KOCHI: COVID has taught our society what ‘isolation’ exactly means in terms of fear and frustration, but this tribal couple from Adichilthotti colony at Malakkappara knows it precisely after being ostracised by the Muthuvan community 20 years ago.
For them, life has been a struggle against odds since then.Chellappan and Yasodha have been living in the deep forest — on the banks of Edamalayar river — fleeing from one place to another. They spend nights in makeshift huts, under the constant fear of elephant herds raiding their huts any time.
Chellappan and Yasodha belong to the same community, but the Muthuvans follow strict rules on family relations. As Yasodha is a blood relative of Chellappan, they ostracised and banished them after they got married.The couple’s children Aji, 15, and Athul, 9, were staying in the tribal hostel at Vazhachal to pursue their studies. They returned to Edamalayar after schools were closed following Covid spread last year. They did not have the facilities to continue education online.
The family doesn’t have an Aadhaar or ration card either, which would have made them eligible for the incentives from the government. They make a living by catching fish from the river and selling it in Vadattupara village in Kothamangalam. It takes them six hours to reach Vadattupara by their bamboo raft.
‘Never met a family in such pathetic state’
Kerala Adivasi Aikya Vedi president Chitra Nilambur and secretary Binu K G Puthenpuraykkal, who visited the couple last week, told TNIE that the living conditions of the family were pathetic.“We started off from the border village of Malakkappara and climbed four kilometres of steep hills for five hours to reach Arakkappu tribal settlement. The next day we used a raft to cross Edamalayar river and reach the place where the family is staying. A bamboo ladder is used to climb the rock on which the hut is built. We were unable to sleep that night as an elephant herd was roaming the area. The family lives under constant threat of wild animals like elephants and leopards,” said Chitra.
The family takes children along with them when they go for fishing and to the market in Kothamangalam to buy essentials as it is not safe to leave them alone in the forest. They spend most of the time in the river and cook food on its banks. “I have visited many tribal settlements as part of social work. But I’ve never met a family living in such pathetic conditions,” said Chitra.
Binu and Chitra reached Arakkappu colony to discuss the problems faced by the 25 tribal families living in the forest. As there were landslides in the colony in the past years, the community was demanding allotment of land near Vaishali cave at Edamalayar — an old tribal settlement. An Adivasi Aikya Vedi delegation, including tribal head of Arakkappu colony Thankappan Panchan, will meet the Thrissur collector on Wednesday seeking allotment of land near the cave. “We are also taking up the issue of Chellappan and Yasodha with the collector,” said Chitra.