Thursday, December 12, 2013

Occupy Kerala House

SreeNair | 1:35 AM | |

inter is settling over north, Jandar Mandir is in the clutches of the cold spell. Last season it drooped to two degree Centigrade in the same month. V.Jazeera remains unfazed and comfy in her makeshift cloister, walled and roofed with flux board sheets and tarpaulin, on the footpath in Delhi.

She is on a sit-in in front of the Kerala House in Delhi flanked by her adolescent daughters Rizvana and Shihana and the infant-in-arm Mohammed settled snuggly on her breast, on the luxury of a a plywood sheet on the floor. An old sari twirled and tied to the rope that hung from the branches of the peepul tree is the cradle for the toddler. Students from JN University come to see her, help her daughters in their study, the pedestrians ask her if she had food. The lanky woman past her youth, decked in blank abaya with headscarf, assiduously declares that her task is to terminate the rampant and invidious sand mining along the 580 Km of Kerala coast line.

Her struggle is singular, a one-off strife away from the spotlight with no fanfare or ticker taped Manhattan parades -that did not fill a lot of column inches in the media.

“I am the daughter of the sea .I live with my eyeballs glued to the sea.” With a lackluster look that beguiles a vivid and untiring mind, she harks back to the days spent in her teens with her peers-the days they reveled in counting sea waves- the frolics on the sand dunes, the engaging sand games- draining a lot of turtle eggs. It is the unscrupulous sand mining which ate away the vitals of the vast swaths of sand before her, its fauna and the sea weeds. With stunning disbelief, Jaseera saw the 60m distance to the sea dwindled before her, her house fast running towards the sea.” The state and central governments have the responsibility for the enforcement of the coastal conservation laws.” She rues.

Jaseera is not a green freak nor an eco-warrior baptized to the nature conservation. She has not heard of Ernst Haeckel who coined the term “Ecology”.She has not read Karl August Mobias nor has she heard of Sunder Balji Bahuguna,Bhatt Sab,GowriDevi,Swamy Naganand or the Chipko movement. But she could not be laid back as a silent spectator resigned to her comfy cocoon while the sand from the convoluted coastlines called “Neerozhukkumchal”is ravened by the hungry sand larks. Neerozhukkumchal is a sleepy hamlet in Payangadi, a small town at a commuting distance from the Kannur District head quarters. She knew the staccato of the clawing disaster getting louder. Jaseera wanted to resist.

She had her rustic devises. Often she threw herself before the wheels of tippers plying with sand loads unmindful of the bodily harm it provoked. Armed with the mobile phone–the lone technological aid in her command- she took photographs of migrant women in convoy, employed by the sand mafia, with the sand sacks as head load. The mafia red in tooth and claw, unleashed a serious of harassments and intimidations. She braved the torture and tease with stoic forbearance. The mafia took all out in their arm chase with the politicians, police-all playing footsie with them. They tried coaxing, coercing, cajoling but she steadfastly refused to grovel before them. The mafia riled by the obduracy of the fragile women devised a new offensive in collusion with the local politicians - connecting her resistance to the right to work of the local women, in a bid to legitimize the lawbreaking –which they knew could ignite the public temper.

Undaunted Jaseera took her case to the police. The police preferred to play ostrich and remained mute with the refrain “if necessary we shall take petty cases against the errants.” This was when she decided to sit-in before the Payangadi police station. On June 14th Jaseera sat on the ground near the wall of the police station compound in the safety of an umbrella braving the torrential July rain and the ice cold sea wind with her baby huddled to her chest.

Many argued she was after media attention and money. Some sermonized with her on the virtue to be a good home maker-tendering the children and the family than to venture in big things that remain in the realms of men.

On the fourth day of the sit-in, child line officials came with a weird logic “She kept her juvenile children at night in a children-unfriendly situation, whereby was in conflict with the law.” She was whisked away to a women protection home at Tellicherry, fifty Kms from Payangadi leaving her children behind. Jaseera refused to sign a written statement to the effect not to keep the children with her in the strike in return for her freedom. She ridiculed the overarching enthusiasm in display and the blatant short supply of it when it comes to the redeeming children in streets who die on inadequate medicine and food, the orphan who sleeps on the shop verandas on the prowl of antisocials. She knew it was a bogey carefully stage-crafted to put hammers in to her work, a means to malign her mission. Succumbing before her obstinacy, she was let free on the 3rd day of her captivity, with out any written commitments. The authorities did not show the minimum decorum to arrange conveyance for her return .She has to beg for the bus fare from people around .Soon she found herself amidst the thick of struggle before the Payangadi police station, her daughters dutifully joined after class hours.

