Ramya Haridas: A Daily Wage Labourer’s Daughter, Ramya Haridas Becomes Kerala’s Second Dalit Woman MP

Written by , MA (Journalism & Mass Communication) Chaitra Krishnan MA (Journalism & Mass Communication) Experience: 5 years

Even in this day and age, if we look around, people are discriminated based on a million yardsticks that the society has forcefully imposed on them. Religion, caste, gender, and sexuality being the most prominent of these yardsticks, the minorities are often pushed into the dungeons of darkness even in the year 2019. Even Kerala, the state with the highest literacy rate in India isn’t an exception to these. It was just a year ago, Madhu, an Adivasi man who stole food was beaten to death by the mob in God’s own country. Sadly, the stains of caste are stubborn and there are only a few from the weaker sub-groups who have walked through the challenges and emerged successful. Ramya Haridas, the daughter of a daily wage laborer proved that she’s one of them when she won the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in flying colors and became Kerala’s second Dalit woman MP.

Ramya’s political achievement marked the end of a 48 year-long wait for a scheduled caste woman to become the MP. And for the same reason, her victory is considered as a new ray of hope for all women from backward castes. Read on to know more about Ramya’s journey to power.

From Poverty To Power

Image: Twitter

Ramya hails from a humble background with her mother being a tailor and her father, a daily wage earner. She lives with her parents in a house allocated under the Indira Awas Yojana, a program by Rajiv Gandhi’s Government. After finishing her schooling till class ten, Ramya completed her diplomas in fashion design and early childhood education.

“We’ve seen poverty very closely. We used to live in a thatched hut back then, and even now, we reside in a house provided by the government. At a time when parents were too scared to let their daughters out, my mother encouraged me to push boundaries and actively participate in all spheres of life,” Ramya said in an interview with a news channel.

Ramya’s mother Radha’s association with Kerala Mahila Congress was the anchor that encouraged Ramya to step into politics. She began her political journey by joining the Kerala Students Union. Later on, Ramya became a member of the Youth Congress. One of her noteworthy works was her involvement in the social and land reforms related issues with Ekta Parishad, a mass movement that worked for the cause.

However, Ramya came under the spotlight when she was handpicked by party president Rahul Gandhi during a talent hunt program conducted by the Indian National Congress in 2011. She was not only shortlisted under the program but was also mentored by Rahul Gandhi himself.

Ramya was serving as the Kunnamangalam’s Block Panchayat President in Kozhikode district when her candidature for the Lok Sabha elections was announced. She won the elections with a whopping margin of 1.59 lakh votes against Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s P.K. Biju who was the sitting MP from the constituency at the time. Before Ramya, it was CPI’s Bhargavi Thankappan from Adoor constituency, Pathanamthitta who marked this achievement for the first time in Kerala’s history, in 1971.

The Rough Road

Image: Twitter

As we can imagine, Ramya’s journey to success wasn’t an easy one. She was different and joyful during her election campaigns where she would sing mostly folk songs to attract the attention of the public. Lok Sabha electoral candidates singing in public as a part of their political campaign is not a common sight in any country. But her approach was a huge hit and people would flock around the area to watch her sing and listen to her speak. Obviously, the opponent party members took this as an opportunity to belittle Ramya’s image.

CPM politician M.P. Raghavan made sexually loaded remarks about Ramya that she met the infamous politician P K Kunhalikutty (who faced charges in a sexual harassment case) soon after the announcement of her candidature. She filed a police complaint against Raghavan for his lewd comments against her. Ramya told a news agency, “I won’t allege that the personal attacks against me during the electioneering were because I am a woman from the Dalit community. But those who attacked me obviously know my background.” She also said that she will focus on uplifting the Dalit population in her constituency and also on the empowerment of women owing to the support of a huge number of women.

Ramya was among the monetarily weak candidates during the elections with total personal assets amounting to just Rs 22,816. During her election campaigning days, Ramya claims to have had only three sets of clothes with her. Later on, she had 56 of them as many of her well-wishers donated her clothes. Not just that, Ramya’s supporters initiated an “election fund challenge” on social media to collect funds to help her meet the electioneering expenses.

From Ramya’s story we learn that if we are passionate and hardworking enough, we can achieve anything that we want, regardless of our personal background. Let’s hope that she becomes an inspiration for all the women out there who wish to make a change in the system.

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