Womens' Rights campaigner, Thrissur), Advocate P.A.Pauran (PUCL-Kerala, Manjeri), K.Haridas ( writer and Human Rights activist, Mumbai ), Dr.Jenny Roweena (Writer and Researcher in Gender and Caste Issues ,Hydbad), Carmel Chrity (Research Scholar, Hyderabad Central University & activist researcher In Gender and Caste ), Elizabeth Philip( Sahaja, Womens' Rights organization, Kottayam), Ranjith Thakappan ( Lecturer, Indira Gandhi Open University, New Delhi), I.Gopinath (Media Initiatives and Human Rights activist, Thrissur), Sarat (Thirdeyefilms , Ernakulam), A.Arun (Research Scholar, Hyderabad Central University), P.Baburaj (Thirdeye films,Ernakulam), K.K.Ushakumari (Janakeeya Samskarika Kendram, Kodungallur), Radhika Menon (Forum For Democratic Initiatives,New Delhi), Vinod.K.Jose ( Human Rights activist and Fellow, Columbia Journalism School, New York), K.P.Sasi( Human Rights activist and film maker, Bangalore), Bauraj.K (writer and activist, Kodungallur), Shyla.K.John (Secretary, AIMSS, Kerala), Advocate Kasthuri Devan (social activist, Kannur), Dr.A.K.Jayasree( womens'rights campaigner,Rajamundri, A.P) ,Dr.K.M.Seethi (School Of International Relations and Political Science, MG University, Kottayam), Deepa V.N (Sahayatrika, Kerala), Girija K.P (Kerala),S.Sanjeev (Kerala), Rev Sunil Raj (Bangalore), Mustafa Desamangalam ( Media and Films activist, Kerala), Sudeep Joseph (Bangalore), Bobby Kunju (Human Rights and Legal activist,New Delhi),Sandhya P.C (GAIA,Thrissur, Kerala), Anil Tharayath Varghese (National Centre For Advocacy Studies, Pune), Dr.Ratheesh Radhakrishnan (Kerala), Shinaj.P.S(Hyderabad Central University), I.K.Shukla (Writer, Los Angeles ) ,Sushovan Dhar (Radical Politics,Mumbai).Subhash Lokjith (Pune), Sukla Sen, (Peoples' Media Initiative, Mumbai ), George Pulikuthiyil (Jananeethi Institue, Kerala), Bindhulakshmi (Hyderabad), Ajay(People's Watch), Dr.Sanal Mohan (School Of Social Sciences, MGU,Kottayam), Salim.T.K (Greenyouthsgooglegroup), Savad Rahman (Journalist, Kochi),Rajesh Ramakrishnan (Activist and Researcher, New Delhi), Dr.Soma Marik( Kolkatha), Dr.T.T.Sreekumar ( Academic / Asst Professor, National University Of Singapore), Gilbert Rodrigo (Pondicherry Fisher peoples' forum),T.Peter (Secretary, National Fishworkers' Forum & President, KSMTU,Kerala), Dileepraj ( writer and Human Rights campaigner, Kerala ).

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always want to defend peace, justice, peoples' right to love each other and live with dignity,struggles against parochial visions and hatred;instinctively a defender of socialist and democratic values