The beauiful name stands out. [It could be an interesting story in itself-- People from the "lower" castes were not allowed to give good names to their children. In Kerala, there were a set of names that were "reserved" for them-- none of our "merit" mongers seemed to have any problem with this reservation. One my friend has told me his father named his sister "Suvarna" (golden) and called her "thampu", as a short form of "thampuratti" (the queen) in what was perceived as an open challenge to the existing social system, and it made many feel threatened.]
Coming back to our heroine, Chithralekha is a Pulaya girl from Thrissur, Kerala. She married a boy who belonged to a different caste (Ezhava -- a shudra caste, comes under OBC, Other Backward Castes). The boy's family and CPM, the leading left party in the state, were against it. The boy was from Kannur district, a CPM stronghold. In order to make a living, they decided to buy an autorikshaw and Chitralekha was to operate it in Payyannur town. She faced problems getting a driver's card, and when she got it, it was continuous harassing in various forms by the fellow automen (most of them ezhavas and dominant castes). The glass of the vehicle was broken and she was beaten up. When the case went to the police, they said she is a prostitute. Then her autorikshaw was burnt to dust in the night, and she was threatened she'll face the same fate as that of her vehicle.
All this happened more than a year back, and I heard about this story for the first time from my friend who mentioned it in an e-mail. I could not find any details on the net. Not even a single news-paper report. (Unlike in the recent Khairlanje incident that the media was forced to give some coverage. Here is one letter that Ravikiran Shinde sent to Rajdeep Sardesai. This blog post checks why Priyanka is not quite a Priyadarshini Matoo and Jessica Lal for us). Recently another friend of mine faced the same problem when she was trying to document this incident in the context of gender-caste opression in Kerala.
She figured out that this was second such incident of a Dalit woman's auto rickshaw being burned in that town.
Unlike Maharashtra (latest Outlook carries an article on the Dalit rage that followed Khairlanje-- interesting), issues of caste oppressions are not dealt with politically in the "God's own" Kerala where CPM takes the contract of rectifying all the social and economical problems (ok-- first we will "boil down" things to class politics, and do what we feel like). If anyone else-- any group, political outfit, persons-- try to raise any issue, they will be silenced. And the opposition Congress is useless-- they don't feel any need for any serious political intervention, they are content with the people who get fed up of the left rule and put them in power every alternate election. I hope Kerala grows up to deal with such issues in a political way.