Kerala polls: Digging graves to fighting polls, M S Arunkumar’s long journey

Arunkumar believes his candidature is a recognition of his dedicated work as a party cadre.

From digging graves at a church cemetery to fishing to earn a living to now contesting as the CPI(M)’s candidate from Mavelikkara Assembly seat in Kerala’s Alappuzha district, M S Arunkumar’s journey so far is a tale of struggle and survival.

His candidature in the Assembly elections, says the 31-year-old, who is a CPI(M) area committee member in Alappuzha, was “unexpected.” A full-time party worker, Arunkumar joined the Student Federation of India (the student wing of the CPM) at the age of 16, and went on to become the SFI’s state committee member. Later, he joined the CPI(M) youth wing DYFI, and grew in the party as a state committee member.

“I have come up from the party’s rank and file. In the CPI(M), I first served as branch secretary and have now become a member of the area committee,’’ he said.

Arunkumar lost his father Sunderdas at the age of 13. “After the death of my father in 2002, I had to support my mother and sister. I had no option and had to take up any work that came my way. I ended up digging graves at the church cemetery in my village Kallinmel. The work wasn’t regular, but I continued doing it for several years for income,’’ recalls Arunkumar, who lives with his wife Sneha, one-year-old daughter, and mother Vilasini.

“We don’t own any land. We live in a small house built on two-and-a-half cents of poramboke land (unassessed government waste land)… Even that does not belong to me,’’ he says.

Arunkumar’s mother, a MGNREGS worker, also tries to contribute to the household’s income by working as a house help. “But fortunately, I could continue my education because of a scholarship for Scheduled Caste students. Even as I continue to do party work, I have joined a law degree programme,’’ says Arunkumar.

Now, the CPI(M) leader gets a small allowance from the party “but that is not enough.” “These days, I take up any job that I am offered. Sometimes, I go fishing at Achankovil River. Selling the catch helps me earn a small amount,” he says.

Arunkumar believes his candidature is a recognition of his dedicated work as a party cadre.

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