Thiruvananthapuram

Focussing on the real issues of Attappady’s tribespeople

A scene from ‘The Red Data Book – An appendix.’

A scene from ‘The Red Data Book – An appendix.’  

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Attappady makes that occasional appearance in our television screens when something tragic happens, on a level surpassing the previous such report from that region. Early in 2013, the region was in news when a spate of infant deaths happened.

Sreemith and K.P. Pradeep kept their camera rolling, even after the television crews and politicians left the scene, and managed to capture the dust settling on the real causes, missed most often by peripheral analyses. It is all documented in ‘The Red Data Book – An appendix,’ which was screened at the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK) on Saturday.

The film begins around the time of the infant deaths. As the numbers increased, the news hit headlines and Ministers start visiting. One of the powerful moments of the documentary comes during one such visit, when a youth confronts one of the Ministers, insisting at first on a promise for change and then dejectedly telling, ‘I know you won’t do anything’. Taken aback, the Minister asks, ‘Even after me coming here, are you sure?’ He just says ‘yes.’ It is the kind of footage which ends up in the editing bin in newsrooms.

Busting myths

Later, news footage of some other Ministers attributing the infant deaths to ‘alcoholism among young mothers’ is shown. Here, we hear the mothers refuting such allegations and the doctors there attest to the fact that none of the mothers had such a problem.

Once the myths and assumptions are busted, the makers proceed towards the real problem, which requires digging up quite a bit of history, right from the chaging land use pattern in the 19th century due to British Raj policies to the impact of the arrival of settlers. Also on the list of culprits is the green revolution and cultivation of high-yielding mono-crop. Then there is the rampant deforestation for rayon and paper. In place of the fallen trees, some of which were the sources for the survival of the tribes here, the government planted eucalyptus and teak wood.

The documentary, which is an indictment of the establishment, is essential viewing for our policy makers. Sreemith had earlier made the acclaimed documentary ‘Get up, stand up’ on the Kundankulam anti-nuclear protest and was nominated for the Yellow Oscar at the International Uranium Film Festival in 2013.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 4:25:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/focussing-on-the-real-issues-of-attappadys-tribespeople/article6230696.ece

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