Rough sailing for tribal couple for love’s sake

Chellappan and Yasodha face social boycott as they broke community custom

It has been close to two decades now that Chellapan and his family have been relegated to nomadic life after being ‘banished’ from his tribal colony.

Belonging to the Muthuvan tribe, he married his maternal cousin, which is prohibited as per the social custom of the community. He and his wife Yasodha were soon ostracised from the Adichilthotty tribal colony in Athirappilly panchayat in the Edamalayar forest range, straddling Ernakulam and Thrissur districts.

Since then the couple have been wandering around the banks of the Edamalayar reservoir eking out a living mostly through fishing.

Their two sons, boarding at a tribal hostel at Vazhachal, come to stay with them during holidays in a hut perched atop a rock facing the reservoir.

“We have been trying to get the family accepted back into the colony. While the residents are largely open to it since it happened so long back, the tribal chief and the panchayat member concerned, maternal relatives of Chellapan, are still not willing to forgive,” says Nithin P.S., forest range officer, Edamalayar.

The family is vulnerable to wild animals and their makeshift hut had been knocked down by elephants many times. They also have to row a country raft nearly 30 km to reach the nearest town of Vadattupara to sell fish and buy things.

Benefits denied

“Being ostracised without permanent address means they also do not possess any document, including Aadhaar or ration card, validating their existence while stripping them of all government benefits. The Forest Department tries to help him by roping him as watcher,” says Jaffar V.I., secretary, Vana Samrakshana Samiti, Adichilthotty tribal colony.

The plight of the family came to light earlier this month when the State Human Rights Commission took a suo motu case and Chairman Antony Dominic directed the authorities to submit a report within four weeks.

Neither Chellappan nor the panchayat member could be reached as they were beyond the network range.

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