India's first Cholanaikkan block panchayat member to quit politics, join Kerala Police


Malappuram: Sudheesh C, 22, who became the first people’s representative from the Cholanaikkan tribal community in India by winning the local body election last month in Kerala, is going to make history yet again. Sudheesh is all set to join the Kerala police.

Sudheesh, who was elected member of the Vazhikkadavu division of Nilambur Block panchayat in Malappuram district, is a native of the Alakkal colony of Cholanaikkar.

Sudheesh will resign his position as people’s representative as it is mandatory ahead of taking up a government job. He is expected to join police training soon.

Skewed sex ratio

The members of the Cholanaikkar tribe live inside the forests of Nilambur in 20 settlements. They are among the most primitive in the country and the only remaining hunter-gatherer tribe in South India. It has been reported that they are on the verge of extinction as the sex ratio is 1:10, the lower being women.

For a decade, the members of the community have been actively participating in the election process by casting their votes at polling booths set up on forest fringes.

Another first

Along with Sudheesh, a Cholanaikkar girl from Punchakkolli colony is also joining the force, in another first.

Sudheesh, who has already initiated many developmental projects after getting elected to the block panchayat, said he expected the police call letter. “It was last year that I attended a physical examination for special recruitment to the police force in Nilambur. After qualifying, I attended a written test. I have already received a letter from the Kerala Public Service Commission (KPSC) informing me about my selection. I have to join the training session within weeks,” Sudheesh said.

“I am happy to join the police as it is a golden opportunity to serve the public. I am hopeful that I can support tribal communities who live on forest fringes. At the same time, I am disappointed that I have to resign my elected seat,” he said.

At the same time, he feels that his selection could inspire many from his community, especially youngsters.

Kerala Police's gain is democracy's loss: India's first Cholanaikkan block panchayat member to become cop
(Third from left) Sudheesh, who was elected member of the Vazhikkadavu division of Nilambur Block panchayat in Malappuram district.

Struggles of childhood

Sudheesh was born in the Alakkal colony, located deep inside the Nilambur forest. “Our five-member family, including my elder brother and younger sister, struggled to make ends meet during childhood. My father, Mooppan, and mother, Reena, were rubber tapping workers. My brother Ramesh was supporting our father in his daily-wage work when I joined the Indira Gandhi Model Residential (IGMR) school in Nilambur for my formal education. My brother still continues as a daily wager in rubber plantations in the area. I managed to complete my education from the residential school as the government provided financial support. After completing my higher secondary course, I also started working in rubber plantations and now I earn Rs 400 per day from tapping work,” he said.

Sudheesh’s sister Jayamol,15, is in class X in the same school.

Police have plans

District Police Chief, Malappuram, U Abdul Kareem said a total of 15 people of different tribal communities in Nilambur, including Sudheesh, were being recruited to the police this time and their training would begin soon.

“By special recruitment, we are aiming to improve the quality of life in tribal settlements in Nilambur. We will deploy the newly-recruited people in police stations of their locality, after successful completion of their training,” he said.

Sudheesh, who contested the local body polls under the banner of Left Democratic Front (LDF), had won with the lead of over 1000 votes. “It was a good opportunity to support people in the area as a member of the Block panchayat division. I had already finalised discussions on a bridge project at Punchakolli tribal colony in Nilambur and work is expected to begin soon,” Sudheesh said.

Kerala Police's gain is democracy's loss: India's first Cholanaikkan block panchayat member to become cop
Sudheesh is a native of the Alakkal colony of Cholanaikkar.

Ensuring participation

CPM's Vazhikkadavu local committee secretary C Vinayachandran said the party decided to field a person from the community to ensure active participation of the voters of the community in the election process.

“As the seat was reserved for the ST community, the party’s local leadership unanimously decided to field a person from the Cholanaikkar community,” he said. Of the 12,000 voters in the division, more than 200 were from the community.

(Nijeesh Narayanan is an independent journalist based in Kozhikode)

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