Dressed in a crisp blue saree, CK Janu, one of the few Adivasi leaders in Kerala, was about to go out campaigning when we caught up with her. As she sat down to speak with us, a few of her supporters, most of them Adivasis as well, got busy preparing her schedule, gathering posters, and holding meetings with visitors.
Born into the Adiya community, one of the most downtrodden in Wayanad, Janu's childhood was spent witnessing and trying to make sense of the many layers of injustice she and her people have had to endure for so long. Adivasis make up 31 percent of Wayanad’s population and, as such, form an attractive constituency for politicians of all hues. Yet, they have been neglected by the political class as also the society generally.
It’s this that compelled Janu, who had spent years organising protests and mobilising her community, to enter politics. “Why should Adivasis be heard only when they protest? We need someone to represent us inside the system and I want to do that,” she explained her decision.
Today, aged 51, she is president of the Janadhipathya Rashtriya Party, launched before the 2016 election. She’s contesting from Sulthan Bathery constituency for the second time, having stood third in the previous election. She’s backed by the National Democratic Alliance, led by the BJP.
The last time too Janu had contested with the NDA’s backing, only to quit the alliance in 2018 when her demands, including for a Rajya Sabha seat, weren’t met. At the time, she vowed to the BJP saying they had misled, betrayed and ignored her. She talked to the CPIM for an alliance, but in vain. So, ahead of this election, she went back to the BJP.
In this interview with Nidhi Suresh and Aditya Varier, Janu talks about her relationship with the BJP, her demands from the political class, and why she is determined to fight for her place in Kerala’s political system despite being let down so many times, both as an activist and as a politician.