This petition brings the issue of ethnic profiling of migrant workers in Kerala to the attention of political and human rights activists in the country. It exposes the politics behind policing of workers and urges the Chief Minister to take steps to stop criminalising workers in the name of terrorism.
The Chief Minister
We, the undersigned, are gravely concerned about the police harassment of migrant workers in Kerala. Migrant workers from North and North eastern India are indispensable to Kerala’s economy whether it is in construction, quarrying, hotels or in factories of various kinds-plywood, plastic, chemical, metal etc. They do most of the hazardous and arduous labour in these industries. They live in labour camps and ghettoized neighbourhoods away from mainstream malayali life. They earn much lower than what malayali workers would earn for the same work. Your government has not yet done anything to provide safe and fair working and living conditions to these workers. Instead, it has embarked on a mission to profile, police and penalize them by criminalizing their presence in Kerala.
On 7th May, 2012, the Home Minister of the state announced that migrant workers will be required to register themselves in the police stations when they arrive for work. He added that the registration would enable the police to identify whether they have any links with terrorist groups. Prior to this, police authorities in the state especially in Ernakulam district had attempted similar forms of registration and profiling with varying degrees of success. In 2009, police in Perumbavoor insisted that migrant workers must bring a police clearance card from their villages of origin certifying that they have no criminal antecedents. Many workers had to leave Perumbavoor and stop working as procuring such a card was costly and nearly impossible. The actions of your police, thus, had real consequences for these workers, their livelihoods and the wellbeing of those dependent on them.
The government and the police do not bother to give any evidence as to why such a measure is required against migrant workers apart from rehearsing the tired old argument of migrant workers harbouring terrorists. Was any worker ever convicted for terrorist activity? No. If some people from other states are arrested for theft or robbery, does that mean that all people from those states are thieves and robbers? No. The move by the home minister is only a means to tarnish migrant workers and push them further into the margins of the society so that the State and the capitalist interests it represents can go on extracting their labour without providing any social security.
We understand that migrant workers are citizens of India with as much rights as everyone else to freely move about and work wherever they want to. In fact, constitution of India guarantees freedom of movement as one of the fundamental rights. Surveillance practices targeted at a particular group or community violate this constitutional right and point to xenophobic tendencies within a society. Profiling by police can lead to hate campaigns against migrant workers and will only contribute to further alienation and humiliation. They are not aliens, they are people. We, therefore, request you, sir, to take immediate steps to instruct your home minister and the police to revoke the move for registration and profiling of migrant workers.