This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by praveen krishnan A. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Not Just Madhu: The Harsh Reality Of Being A Tribal In God’s Own State

More from praveen krishnan A

The horrendous images of a tribal man, Madhu, being held captive with his hands tied and later the news of his death, possibly in the hands of the local populace, has shaken Kerala’s consciousness.

Social media has been flooded with messages of condolence and anger. Many are shocked by the fact that the mob had clicked selfies before the man was beaten to death. The apathy shown to the victim can be read from his face filled with fear and helplessness. The state needs an introspection into where does Kerala, arguably the best state in India regarding social and human development parameters, stand as a society. This article tries to analyse our tribal policy in general and the state of the tribal community of  Kerala in particular.

Statistics Of The Tribal Population Of  Kerala

As per census 2011

  • 1.5% of Kerala’s total population are tribals(mostly in Wayanad, Idukki and Palakkad districts)
  • The sex ratio: 1084 females per 1000 men
  • Literacy rate: Above 65%
  • Work participation: About 45% to 50%
  • Cultivators: 20%
  • Agricultural labourers: 40% to 50%
  • Household Industrial workers: 1.1% to 1.5%

The data seems to be an above average statistics as per the Indian standards. However, it should be noted here that while Kerala remains an economy which depends to a large extent on the remittances from middle East, Schedule Tribes are one section of Malayali society who doesn’t benefit from the flow of foreign funds.

Compared to Kerala’s literacy rate of 93%-94% (census 2011 data), there exists a wide literacy gap of at least 20% when it comes to Scheduled Tribes. The fact that only 1.1%-1.5% of tribals are involved in household industrial work and more than 40 % are engaged as agricultural labourers is testimony to the fact that they don’t generate much wealth out of their vocations.

Grim Realities: Health Issues

The Attapady tribal belt of Kerala is infamous for its high child mortality rate. This includes infant mortalities, neonatal deaths, intrauterine deaths and spontaneous abortions.

Clearly, there exists a case of severe malnutrition among the children as well as lactating mothers.

The rural nature of tribal dwellings invokes reluctance among health professionals to serve in such tribal hamlets leading to poor physical and human infrastructure.

The liquor shops and easy availability of drugs in the vicinity of tribal areas is a matter of concern. These are mainly run by a profit-oriented liquor mafia to syphon off daily wages from them by easily making liquor and drugs available in proximity. By purposefully inculcating the habitual use of these demerit goods, the community is being drained of their wealth and health.

Further, incidences of corruption and misgovernance need thorough check because it is odd to see why a high performing state like Kerala is not able to take care of a minuscule fraction of its population. Central government funds for various tribal schemes are clearly not reaching the intended beneficiaries.

So..Why Was Madhu Killed?

Madhu’s problems seem to have been closely linked to those of Kerala’s tribals. A visibly weak man with protruded rib cage and a  small, fragile body, Madhu was accused of theft.

The local villagers found a packet of rice, eggs and other eateries with him. Despite him being mentally unstable, he was assaulted. This serves as a terrific blow to the false pride of Keralites, for we had often wondered why instances of mob violence are so prevalent in other states of India. Looking within, today we found a caste-wall and violence by a mob on a poor tribal man who was probably also stereotyped as being a thief owing to his colour and filthy clothes. The ‘pride’ backfired on us. But a matter of hope is the fact that every section of the society stands united for the victim.

As far as the plight of tribals in Kerala is concerned, the failure of repeated governments is worrisome. One alternative can be to include tribal areas within Kerala under Schedule 5 of the Indian constitution. This is expected to provide the community with the necessary autonomy to decide their course of development. More Madhus will only create a section of rebels among tribals who get lured by Naxals and proponents of armed struggle.

The absence of sufficient understanding among the locals and of tribal imaginations and culture is visible from the alien treatment meted out to Madhu. While we shall follow our decade’s old policy of allowing tribals to ‘develop in their own way’ it should be comprehended with a better connect and support. This writer proposes radio FM channels (in tribal languages) and dedicated time for tribal programmes in regional and national broadcasters. This will also enable us to get a fair idea of what support they need apart from helping to fight the militant elements.

You must be to comment.

More from praveen krishnan A

Similar Posts

By nishant anand

By shakeel ahmad

By shakeel ahmad

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below