Wayanad Election Notes: The solitude of Kerala's most famous tribal activist

At times CK Janu sounds frustrated. "What Kerala model?" she asks...
C K Janu ( File Photo | facebook@C K Janu)
C K Janu ( File Photo | facebook@C K Janu)

Tribal rights activist CK Janu is not actively campaigning for the BJP-led NDA candidate in Wayanad.

The BJP has fielded state chief K Surendran against Rahul Gandhi (Congress) and Annie Raja (CPI). She cites health-related reasons for not being in the thick of action during this Lok Sabha polls. It has been some time since she has withdrawn into a writing and contemplative mode.

"My Janadhipathiya Rashtriya Party (JRP) continues to be part of the BJP-led NDA. But if you ask me whether I'm campaigning for the NDA candidates, the answer is 'yes' but not actively. I have health issues," said the activist, who led the historic Muthanga movement in support of land rights for the tribals in 2003.

Janu was/is castigated by many for allying with the BJP. There have been allegations that she has made money out of her "deal" with the BJP. But what her detractors fail to realise is that she had no choice left as both the CPI (M) and the Congress were unwilling to accommodate her.

C K Janu ( File Photo | facebook@C K Janu)
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As she continues to get targeted for allying with the BJP-led NDA, an exasperated Janu points out that when leaders from the Congress or the Left parties cross over to the BJP, it is perceived as quite normal.

For instance, recently, late Chief Minister K Karunakaran's daughter Padmaja Venugopal and former Chief Minister AK Antony's son Anil Antony joined the BJP. There was not much uproar when these leaders joined the BJP. But when Janu's outfit joins NDA, it is seen as "betrayal of the tribals."

In the first place, mainstream political parties have no room for us. But they will hurl stones at us for no valid reasons, she complains.

The late CPI(M) leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had described Janu as an "opportunist" who lacked consistency.

Whatever, today Janu perseveres against all odds in her struggle against oppression of Dalits and the Tribals in a state which claims 100 percent literacy and prides itself in political and social progress.

At times she sounds frustrated. "What Kerala model?," she asks and replies, "It's the old feudal system which persists in Kerala in another form."

"Politicians have replaced feudal landlords. That's the only change Kerala society has witnessed in the decades since independence," she affirms, referring to how the society keeps Dalits and the Adivasis away from the mainstream.

"We won't be allowed to come up in life. The society won't even recognise us as humans," she avers during a freewheeling chat (over phone) with The New Indian Express.

"The political parties, including the one which claims to work for the Thozhilali Vargam (working class) don't want the party workers to come up in life. The parties use the workers as pawns and abandon them when they were of no use to the party," she says.

Janu had recently published her autobiography titled Adimamakka.

"I've not gone to a school," she reminds me and adds, "if this book was written by someone from the privileged class who had not been to a school, the media and the society would have lauded the book and the author, debated extensively about it and the work would have ended up as a bestseller."

Was she disappointed after she was not fielded against Rahul Gandhi in Wayanad constituency?

"I didn't have any expectations. By now, I've realised that no political parties want Dalits and Adivasis to be part of any political movements. Since independence, nothing has changed for us in this country. Kerala, above all, is notorious for human rights violations and oppression of Dalits and the Adivasis. Slavery exists in various forms in Kerala," she claimed.

C K Janu ( File Photo | facebook@C K Janu)
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Janu contested and lost the assembly polls in 2016 from Sulthan Bathery assembly constituency. She faced insults and humiliations for joining the NDA. As mentioned before, she was also accused of receiving money from the BJP and betraying her people.

Being an ally of the NDA doesn't restrain her from airing her displeasure over the Union Government. Lately, she opposed the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) proposed by the Centre by terming it as ‘anti-tribal.’

It may be recalled that she quit the BJP in 2018 but rejoined the NDA in 2021. At the time, the JRP announced Janu's suspension from the party for six months for her alleged deals with the BJP during the Assembly polls.

The previous occasion I spoke to Janu was during the pandemic and she had learnt driving.

"I owned a Toyota Etios. Now I have a Bolero. I'm repaying the loan. People don't like my owning or driving a car. They look at me like they look at wild animals for the first time," Janu says.

C K Janu ( File Photo | facebook@C K Janu)
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