From Ayyappa to Atheists, Kerala had them all
Kerala is currently victim to the most destructive rains it has seen in over a century. With the state receiving over 42% more rainfall than anticipated, the furious floods destroyed property and infrastructure worth crores and left many homeless. As people rushed to relief camps to save themselves, it seemed impossible to mitigate the damage caused by the torrential rains. Still, such inhuman conditions couldn’t stop a fair share of controversy that followed as people made irrational claims about the reasons for such a disaster. This led to a reprisal on social media against Christians, Muslims, communists, and the “beef-eating” Hindus.
The most absurd remark was made by noteworthy personality. S Gurumurthy, an RSS ideologue who was recently appointed to the board of Reserve Bank of India. He tweeted about the ongoing case in the Supreme Court about the Sabarimala Temple, linking it to the floods in Kerala. The shrine of Lord Ayyappa is known to not let women of menstrual age enter the premises.
In addition, there had been numerable comments about letting Kerala suffer because of its beef consumption. While right-wing organisations propagate a ban on beef consumption, Kerala has been the forerunner in opposing it. In this regard, BJP MLA from Vijaypura, Karnataka, Basanagouda Patil Yatnal triggered controversy when he said that the devastation in Kerala had happened because of slaughtering cows in the open, referring to an incident in Kerala the previous year, where a group of men had slaughtered a cow.
Another aspect which was subjected to an extensive hate campaign was the fact that nearly half of the population in Kerala is non-Hindus. Multiple religious fundamentalists took to Twitter to request people not to provide any aid or assistance to the state because of this very reason.
Despite the havoc surrounding the situation in Kerala, the state has been able to fight back. Aid came in all forms and numbers both from India and abroad. The Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund (CMDRF) was able to clock close to Rs. 713.9 crore in just 14 days. More than 3.91 lakh people have contributed to it since August 14. Out of the total amount, Rs. 43 crores were received via PayTM as well as other online contributions, and Rs. 136.2 crores were received through various banks and UPIs linked to the fund. The overall assistance has outdone all other relief funds the state has ever received and continues to steadily grow with each day passing by.
However, given the current climate, it too, could not escape from the jaws of false claims and spreading misinformation. One of the biggest false claims made was that only the rich and middle-class areas of Kerala are affected, and therefore they do not need aid. The facts, on the other hand, narrate a completely different story. The Central Government’s Socio Economic and Caste Census of 2011 tell that in almost 71% of the rural households in Kerala, the income is less than Rs. 5,000 per month. This figure was the highest in Wayanad (79.67%), followed by Malappuram (75.55%) and Palakkad (74.38%), all of which suffered terribly in the floods. It is mostly the poor who have taken shelter in the relief camps set up by the State Government. More than a million people had reached in over 5,000 camps by August 20. Places like Kuttanad suffered the most, with almost 97% of the people being displaced and relocated.
Other claims range from questioning the authenticity of CMDRF to the fact that Kerala doesn’t need money. It is contrary to the fact that many state governments are going beyond party lines and requesting citizens to contribute to it, and all transactional details are openly available via the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. After assessing the situation in Kerala, the Central Government too stepped up its relief aid from Rs. 100 crores to Rs. 600 crores, given the adversity of the floods. Army trucks and helicopters are carrying relief materials to Kerala, and the connectivity via roads and railway tracks has largely been restored. Red alerts were issued in 12 out of 14 districts in Kerala at different points of time, often simultaneously. Official figures initially claim that Kerala has suffered property and infrastructural damages worth Rs. 20,000 crores, and each rupee contributed would be used towards the redevelopment of the state.
The floods in Kerala have also given an opportunity to ponder over the moral decay that has occurred as a repercussion of the disaster. While the fishermen of the state performed some heroic acts towards rescuing the victims, political units left no stone unturned in maligning the Kerala administration. Even the Indian Army became involved when as a rumour on WhatsApp and other social media platforms claimed that the CM of Kerala was preventing the Army from carrying out rescue operations. It went viral to an extent that the Army had to intervene and clarify.
What we fail to realise is that the violent waters of Kerala didn’t discriminate between the rich and poor, the atheists and the devout Hindus: Kerala as a whole suffered.
Featured Image Courtesy: Google Images/Wikipedia
Edited by: Bhavna Subramanian