When a Dalit Man was Spat on For Winning the Sabarimala Unniyappam Tender

Subi, a strong Dalit man, was at the centre of a highly upsetting and sad episode that exposes the regrettable continuance of caste-based violence and prejudice in Kerala, a region frequently praised as India’s most literate state. Subi’s experience serves as a sobering reminder that education alone cannot eradicate age-old stereotypes and caste-based discriminations despite the country’s high literacy rates and progressive image.

Subi, a 43-year-old inhabitant of Therikkavila near Pallichal, recently accomplished an important achievement when he won a tender from the Travancore Devaswom Board to prepare ‘Unni Appam’ at the renowned Sabarimala temple. But what ought to have been a proud, happy moment swiftly turned into a nightmare. Two individuals, namely Ramesh from Karakulam and Jagadeesh from Vattiyoorkavu, are charged with assaulting Subi and physically and verbally abusing him.

According to reports, the culprit verbally attacked Subi and questioned his eligibility to participate in the temple’s service in an inhumane display of hatred. They implied that he had violated some ‘social hierarchy’ by allowing people belonging to lower castes access to opportunities that were only available to members of upper castes. The offenders further assaulted Subi physically by smacking him in the face.

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The assault escalated after that. In full view of spectators, the accused spat on Subi’s face in an awful display of their enmity. This horrifying episode exposes the pervasive caste prejudice that still exists in Indian society and also emphasizes how vulnerable anyone who dared to question the age-old, self-declared societal hierarchy is. 

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, which aims to protect the rights of marginalized communities, has been invoked in response to Subi’s complaint. Charges have also been lodged against the accused under IPC sections 294-B (for verbal abuse) and 34 (for offences committed by more than one person.

The incident involving Subi becomes an urgent reminder that the battle against discrimination, especially caste-based prejudice, is far from over in a state with high literacy rates, and women are often empowered to seek higher learning and employment. Despite the advancements in knowledge, it is sickening and appalling to know that a certain section of people still hold onto such outdated ideas and misogynistic views.

This incident reveals the urgent need for cultural reform even if Subi remains unshakable despite humiliation and claims that success and failure are a part of life. It is a call to action for all of us to take a stand against caste-based intolerance and look to build an inclusive, equal, and just society in which people aren’t denied chances or possibilities based only on their caste.

Though Kerala may be document literate, Subi’s experience highlights that society must work collectively to confront and dispel deeply ingrained biases and prejudices alongside education to attain true social equality. Kerala and the nation as a whole should take Subi’s experience as a wake-up call, inviting us to unite against caste-based violence and strive tirelessly to build a society where merit, rather than caste or gender, determines one’s worth.

Also Read: Devaki Nambeesan and the Velur Temple Protest

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