Vattavada is now a familiar name to many in Kerala as the hometown of Abhimanyu, the 19-year-old student leader who was murdered at Maharajas College on July 8. Kerala had watched the ordeal on their screens when Abimanyu’s mother had wailed, “Naan petra makane, en kiliye.”
As the TWJ Team visited Vattavada, one could see the struggle Abhimanyu had to take up in his now frozen to 19 life, where he had no access to a proper house or other facilities. Every house in the vicinity looked identical – dark, single rooms painted in green.
When we entered the house, at least 6 of them were seen occupying the single room. “We have always been living in this single-room house. Everyone in this village had been,” says Manoharan, Abhimanyu’s father.
20-year-old Abhimanyu had been the hope of this family. He is the youngest of three children that Manoharan and Poovathy have.
“He wanted to study and was ready to take any effort to attain his dreams. He walked every day to Koviloor to attend his classes. He completed his graduation from Government Higher Secondary School here at Koviloor,” says Parijith, the eldest son. Both his parents were agricultural laborers and he hailed from Malayar community, a tribal community in Idukki.
He is one of the few kids from Vattavada who got the opportunity to go to college. He joined Maharajas College for BSc Chemistry. “He always wanted to be a helping hand to the family. I and Kausalya ( Abhimanyu’s sister) decided to leave studies and work so that he can study,” adds Parijit.
“From childhood, he was interested in politics. I and my father had been a part of the CPM. His interest in politics began from there”, says Manoharan.
“He became the district committee member of SFI back in 2015 and was active in party programmes. Though he struggled a lot in Kochi, he had always been happy at college. His friends used to visit our home and he would call from Kochi, asking us to take care of them. He always took care of others,” remembers Parijith.
To everyone visiting his house, Parijit would show the two books that Abhimanyu had in his bag. ‘Motorcycle Diaries’ of Che Guevara and a Malayalam translation of a self-help book of Robin Sharma ‘Who will cry when you die?’
A library is now being built in the memory of this young martyr. “He used to attend Gram Sabha meetings. He always came up with ideas for the benefit of the village. He had suggestions for the improvement of the school and infrastructural conditions of the village. It was in one such meeting that he said the village must have a library,” recalled an employee of Vattavada Panchayath.
Though the family is receiving financial aids from various corners, the social reality of this place is perhaps something a library or financial help can’t solve.
How can a library with so much of Marxist Malayalam literature do to a village where a majority is illiterate Tamil speakers was something that we could not decipher. There is a need for the government and the media to draw attention towards such peripheries.
Meanwhile, investigations are going on with the police arresting the prime accused Muhammad JI. He was taken to custody in a moving train from Mangalore and was found to be traveling to Alappuzha. Police have demanded to the court a 10-day custody of the accused for evidence collection and questioning.
Muhammad is questioned to get leads regarding the other accused. Another key accused, Muhammad Rifa, a student of law college whom police accuse to be the mastermind behind the murder was arrested from Banglore. As many as 46 members of SDPI, PFI, and CFI are still kept under preventive arrest and 14 have been detained so far. Investigations are also being extended to the women members of Campus Front of India.
The central committee of SFI had called for a nation-wide protest condemning the murder. SDPI had called for a Hartal on 17th of July as its leaders were taken into custody by police. However, this was called off as they were released later.
As statistics reveal, in the last 45 years, over 37 have been murdered in campuses in Kerala. While many strong political movements have emerged from these campuses, the loss of Abhimanyu who braved all odds is truly a dent in the democratic legacy of Kerala.