On the tenth of July she was forcefully evacuated from the station compound to her house. She caught a public transport and rushed to the district headquarters to venture a new sit-in. Accordingly on July 18th a police aid post was set up at Neerozhukkumchal on the sea shore with a jeep and two cops. She called off her struggle .To her dismay she found sand filled tippers fleeting in droves with impunity in the nearby areas away from the eye-reach of the police.
It was not in her scheme of things. Jaseera is now firm-footed on the cause of the coastal lines.The coastal line is the single largest reason-de-etre for the subsistence of the humankind on the land. If the police is hamstrung, necessary instructions should flow from the top-the Aid post was just one suggestion for it.
She had to re-start the struggle with in 5 days. Asked why she did not end up the stir ,Jaseera says,”Who told you I was fighting for NeerozhukkumChal alone?”
From Kannur, on Aug 2nd, the scene shifted to the state secretariat- the nerve center of the state administration. She wanted stringent and deterrent action against the violations of Coastal Regulation Zone(CRZ)rules across the state, in the 9 districts that touches the shores. The Chief Minister visited her and had her belly full of promises- that every thing will be taken care of- but nothing was forthcoming. On the 64th day at Trivandrum, on October 4, she declared:” I am going to Delhi.” She got in to a general compartment and reached Delhi on the 3rd day.

And the struggle continues.....

She has a long and arduous past of endurance both evocative and emotional, this being the latest passage in a searing struggle with life. A drop out from tenth standard in 1996 with hard scrabbled upbringing-she could attend the last year for two months only -was married off which presented her with two daughters and a broken marriage. The tough and arduous game-to-live finally slotted her into the cameo of an auto driver in the male domain, a losing game for a women driver clad in burqua –these days a rare spectacle in Payangadi. Eye balls struck on her with usual grumpy skepticism as an intruder to the male space. Though she possessed a valid badge and license, she was languished in the boil not knowing how and where to complain, to assert her right to work. She could not stick through in the turf war that ensued which made her scurry to the nearby Mattool where she managed to work for a few months.

Soon she was back at Payangadi, this time determined to put up a gritty battle of survival. But destiny had a different recipe ready for her. The male drivers ruffled their feathers in collusion with the police and trained their guns to her. The persistent perking, bluster and bravado breached all limits. She did not have the sufficient skill set to withstand the onslaught, in a fit of fury, banged her badge on to the face of the police and stomped out to complaint to the RTO. She met Mr.V.S.Achuthanandan, the then Chief minister with the fledgling child in her lap. She kept on tenaciously for another year in the stand, fighting the rogue elements, suffering in disgust.

Jaseera went to live with her husband at Kottayam after the 2nd marriage. A year hence she returned to her native village for the delivery of the last child. She was shattered to find the metamorphosis of the shore in front of her hut- that triggered her spite against the sand barons.

“I was heartbroken to sea the beach in memory gone forever and the destruction is irreversible” She said.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh wrote a personnel letter to the CM of Kerala OoMen Chandy to draw his specific attention of her plight finding “Her demand has merit as she is opposing illegal mining.”

And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made in to a woman and brought her to man (Genesis 2.22).As Sulphath Teacher , an activist and a feminist writer observes:” When it comes to women emancipation, birds of a feather flock together. If God created men on his image, the God must be a male. The women are created with the rib (the most curved one) of the man for his sexual consummation. How could she have the autonomy?” This is the domineering factor in the construct of public conscience in a male centered society.

Is the woman-in-hijab a renegade? A mole that plays in the hands of some terrorists?.

Revolt is no hayride. Jaseera was hauled over the coals for allegedly playing the tollgate for extracting money. It is touted as the reason why she does not withdraw her agitation. The activist and writer A.S.SureshKumar writes in a regional weekly:” To some Jaseera is a pseudo-ecologist after money. She has never asked for money. The passers by give her some money which she accepts for the survival of the family. She does not check whether there are terrorists in them.”
If extortion is the why and wherefore, she had no reason to cop all the hassles and could have lined up her own pocket from the sand sharks themselves who could be only too willing to part the money.

She had no supporters ab initio among the locals and even her brothers shunned her. Jaseera had tough time deterring her brothers playing for the sand lobby. Later locals cottoned up to her and turned to be her vocal sympathizers. People from different walks of life including the versatile south Indian matinee idol Suresh Gopi lined up in aid of her cause. The points she raised can be downplayed by none.

The woman was branded mentally sick. Quiet often people are branded insane when they stray from the established track. It becomes all the more queasy when women think ahead of time-examples galore in human history.

Sri.Abdullakkutty, a relatively new convert to Congress and the MLA from her constituency kept himself a notch above all her detractors, struck his oar in with his pearl of wisdom- “Don’t shovel sand in to the shore”-a wry humor that wrapped in a veiled threat. The Isabelle Allende phrase deftly dovetailed to the context was an intended sly that her effort is ludicrous, pointless, aimless, and trivial- hence a wild goose chaise. When the lawmakers themselves doubt the efficacy or its necessity, the laws they make become a mockery. Dr Vazhappilli a voracious reader and quick witted to respond in reader’s columns says the suave phrase reminds him of the idiom 'don’t carry coal to the NewCastles'. He reminds the MP of the Basheerian proposition that this planet is not proprietary to the human alone but is an abode for all microorganisms to mammoths-equally shared.

The capital is in the frenzy of elections, the state government having other occupations than to sit back and crack the code of otherwise a simple issue-enforcing a law made by them. The battle of nerves for the seashore continues, the ship of victory not hove into sight.


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