Published: 03rd July 2018
Anatomy of a student activist: Why Valarmathi's family supports her firebrand activism, despite her arrest
The student activist was arrested a few days ago after she spoke against police brutality on protesters. Her parents have no idea why she has been repeatedly denied bail
For over two weeks, 22-year-old student activist Valarmathi M has been in and out of jail for protesting against the Chennai-Salem Expressway project. Her parents have no idea when she'll be released or when she'll be eligible to apply for bail. Her father is in frequent touch with the lawyers but he says he is completely in the dark about what the following days are going to look like.
Valarmathi's family has a small "tiffin kadai" and her parents have not had it easy throughout their lives. She and her two brothers have been through their own share of hardships to reach the stage they are at - all successful graduates. Valarmathi has an undergraduate degree in Agriculture and is now pursuing a second degree in Journalism,"If all this hadn't happened, she would have finished college by now and she would have been running around to get her certificates. Instead, these last few weeks have forced us to endure all sorts of tension and stress," the father, Maaluvan said.
So after going through all that he has to bring up his children, Valarmathi's father is deeply disappointed by the fact that his daughter is now behind bars. But says that his consolation is that she is in there for doing something right, not something wrong. "I never thought that she would get arrested for doing something right. If I felt that she was doing something wrong then I wouldn't have let her leave the house. For the last few years, she has been continuously going for the protests and I wasn't always happy about it. But she said she was doing it for the welfare of the people. So how can I stop someone who is going out to do something good for our own people? But I didn't even think once that she risked an arrest by participating in such activities," Maaluvan said to Edex.
An activist's life: Valarmathi has an undergraduate degree in Agriculture and is now pursuing a second degree in Journalism
Her family revealed that they have been traumatised by the police knocking their doors in the middle of the night, "At very odd hours the police would arrive at our doorstep with a warrant and come and arrest her. These incidents have really left us very scared and stressed," he explained.
Valarmathi was initially taken into custody along with environmentalist Piyush Manush and others and was denied bail. A few days ago, she was arrested again after she spoke at a film's audio release function about the Salem issue, "She was invited to speak at the audio launch of Achamillai Achamillai and she ended up talking about the Salem issue and condemned the police action against protestors, so they arrested her," her father said. He is still unsure as to where she's lodged currently,"Our lawyer said she might be produced in Saidapet court soon."
However, the Salem protests are not the first that Valarmathi participated in, Jeeva M, her brother says that from the time she was in college she's always been part of agitations and protests, "She has always been the first to stand and demand justice, so this time too she went with the same intentions but ended up in jail," her brother said.
When asked if they were apprehensive about how Valarmathi's future could be affected by these incidents, her father said that they were,"From how things are right now it really does seem like there will be repercussions in the future for her," a disappointed Maaluvan said. But do they support her? - Both the brother and father immediately say 'Yes'. The family is worried about her but the events have not our shaken their trust in her or her cause.
"We ourselves are a struggling family and we know that this project will affect other struggling families. We identify with their pain. Though it is very difficult for us to put up with all that is happening and we feel bad that our daughter is in jail, we know that we have to stand up for people who are suffering like us and we're glad our daughter is doing the right thing," her father said.