Row over Dalit auto driver's plans to convert to Islam

Kerala Dalit auto driver's plans to convert to Islam triggers row

Chithralekha. Credit: DH photo.

A Dalit woman from Kannur district in Kerala, whose fight against the alleged discrimination by local CPM cadres had earlier received much attention, is now in the news again as she stated that she was converting to Islam as she cannot fight CPM's discrimination alone anymore.

Adding a serious dimension to it, Chithralekha told a prominent news channel in a sting operation that she was being lured by the Popular Front of India with job and financial support to convert to Islam.

Hailing from Edat near Payyanur, a citadel of CPM in Kannur, Chithralekha even faced attacks, allegedly from local CPM cadres. Her fight against discrimination grabbed attention in 2005 following resistance towards her decision to eke out a living by riding an autorickshaw. She had alleged that a section of CPM and CITU workers were unhappy with her for entering a male-dominated job. Even her autorickshaw was burnt.

As the alleged discrimination continued, she even staged a stir that lasted for months. The Congress-led government in Kerala offered her financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh and land for house in Kannur district in 2015. But the CPM government that succeeded allegedly tried to sabotage the decision.

British scriptwriter Fraser Scott visited her in 2018 for filming her fight against discrimination. A documentary on her fight was also released prior to that. Noted filmmaker Shekhar Kapur also hailed Chithralekha's fight.

Following the channel sting operation, in which she said that she was being lured by PFI to convert to Islam with offers of job and financial support, Chithralekha made a social media post stating that she was planning to convert to Islam, and not any organisation. She also said that not only Popular Front, but many others, including former Chief Minister and Congress leader Oommen Chandy, supported and helped her.

Meanwhile, Kannur CPM district secretary M V Jayarajan told DH that the party was considering the fresh statements only as an election stunt. Earlier also during elections she used to come up with such statements. Converting to Islam or any other faith was individual's freedoms. The allegations of discrimination and burning autorickshaw were all past things, he said.

While PFI local leaders denied the allegations that Chithralekha was being lured to join Islam, Chithralekha stated in a fresh post that Hindu Aikya Devi workers were not demanding her not to convert.