‘Inequality has existed for years’: Kannada actor Chetan Ahimsa is helping marginalised communities amid pandemic

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"Among others, we are helping people of the Koraga community of Udupi, who are, to this day, victims of a disturbing practice in which they are forced to eat nails and hair of the upper caste people," Chetan tells Platocast.

The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc around the world, and India is in a state of despair, today more than ever. Hospitals and crematoriums are witnessing unending queues every day. People are begging for hospital beds and oxygen, and dying in the absence of both.

The country is on its knees. Cries for help are going unanswered. India is devastated.

In times as trying as these, Kannada actor Chetan Ahimsa — best known for his film Aa Dinagalu — has come forward to help those in need. Chetan, also a public intellectual and political activist, is reaching out with relief to communities that are not visible. Through ‘Chetan Foundation’, he — along with a dedicated team — has been handing out relief, including grocery kits, to people. The distribution is being carried out through a network of fans.

“Global inequality has existed for thousands of years now. There are communities in India that have faced extreme forms of casteism, untouchability and discrimination in various forms. These communities have been socially ostracised and are struggling economically. There are various tribal communities who do not get the help they need. Keeping this in mind, we decided to focus on communities that are less visible,” Chetan Ahimsa tells Platocast.

“We also aim at helping cemetery workers, who are frontline Covid warriors. They are risking their lives to serve the people amid the pandemic. This marginalised community been doing this mentally agonising work for generations, and yet they are often not allowed inside houses. They are marginalised communities. We wanted to bring their struggles to light, so we started a campaign and wrote a letter to Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, talking about immediate needs of the cemetery workers — vaccination, mental and medical insurance and other basic benefits that would help them get out of this discriminatory system that they are trapped in. We are providing ration kids to cemetery workers in Bengaluru. We have already covered five major cemeteries. This is an awareness campaign for the people of Karnataka,” Chetan adds.

Chetan says that he has also written to Social Welfare Minister B Srirmulu on this matter, and is now following up. 

“Besides cemetery workers, we are also reaching out to other people living in the most difficult situations — including people of the Koraga community of Udupi, who are, to this day, victims of ‘ajjalu paddhati’, a disturbing practice in which they are forced to eat nails and hair of the upper caste people. We work with Dalit Adivasi women who have been exploited physically, mentally and psychologically for generations by feudal forces. We are also helping nomadic communities living outside the city limits under cloth huts in bone-brushing poverty, as well as landless labourers and the transgender community and more,” Chetan says.

“The volunteers are extraordinary. They are so committed to social causes and would go to any extent to help those. We have a wonderful team of youth doing the work all across the state. We are helping people with ration kits, and food and medical essentials,” he adds.

'Inequality has existed for years': Kannada actor Chetan Ahimsa is helping marginalised communities amid pandemic

Chetan intends to extend a helping hand to the needy throughout his life. He also wants to push the government to help the communities that are in need of support. 

“Social work is important. It is important to help people who are disadvantaged. We need to understand the power structure in our society and help those who are in the most difficult of situations. It is a good thing to give back to society in our own way,” Chetan concludes.

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