Who Owns The “Country”?

Ajith Kumar A S

ajith_kumarWhile having tea at local tea shops around Trivandrum city I have seen lot of workers, may be from Bengal, Orissa or Bihar. They (A problem- No other terms to use other than "they") would be very active having tea, snacks, talking to each other, talking to the shopkeeper, laughing, talking on phone. For many years I have been seeing this. They have been a part of our city life and the economic process. There are many shops that sustain/depend on the migrant workers. They keep a strong connection with their relatives. We hear them talking on phone with their relatives and family in their languages unfamiliar to us. They do have relatives, families, places they have grown up in, places to return. "We" do have relatives working in different places and we do keep close relations with them. What makes migrant workers from the "north" different or how do they "disturb" or become a threat for "us"? The question would be who owns what is known as Kerala?

This Sunday, migrant workers who gathered in Gandhi park, a public park in Trivandrum, were driven out by the police. The police say they are involved in many of the criminal activities in the city. The fort police have made it clear that hereafter "they" won't be allowed to gather there. We have to be aware that for a long time the government has been involved in racial profiling of these workers. We did see similar instances in our neighboring state Tamil Nadu when five migrant workers ("suspected robbers") were shot dead in an "encounter". Police allege with a patronizing male tone that on Sundays they gather there after getting drunk and indulge in criminal activities mostly against women. While for many years "criminal" activities are not directly connected to any particular community or people from a particular territory, there are some stereotypes about criminals- dark, flabby, people from colonies, from Tamil Nadu- an image that represents everything that the middle class Malayali feels they don't look like.

Why does others' pleasure disturb us so much? Why can't they spend their leisure time in a public space? Can "we" insist that, their duty (or burden?) is to work for "us" and keep our lives comfortable and safe while they have no right to enjoy? They have to be essentially "laborers"? The dominant "Left'" advocates the unity among workers, they would shout slogans like "sarvarajya thozhilaalikale sanghadikkuvin", a call for the workers of the world to unite. The problems is that this slogan just addresses  the workers of different countries but misses the differences and discrimination based on caste, race and gender (and many more categories). The migrant worker, I think, is defined by many lacks and excess. A migrant worker is never completely a worker. They are a hyphenated category that doesn't easily fit into "sarva rajya thozhilaali". It may be the reason we don't see any trade unions supporting these unorganized workers. The displacement and discrimination they face in the workplace and public space is complex.

The tourist slogan "god's own country' carries the violence of the Travancore monarchy's history of violence. It depicts the history of the country "owned" by the monarchy offered to lord padmanabha to escape the anti-monarchy struggles by the lower caste. The history of modern Kerala is more violent. The landless Dalits and Adivasis are never the "owners" of the "country" known as Kerala. The Malayali self emerged defining itself against its low others: the Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims. The authoritative erasure of Ayyankali's history from the history of Kerala in EMS's "malayalikalude mathrubhumi" tells this in volumes. We could also remember that the Trivandrum 'Malayali" public was also irritated by the adivasi struggle in front of the secretariat led by C K Janu because, maybe, they thought that they owned the space. The xenophobic hate campaign against Muslims in the state by the Malayali (the Malayali even ridicules Malappuram district as a separate country) also exposes the claims of the Malayali self on the Kerala state.

If Malayali is such a problematic and exclusive category in itself, for whose interests are you trying to purge out the migrant workers? I am sure that they don't need patronizing sympathy that some of the FB-ian Malayalees are offering. They have the right to work, live and celebrate in this part of the world.


Ajith Kumar A S is a Dalit musician and writer based in Trivandrum.

Other Related Articles

The merits ascribed to the castes of merit in Indian textbooks
Sunday, 26 November 2017
  Anitya Sanket Apologist arguments in favor of the caste system have not been a recent phenomenon in India. For a deeply oppressive system of social division to have survived more than 3,000... Read More...
The Spectre of Justice Karnan haunts the Indian Judiciary
Sunday, 19 November 2017
  Dharmaraj Kumar Indian judiciary system is said to be confronted with a crisis of judicial accountability following the alleged contemptuous act of Prashant Bhushan in the Supreme Court, that... Read More...
Are Indian authorities planning to hack the next election?
Sunday, 29 October 2017
  S. Kumar The next state assembly elections for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh (HP) are due in the coming months. The election in HP is scheduled on 9 Nov'17 and result will be declared on 18... Read More...
Dalit writing doesn’t belong to trash bin– An open letter to Dr. J. Devika
Saturday, 07 October 2017
  Santhosh Kumar Dalit writer and thinker Sunny Kapicadu's book 'Janathayum Janadhipathyavum' belongs to the garbage bin - says Dr. J. Devika, a famous public intellectual working at the Centre... Read More...
Statement condemning attacks on Prof Kancha Ilaiah by Brahmanical forces
Saturday, 30 September 2017
  Ambedkarite Students of Mumbai "The Social Smuggling process started from the post-Gupta period of fifth century AD and continues to operate even today. Till British colonialism came to India... Read More...

Recent Popular Articles

Cow, ‘backwardness’ and ‘Bahujan’ Women
Monday, 10 July 2017
  Asha Singh  My Ahir-dominant village in Bhojpur district of Bihar has a school only up to standard seven. After the seventh grade, if somebody (or their family) decides to study further,... Read More...
I Take Responsibility
Wednesday, 28 June 2017
  Swati Kamble Since the BJP government came to power in India in 2014, masses with extreme Hindu ideology and strong anti-Muslim and anti-Dalit sentiments are using brutal force to terrorize... Read More...
Why RSS can’t accept even a Sanghi SC/ST/OBC Judge?
Friday, 23 June 2017
  S Kumar Nomination of Mr. Ram Nath Kovind for the presidential position has again brought the caste politics to the forefront of Indian politics. While a Brahmin appointment like the outgoing... Read More...
'Indian education doesn't have any emancipatory agenda': Prof Vivek Kumar
Monday, 11 September 2017
   Round Table India This is the transcription of Round Table India's interaction with Prof Vivek Kumar, Professor, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences,... Read More...
Why are the Debates on Menstrual Taboo One-sided?
Friday, 15 September 2017
   T. Sowjanya In a nutshell, the answer is, the views expressed in the online protests are of women belonging to a particular set of social groups! This is a response to the recent online... Read More...