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Arunima Maharshi

IWB Blogger

Visually Impaired By Endosulfan, Activist Muneesa Runs A Daycare ‘Snehaveedu’ For Other Victims

  • IWB Post
  •  June 7, 2018

A mother of a grown man packs his bag and waits every day for the Snehaveedu bus to send her son to the day care home. And in the evening, she anxiously waits on the doorsteps of their house for her son to come back. Differently abled, her son has the brain development of a two-year-old.

This is the story of not just one, but many mothers in the Ambalathara village in Kasargode, Kerala. They have devoted their lives to taking care of their differently-abled children, all victims of the aerial spraying of Endosulfan pesticide.

And it was the haunting agony of these mothers, who have given up everything in life to bring up their children, that made Muneesa a fighter. Muneesa is a visually-impaired woman – also an endosulfan victim. But over the years she has become a leader fighting for the victims and is leading their struggles. And she is the one who conceptualized the day care home, ‘Snehaveedu’, for the child victims.

Born in a family of eight children in Ambalathara, like Muneesa, one of her brothers, Ashraf, is also blind. But where Muneesa is in the government list of endosulfan victims, Ashraf is not. She had to stay away from home and complete high school in a special institute. And it wasn’t until 2012, when activist Ambalatha Kunjikrishnan, who has been in the forefront of the endosulfan victims’ struggle, initiated Muneesa into the world of protests that she learnt about the enormity of the situation.

“Till then I had no idea of who the endosulfan victims actually were, or what they were going through… though I was a victim myself. It was a step into the world of consistent struggle… to get the bare minimum things to keep life going,” Muneesa shared in an interview with The News Minute.

From then, she has stood by the victims and has been part of all their struggles. In 2013, there was a 36-day fasting protest at Kasargode New Bus Stand by endosulfan agitation leaders. Muneesa was there almost every day, though she didn’t fast, as the leaders were firm that the victims shouldn’t fast.

Muneesa

A year later, Muneesa along with the victims and their mothers staged a protest outside Cliff House, the official residence of the Kerala Chief Minister. And in 2016, they staged a pattini samaram (hunger strike) in front of the Secretariat. In the same year, Muneesa became the president of the Endosulfan Peeditha Janakeeya Munnani, the prime organisation fighting for the victims.

“I don’t know why, the mothers of the victims soon started sharing their problems with me. They have all become my friends, although they are older than me. Learning their problems was a big moment of self-realization for me. Till then, I was thinking only about my worries, my problems,” she said. And further recalled, “When we were together at the Secretariat protest, during the nights I saw mothers holding 10 and 14-year-old children, who are unable to walk, as if they were attending to infants. Just imagine the mothers’ state of mind.”

In 2014, Snehaveedu (meaning ‘a home of love’ in Malayalam) began in a rented house with five children. The initial plan was to start a day care home for four or five differently-abled children, after some mothers cited that there were no schools to send their children. Last year, it shifted to its own building, with the help of a group of good Samaritans.

Muneesa

Currently a teacher by training and profession, Muneesa is a graduate in History from the Government College, Kasargode, and also holds a post-graduation degree in Malayalam from there. Recalling that phase, she said, “When I joined B Ed in a college in Kottayam, I went through one of the most painful experiences in my life. People there didn’t take any efforts to help me, even the friend trusting whom I had joined the course. I discontinued the course, returned to Kasargode and joined a B Ed centre near Cherkkala. There I got amazing friends.”

She worked as a Social Science teacher in two schools from 2013 to 2017. “I need to pass the SET exam to continue my career, but right now I am not in a state of mind to prepare for exams. Also for people like me, the formalities are more,” she said.

Talking about Muneesa, a writer and another leader of endosulfan victims, Ambikasuthan Mangad expressed, “Muneesa has an inner light, which many people don’t have. People have eyesight, but that doesn’t necessarily enable them to see others’ worries. Only those who have inner light can see that.”

And Muneesa’s dream proves it true. A mother of a victim recently told Muneesa that she had nothing to do at home during the day. “She has a seven-year-old child who is bedridden. She is their only child, and she would comb her hair, apply kajal to her eyes and sing lullabies. She told me that she was fed up of sitting alone at home after her husband leaves for work, and asked if we could think of something that makes us spend time together,” said Muneesa disclosing that this is what she intends to works on now!

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