Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Unnikrishnan and Achuthanandan

The remarks of the Chief Minister of Kerala V. S. Achuthanandan regarding the drama that unfolded in front of Sandeep Unnikrishnan's house in Bangalore on Sunday night has evoked much discussion. Mr Unnikrishnan (Sandeep's father) had refused entry into his house for VS and Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, abused them publicly and asked them to leave his house. In a remark that was widely and repeatedly telecast by the media, Unnikrishnan shouted that "no dog should come to my house." VS' reply was: "OK fine, but no dog would have gone there if it were not Sandeep's house."

Obviously, Unnikrishnan was influenced, apart from the great grief of losing his son, by the general anti-politician tirade of the mainstream media. The insect called "Enough is Enough" appears to have biten him too.

But Unnikrishnan may do well to remember an old story. An old story from the history of Kerala, a State to which he belongs. In the year 1946, a major revolt for freedom and democracy had broken out in the taluks of Cherthala and Ambalapuzha in Travancore. This revolt of peasants and agricultural labourers was primarily against (a) the Dewan who had proposed an independent Travancore under an American-style constitution in which he was to be the "President" and (b) the landlords of the region who, with active support from Dewan, were historically deeply oppressive of peasants and workers. As EMS Namboodiripad was to write later, "the upheaval was not a sudden spurt of the people's ire against the Government but part of the struggle of the working class against the British Government and feudalism."

The Dewan unleased terror on the agitators. His Police directed their ire and guns on the agitators, who resisted with nothing but wooden spears. The agitators faced the Police bravely and barechested. The outcome was disastrous; in October 1946, the Police fired at a demonstration of workers and in the ensuing clash of unequals, thirty-five workers and four Policemen perished. A week later, the Police hit back with more force and shot down more than 300 agitators who were camping in a nearby island. This agitation is famously called the Punnapra-Vayalar agitation.

Among the agitators who held wooden spears was a local tailor; he was, in fact, the organiser of one training camp for the agitators in Ambalapuzha. He was among the agitators who confronted the bullets. He did not wear a helmet; he did not carry an automatic machine gun, he did not wear a bullet-proof chest and he did not carry modern cameras to detect opponents' movements. Yet, he was there. Luckily, bullets missed him. The tailor lived and went on to become Kerala's Chief Minister. His name happens to be V. S. Achuthanandan.

No comments:

Post a Comment