It is common knowledge that alcoholism is rampant among the tribal communities of Athirappilly. The government has taken notice of this issue and has been saying that steps would be taken to curb the problem in the region.
Even though there are no government outlets by the Beverages Corporation in the area, locally made spirits and alcohol bought from the outlets in Chalakudy are affecting the lives of many in the region and also leading to crimes.
On June 30, a murder took place in Peringalkuthu, near Athirappilly, next to the tribal colony and the Kerala State Electricity Board Limited (KSEB) workers’ living quarters.
Annamma, the victim, belonged to the Kadar community and was a resident of the tribal colony. Santha (name changed), a witness, narrated the incident to The Kochi Post.
“Reghu, Annamma’s husband, found his wife in the KSEB quarters with another man, he lost his cool. He beat her up. We tried to protect her though. She was taken to the Chalakudy Government Hospital and was shifted to the Medical College in Thrissur later. She underwent a surgery as she had a serious head injury. She died on July 2. When Annammma was admitted in the hospital, they found out that there was alcohol content in her body. Tribal girls are often used in this way by the people living there,” she said.
Santha, further said, “It was a person named Shekharan who has allegedly sexually assaulted her. He was working with the KSEB as a part-time worker. There are other instances also where such allegations have been made against him. We have even informed the officials in the KSEB about these incidents. But no action has been taken.”
Shekharan has been missing since then.
Crispin Sam, Chalakudy Circle Inspector, told The Kochi Post, “I was out of station when the incident was reported. We are doing everything on our part in this case.”
One of the members of the Athirappilly Gram Panchayat said he was also informed by the tribals about the woman’s death and Shekharan’s alleged role in it. He said that tribal women are being sexually exploited from a long time. He feels one of the main reasons for this is the availability of liquor in the region.
“Around 200-odd families are living here. Over 100 families are involved in selling unlicensed liquor. Even the excise officials have not been able to stop this. They remain helpless,” he said.
Despite the assurances from the police, it remains to be seen if there will be justice in the case. The tribals are a neglected community and their existence is continuously threatened by projects like the proposed Athirappilly Hydro Power Project. We must ensure they are protected and their position in society is strengthened.