Kerala

A kingdom that once barred politics now prepares for polls

At Kozhimala, in Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary, Mannan tribespeople say politicians vanish after giving promises

The tranquillity of the hamlet is disturbed by slogans blared out from loudspeakers. A few election posters at the junction invite attention for the candidates.

It was at Rajapuram here the then Kozhimala Raja (King of Kozhimala) banned all political activities and removed party flags 15 years ago. The reason was the quarrel between two groups in connection with an election campaign.

Kozhimala in the Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary is the realm of the Mannan tribe, a major tribal community in the district with 41 settlements ruled by a king, the only such community in southern India.

Rajapuram is free of flags even now. However, flags fly high at Murickattukudy, a junction adjacent to Kozhimala.

The settlement tucked away on the Kattappana-Kottayam State highway is now abuzz with election activities, the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) opening booth-level offices there.

There are nearly 20,000 voters in the Mannan tribe. Once, the king was considered the highest authority and had the power to punish those found guilty of a crime.

With increased outside intervention, their lifestyle had also underwent changes.

Their main income is from works under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. While the majority of women work in cardamom plantations, the male members mostly idle away their time or are engaged in works given by the Forest Department.

“Political leaders come to our village only during election time. They give promises and disappear, only to reappear in the next election,” says Valsamma, wife of Rajappan, a minister to the present king Raman Thevan Rajamannan.

She works in the cardamom plantations like her neighbours. Her husband rears goats in the Idukki forest.

Typical tribal village

This is a typical tribal village bypassed by development projects. The tribespeople are members of different political parties and some are active in election works.

“Though I will cast my vote, I won’t work for a party,” says Nayan Gopi, a community member and he has a reason.

A house allotted to his family a decade back had remained incomplete for lack of funds. The transportation cost of materials being too high.

Without a drinking project, many have to trek long distances for water.

Rajamannan, the present king, said no development had come to the village. He had visited Ministers and leaders of parties with projects for their welfare measures.

“They give promises but none have materialised. Other than the works under the MGNREGS, no income-providing project has come to the village.”

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 8:37:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/a-kingdom-that-once-barred-politics-now-prepares-for-polls/article26799533.ece

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