Kerala polls | Left and Cong don’t treat Tribals as humans: CK Janu | assembly-elections | Hindustan Times
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Kerala polls | Left and Cong don’t treat Tribals as humans: CK Janu

Tribal leader CK Janu is contesting as an NDA candidate from north Kerala. Has the Left and Congress failed the Tribals of Kerala?

Kerala 2016 Updated: May 12, 2016 12:01 IST
Viju Cherian
Minister of human resource development Smriti Irani along with the tribal leader and NDA candidate CK Janu.
Minister of human resource development Smriti Irani along with the tribal leader and NDA candidate CK Janu.(PTI)

“The tribals have faced fascism at the hands of the UDF and LDF governments in Kerala for the past 60 years. These fronts do not treat the tribals as humans,” CK Janu, a prominent tribal rights activist and NDA candidate from Sultan Bathery, in Wayanad in north Kerala, told Hindustan Times.

The plight of the tribals in Muthanga in Wayanad in north, in Chengara in Pathanamthitta in central Kerala or in Arippa in Kollam in south has been hotly debated and has resonated across the political consciousness of the state. Yet, activists claim, precious little has been done.

“For more than six decades the tribals and Dalits of Kerala have not got justice. None of the governments here have been able to meet social justice in land allotment,” says Sreeraman Koyyon, Adivasi Dalit Munnetta Samithi president.

It is in this circumstance that the contest in Sultan Bathery gains importance.

This reserved constituency has been a Congress stronghold and the party has fielded its sitting MLA IC Balakrishnan, who won the 2011 poll by a margin of over 7,500 votes. The CPI(M), enthused by the positive response it received in the local body polls last year, has fielded Rugmini Subramanian.

Janu’s entry makes it a three-cornered contest. Janu came to the front with the 2001 protests at Thiruvananthapuram for the distribution of land for landless tribals and the 2003 land protests in Muthanga, in Wayanad, which culminated in a police firing that claimed two lives.

Janu has contested the 2004 general elections and the 2006 assembly polls, and lost both times. This time she has floated a political outfit, Janathipathya Rashtriya Sabha, and is part of the BJP-led NDA. The UDF’s/LDF’s loss seems to be the NDA’s gain.

“To date the LDF and UDF have ignored the needs of the Dalits and tribals,” Kummanan Rajasekharan, BJP state president, told HT while campaigning in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram. “In such a situation, the tribals have turned to us.” The BJP is contesting this election with the hope of winning seats in the assembly for the first time.

However, the Left and fellow tribal leaders do not view the alliance with the BJP favourably. “CK Janu’s decision to go with the NDA is suicidal. It is her vested interests that have made her join the NDA....The LDF government has done a lot for the people, especially women and children, in tribal areas,” Panniyan Ravindran, national secretariat member of the CPI said.

“I don’t think that the NDA will address the problems the tribals face because the BJP will not shed its fascists leanings,” said Koyyon, who played a prominent role in the 2003 Muthanga protests, among many other protests for tribal rights.

Irrespective of whether Janu wins or not, her decision to contest elections as the part of the BJP-led alliance is noteworthy. It is a statement to the Left and the Congress who seem to have gone slow on addressing tribal issues. Many hope that the next time the tribals raise a concern, the political fronts in Kerala will address it with more urgency. “The positive to take from people like Janu contesting is that tomorrow when there is an anti-Tribal move in the assembly they will oppose it,” Koyyon says.