A story of struggles for equality

M.K. Kunjol’s fights for Dalits won him Padma Shri for social work this year

January 28, 2020 08:40 pm | Updated 09:01 pm IST - Kochi

M.K. Kunjol in front of his house at Kuruppampady in Ernakulam.

M.K. Kunjol in front of his house at Kuruppampady in Ernakulam.

His quest for justice started as a schoolboy and now, at the age of 82, M.K. Kunjol’s life is a story of struggles that he led for equality in society.

He has been conferred with the Padma Shri for social work this year — a recognition for his struggles to ensure justice for Dalits and his fights against police atrocities on them. He has been instrumental in making the works of B.R. Ambedkar and Ayyankali popular among the masses. He was honoured by the State government with the first Ambedkar award recently.

Kunjol’s wife continues to work as a daily wage labourer. Despite his family, including six children, struggling to make ends meet, Kunjol continues his fights for the marginalised. “Until there is a reasonable achievement for Dalits in the areas of education and jobs, the social development index does not make any sense,” says Mr. Kunjol who joined MBBS after graduating in science from Maharaja’s College, but could not complete the course because of various reasons.

Though he was in the midst of many student struggles and politics, he had never joined a party. He chose to fight elections on his own and became a popular orator.

Now, he is the patron of Kerala State Harjan Samajam that he had co-founded, Federation of SC and ST and the Hindu Aikya Vedi. He was instrumental in founding the Harijan Samajam Sri Budha Charitable Trust.

Mr. Kunjol feels that reservation for Dalits, which has brought over a hundred Dalit members to Parliament this time, has not made a difference in the life of the community. “Who stopped them from taking up the cause of Dalits?,” he asks.

Along with his fight for social justice, he has made a spiritual journey too from childhood. He believes his exposure to science has helped him decipher more in the matters of body and mind.

Born into a family of six siblings to Vallothi and Kurumban near Perumbavoor, Kuruppampady, in Rayamangalam panchayat, Mr. Kunjol feels that despite the implementation of land reforms in the State, there are lakhs of people who are landless. The two political fronts, which had led the governments in the State, have not done justice to such people, he says.

His own house is situated on a Government land for which he has no ownership rights. “Why did not the Government follow the 15-acre cap for individual land holdings, which is at the heart of land reforms Act,” he asks.

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