Published: 24th July 2020
After a saga of struggle, a court order and insult, these Dalit sisters received a laptop from the Kerala government to continue studying
Even after the court had ordered the panchayat to issue laptops, these students were allegedly insulted by the panchayat for going to court
A month back, I remember Anakha Babu telling me that she does not have a single photograph with her younger sister Ardra. On Thursday, however, she clicked a selfie with her sister, father and mother, inside their makeshift house that has a leaky roof. All of them smiled brightly. A new inanimate member is seen in the blurry family portrait, a Lenovo 7th Gen laptop.
"I feel proud," says this Dalit student, expressing a sentiment that would surprise us.
It's entirely understandable, though. It had been merely a few hours since the laptop enterred Anakha's home in Nedunkandam in Idukki and memories of the struggle and legal battle to get the laptop are fresh in her mind.
Anakha had applied for the laptop at the Panchayat, under a Kerala government scheme, two years ago. After running from pillar to post, hoping to get it sanctioned, the sisters approached the High Court, which ruled in their favour in June. The panchayat was to provide them with two laptops, one for each sibling, in five weeks. Anakha, undoubtedly, was elated.
However, a couple of weeks back, Anakha and her mother found themselves in a helpless situation, when the panchayat members lashed out at them for going to court. "You could have used that money to buy a laptop. Why do you trouble us?" a panchayat member is heard asking Anakha's mother, in a voice recording that she shared with EdexLive. "We were then told that they had placed an order with KELTRON and can't do anything apart from that," she says.
However, after a sustained amount of attention from media and activists, Anakha received a call from KELTRON last week. "Apparently, the panchayat had caused a delay in placing the order. Even though we had applied for it in 2018 and the court verdict was out on June 30, they placed the order only on July 9," she says. The laptop was finally delivered by a panchayat member on July 23. "This laptop is the one approved for my sister, who is a student of physiotherapy. My laptop will be delivered in the first week of August," she says.
Anakha says that this has made life much easier for her and her sister. "My sister would otherwise receives her notes on WhatsApp. The video classes are set to begin in September. Now she can attend those classes, hassle-free," she says.
And it couldn't have come at a better time. She has submitted her master's dissertation at the Sri Shankaracharya University of Sanskrit and is now preparing for her MPhil. "I hope to do an MPhil and PhD after that. This laptop is my right," she says.
During one of our previous conversations, Anakha had told me how she struggled to submit her dissertation, typing it out on a friend's old, faulty laptop. On Thursday, she wrote on Facebook, "I have spent endless nights crying because I couldn't complete my dissertation. My parents were helpless. All that they could do was to cry alongside. The panchayat insulted my mother when she went there with the High Court's order. Our authorities and representatives should learn to grow as empathetic, responsible human beings." She added, "This isn't merely a laptop. This is our right to live in this country."