By Shafeeq Hudawi
Thiruvananthapuram: In March 2016, while the entire mainstream media was still busy with the incidents in JNU, a Dalit woman activist was attacked by unknown assailants while she was sleeping in her house at Thirumala Thachottukavu in Thiruvananthapuram of Kerala? For Dhanya Raman, this was a repeat of an attack back in 2012 when she was assaulted some goons at her house.
Such incidents are not uncommon for Dhanya, who has for long staged a war against the officers of Tribal Department and encroachers of tribal lands. She has been receiving constant threats because of her legal battle against corruption rampant within the department and cases of sexual assault against adivasi and dalit children in Kerala.
Dhanya Raman, who is the daughter of Dalit leader PK Raman, has been working for the welfare and empowerment of the Dalit and Adivasi communities across Kerala. “I have been fighting for the rights of the tribals and other marginalised communities and raise voice against corruption. This might have made me a target of the bureaucrats and land mafia,” says Dhanya Raman.
Her efforts have ensured that several persons were punished because of her interference in corruption case and cases of assaults and abuses against Adivasis and dalits. Last month, she filed a complaint with the office of Thiruvananthapuram range Inspector General of Police, Manoj Abraham regarding a fund embezzlement case related to the Tribal Department in the state. Besides, she has exposed corruption of Rs. 148 crore in the implementation of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) welfare scheme in addition to the corruption of Rs. 6.5 crore in Janani Janma Raksha project.
In October 2015, Dhanya filed an RTI query to know about the fund allocation for the tribal welfare programmes in the state. The tribal department has been reporting the allocation of 1 lakh crore rupees for tribal welfare. A shocking scam was brought light through this RTI.
“Despite crores of rupees are allocated by the governments our children die due to malnutrition. They remain uneducated and undergo exploitation. How can I remain tight-lipped?” asks Dhanya.
Following her efforts, 937 Child sexual abuses cases were registered in the state. “In these cases regarding abuse of tribal children, only outsiders were involved,” Dhanya says.
Dhanya adds that lands of 317 tribal families were illegally taken by land mafia across Kerala.
According to her, the main stream political parties are least interested in addressing these woes as the Dalits and Tribals are yet to emerge as vote banks.
In addition to the fight against government officials and land mafia, this lady has now declared a war against the exploitation of tribal boys by Maoists.
“More than 68 tribal settlements in Kerala are under Maoist threat. Maoists compel our boys to join with them and thus deny them education and opportunity to form as a self organized and empowered group,” Dhanya says.
According to the activists, NGOs are also threats to be eliminated while it comes to the mainstreaming of Dalits and Adivasis.
“We have educated and smart youngsters within our own communities. They should be recruited for the job to uplift us. NGO activists get money allocated for us and spend it for their choice,” she points out.
Currently, she is visiting Adivasi students’ hostels across the state in a bid to make them aware of their right and convey them the need to be educationally empowered.
The Dalit and Adivasi population in Kerala is more than 35 lakh, among which only 35,000 have been employed by the government. 75% of the total employed work as the lowest grade employees.
Although Dhanya is an interior designer by profession, she hardly gets time to work as a professional as she has to travel all the way from Thiruvananthapuram to various tribal settlements in a bid to get a direct picture of the sufferings, being faced by the underprivileged communities. She is also working with Education Empowerment Programme (EEP), meant to educate the disconnected and school dropouts.
Dhanya has now joined hands with Adivasi and Dalit leaders in order to bring various 54 communities, scattered across different organisations, under one flag. She is now holding talks with leaders of Dalit and Adivasi leaders in Kerala.
“Educational and political empowerment is my top priority. If we are politically and educationally empowered no Dalit or Adivasi children will be raped and their land will not be illegally occupied,” she says.