Monday, August 24, 2009

Mystery of Ayyankali’s land

Long ago in 1922, some 10 miles east of the Fort area, in a place called Vilappil Pakuthi, Sree Moolam Thirunal Maharaja had assigned 5.24 acres to the fiery Pulaya leader Ayyankali, reportedly in recognition of his fearless battle against the unspeakable injustices heaped upon the Dalits.
When Ayyankali visited the land, he found it unbelievably rocky, ridiculously undulating and unfit for any kind of cultivation. The proud man that he was, Ayyankali did not create a fuss. He never returned to claim the land either.
But on Tuesday, thanks to his historian grandson T.K. Aniyan’s persistence, the close-to-a-century-old documents, the government order and other official correspondence, showing the transfer of 5.24 acres to Ayyankali were made public. The documents, looking painstakingly preserved, were produced at the first-ever `public adalat’ organised by the Archives Department here on Tuesday.
“I had been after these documents for the last three years. The Archives Department had been telling me that the file has been missing, that it has been misplaced. But, to their credit, they kept searching for it and finally managed to ferret it out from the lakhs of documents stacked up in the department,’’ Aniyan said.
Archives Director J. Rejikumar expressed his regrets. “We acknowledge that it took time for us to produce the document. But then we had to work hard and long to preserve these documents. They were dangerously brittle at the time we found them,’’ Rejikumar said during the `adalat’.
Aniyan said he required these documents for a book he is writing on Kerala’s renaissance leaders, his grandfather Ayyankali being one of them.
He also said that Ayyankali’s family would try to trace the 5.24 acres of land in question. In the 1922 GO, the survey number of the land given to Ayyankali is given as 363/145. ``But, in between, at least five resurveys have been carried out. So, it will be a herculean task to zero-in on this particular land,’’ archivist Anil Kumar said.
Ayyankali’s family has no idea about the land. “None of our family members have any idea about what has happened to the piece of land, whether it is still lying untended to and full of undergrowth or encroached upon,’’ Aniyan said. The historian plans to get in touch with the village officer to trace the land.
It was the then Land Revenue Commissioner K. Ananthanarayana Aiyer, on May 20, 1922, who had forwarded the recommendation of the Sree Moolam Praja Sabha to grant 5.24 acres of land to Ayyankali, to the then Dewan T. Raghavaiah. (Ayyankali had been nominated to the Sree Moolam Praja Sabha by the Maharaja in 1901.)
Raghavaiah’s official order, with the `Government of Kerala’ and the `Huzur Cutcherry’ seals stamped on top, was issued on June 10, 1922. ``I beg to inform you that his Highness the Maharaja has been pleased to sanction the registry in the name of Aiyan Kali of 5 acres and 24 cents of puduval land, comprised in survey no.363/145 in the Vilappil Pakuthy, Neyyatinkara Taluk,’’ the Dewan’s order states.
The Dewan, it is said, did not have much trouble in convincing the King.
Lore has it that Sree Moolam Thirunal was mightily impressed, even overawed, by Ayyankali’s `Bullock Cart mutiny’ (Villu Vandy Lahala).
Those were the times when the upper caste men used to strut around in bullock carts. Only the Brahmins, and certain Nairs, were allowed to travel in bullock carts. The lower castes were not only forced to walk on public roads but were also asked to keep at least 100 feet away when a bullock cart carrying an upper caste man passed through.
Ayyankali had always loved to thumb his nose at Brahmin hubris. One day, in utter disregard of social mores, the Pulaya leader started moving around the Neyyatinkara area in a bullock cart. Snubbed, the upper castes retaliated.
They blocked him while he was making one of his bullock cart rounds.
Ayyankali jumped out of his cart, took out a spear from under his waist, walked towards the upper caste men perched on a score of bullock carts and ordered them to move out of the way. They promptly obeyed. When told of this story, Sree Moolam Thirunal is said to have found it hard to control his laugh.

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