What has made DHRM possible?

On September 23rd, a 61 year old ordinary citizen from Varkala went for his usual morning walk and was brutally killed by a group of militants with swords. By evening, the police arrested a member of DHRM (Dalit Human Rights Movement) in connection with this murder, which was followed up by the arrest of 6 others from the same group. The victim had no proven political links and the police stated that this murder was done by DHRM “to get public attention and to prove their strength in ranks“. Police also said that they are inquiring to see if DHRM has any terrorist links.

The obvious reaction of the public to all this was the utmost anger towards such outfits which use the measures of terror to gain publicity. But then I read this article in last week’s India Today (Malayalam edition) about the Varkala incident. I was surprised, because it is not in India Today’s nature to present a view that is contrary to the public opinion and I read that weekly for their local news section in the first couple of pages and then the ‘masala’ section in the last pages. Saritha Balan, a reporter of India Today (Malayalam edition) has written in detail about the backdrop of the murder in Varkala. She says it is important to ask how such an organization like DHRM could influence a majority of the Dalit communities in Ernakulam, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts.

Highlights of the India Today report:

  • DHRM stood for the well-being of Dalits as per some of the residents of Dalit colonies
  • Hundreds of families in the Muthaana, Thoduve colonies are living without the basic facilities
  • There is not even one cent of land for one house in Thoduve colony, where there are more than 600 houses
  • A family has to live in a ‘house’ that we can hardly call a ‘room’ by the public measures
  • Even the primary education is luxury here
  • There is not even a radio set for ‘luxury’

DHRM came to the scene in such a situation. As per some of the colony residents, DHRM gave them hope and they taught them to live responsibly. Most of the Dalit men were under the influence of drugs and alcoholism but DHRM conducted study classes for them. Saritha reports that an 8 year old Sandhya told her that DHRM study classes ask the children to study well and look after their parents.

“My husband would drink all day and was a total waster,” 29-year-old Kochumol, a mother of three, says. “He turned a teetotaler after attending DHRM study circles.” Soon, she followed him to these Sunday gatherings where, over five hours, Ambedkar’s life would be recalled and advice given on daily affairs. Cultural shows at the end were a big hit. Despite their meagre earnings as wage labourers — they call themselves ‘coolies’ — everyone would gladly pay Rs 30 for the events. [via]

The India Today report also quotes the colony residents and says that Shivsena activists have been threatening them. We can understand the concern of the political parties here. Communists who have been benefiting from the Dalit communities in Kerala since a very long time would not like another outfit to take the leadership of Dalits and contest in the elections. BJP and Shivsena alike would not like such a Dalit uprising as they have been trying hard to place themselves as the alternate shelter for Dalits in Kerala.

The DHRM has a notable influence among the Dalit community and they have contested elections from Attingal constituency and won 5217 votes in the last parliamentary elections. The question to ask here in this context is, did they (DHRM) have to do such a brutal murder in order to get public attention? They were already popular among the community that they work with and would they go ahead and make such a stupid decision to kill someone and get negative publicity? If it is not the DHRM, then who did that brutal murder? The questions remain unanswered until the final verdict on the case comes out. The DHRM members say that they trust the judiciary like we do and they hope the real culprits would be sent to justice.

Also read:

What is DHRM and why do they kill?
Ambedkar’s Lost Boys?

(Image courtesy: Tehelka)