Dalit auto rickshaw driver Chitralekha attacked allegedly by CPI (M) workers

By Shafeeq Hudawi

Kozhikode: While the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and its associate organisations have been vociferously protesting against the crackdown in JNU and HCU, its party members in Kerala seem to have little respect for voices that oppose their stance.

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Chitralekha, a Dalit auto rickshaw driver who had been protesting against the atrocities of fellow drivers and attack by local CPI (M) workers, was allegedly attacked by party workers on the early hours of Friday morning.

The attack came days after Chitralekha had called off her agitation in front of the Secretariat following Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s assurance that steps would be taken to address her woes. Chitralekha was holding a ‘dharna; in front of the state secretariat seeking land to live and protection from the miscreants.

Dalit auto rickshaw driver Chitralekha attacked allegedly by CPI (M) workers

The 39-year-old lady told Twocirles.net that she saw CPI (M) worker Abhilash damaging her auto rickshaw but he ran away by the time she came of the house at Edat in Payyannur.

“I saw Abhilash and two others when I looked through window,” she alleged. Chitralekha became the target of local CPI (M) leadership as she married a man belonging to Thiyya caste, which claims the higher ranking in the Hindu caste system. “Ever since I began to work as an auto rickshaw driver to earn my food in 2004, I have been facing threats from the CPI (M) activists. When I arrived in an auto rickshaw-stand affiliated to the CITU (the CPI (M) affiliated trade union), I was welcomed by caste slurs.

They asked me ‘what the hell is a Pulaya lady is doing with our auto rickshaw stand?’
Pulaya caste members were the slaves of feudal landlords in Malabar.

The auto rickshaw, according to Chitralekha, needed repair of Rs. 20,000 as its seat and cover were completely torn.

Payyannur police confirmed that Chithralekha had filed a complaint, saying her vehicle had been damaged. “The roof and seat of the vehicle had been damaged with blade,” the police said.

Dalit auto rickshaw driver Chitralekha attacked allegedly by CPI (M) workers

After staging protests in front of the Kannur collectorate and the state secretariat for the last few years, the government recently allocated her five cent land at Kattambally in order to relocate her from Edat owing to repeated attacks. The land was given following 122 days dharna in front of Kannur collectorate and 20 days protest in front of the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram. On March 4, she was visiting her house at Edat to collect documents for one of the several cases in court, which had been filed during these years due to the harassment.

“They were not able accept a woman auto driver, who is a Dalit woman, was doing the same job they do. Since then, they have been torturing me. In December, 2005 they burned my auto rickshaw. Still, they are taking up efforts to lower my morale by describing me as a woman, who drinks and doesn’t know how to behave,” she added.

However, the latest attack is unlikely to dent her confidence: “I am not ready to bow my head and continue to fight back,” she said.
Meanwhile, the continuing assault on the Dalit lady has drawn the ire of the activists and Dalit organisations in Kerala.

“Chithralekha’s case has brought the attitude of CPI (M), which claims to be the protectors of Dalits, to the light. The attacks could be easily brought to an end if the party leaders interfere in the issue. But, despite repeated pleas and protests the party leadership is turning a blind eye towards her woes,” said Dalit activist AS Ajith Kumar.

However, Chithralekha is pinning hope on the district administration as she has given a detailed complaint to the district collector P Balakiran seeking steps to end the assault on her.