A Malayali filmmaker tells stories of Dalits being forced to bury their dead under their homes

So these Dalit families have no choice but to dig their own homes and bury them there,” he adds. The documentary he directed with a small team in less than three months attempts to place the discrimination meted out to the Dalit community when it comes to burying their bodies at the centre of drawing-room discussions in a state hailed for its progressive social indicators. When their bodies were fished out of the water and brought to the Vembayam home in coffins, the family was faced with a depressing dilemma: where do we bury them? Advertising

All of those episodes Sanu saw, heard and experienced first-hand, are now part of a 35-minute documentary called Six Feet Under that was screened in the Malayalam section of the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK) in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday. But the residents nearby protest and get the proposal turned down. Shot and edited without narration or music, the documentary links each incident through the conversations of the Dalit families and interviews with activists. Sanu’s first documentary — Mind matter of a tea vendor – had won the award for the best short documentary at the IDSFFK last year. Popular Photos

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The documentary, asserts Sanu, should serve as an alarm clock for governments in Kerala to carry out renaissance movements through a second round of land reforms so that the most marginalized of the society can own a piece of land on which they can bury their dead without having to resort to digging their kitchens and bedrooms. Some of them have abandoned their homes, he says, while others continue to live on. See, even in that question, there is an assumption that only a Dalit can raise Dalit issues. Advertising

One of the striking, emotional episodes that find a space in the documentary revolve around the life of Girija, a Dalit homemaker in Vembayam, a village near Thiruvananthapuram. I told him I was a Muslim. All that these families have is barely 2-3 cents of land of which the house occupies almost everything,” says Sanu. It has been shot across six districts of Kerala — Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Alappuzha, Palakkad, Kozhikode and Malappuram. That’s the problem.”

Comment(s) “That promise still remains on paper. It talked about a tea vendor’s unique protest against demonetisation. Girija’s family got a new home and moved there. “This is a problem in every rural area across all districts of Kerala”
“This is a problem in every rural area across all districts of Kerala. When I realised that it was not a general story, I got down to studying and investigating it by visiting Dalit colonies. “Almost every panchayat will have wasteland that can easily be turned into a public graveyard. The news hit the headlines prompting the then-chief minister Oommen Chandy to announce financial aid and a home for them. The home continues to remain as a monument,” says Sanu, a native of Kadakkal in Kollam district. “When I was working on Six Feet Under, one of the technicians asked me if I were a Dalit. With no graveyard available and the mounting pressure of time on them, the family resorted to burying the two girls under their home’s kitchen. He also announced Rs 1 lakh for every panchayat to buy land and turn it into graveyards. Almost 12 years ago, Girija’s two daughters, who had gone to a relative’s home in Pathanamthitta, accidentally drowned in a pond. But nobody has come forward to buy their old home where her daughters lie buried.