Monday, May 28, 2012

Some lessons for Narendra Modi, from Kerala

I write this note in the wake of reading a deeply disturbing news item:

Here, Narendra Modi, fascist par excellence, is trying to piggyback on Kerala's Communists to redeem himself of his crimes on humanity! This occasion requires some lessons for the uninitiated...

There are two phases to the history of "political violence" in post-1956 Kerala. The first phase was the period of oppression unleashed by the goondas of the Congress party on Communists in the 1950s and 1960s. Communists, then, were staging a historic struggle for land reforms, for public education and against caste discrimination. The കുറുവടിപ്പട (Kuruvadi Pada) of the Congress party, specially formed during the infamous "Liberation Struggle" to dismiss the EMS government, was the chief perpetrator of violence in this period. "Kuruvadi" stands for lathi-like short sticks, and "pada" stands for army. In essence, "Kuruvadi Pada" was a para-military outfit of the Congress party formed to attack Communists and union activists. The Communists hit back, and many brave among them perished to become martyrs. For those who can read Malayalam, here is a confession of crimes by a former-Commander of the "Kuruvadi Pada". 
"നാലര പതിറ്റാണ്ടു മുമ്പ്‌ കോട്ടയം ജില്ലയിലെ ഏറ്റുമാനൂര്‍ പട്ടിത്താനത്ത്‌ കുരിയച്ചിറയില്‍ ചാക്കോ-മറിയം ദമ്പതികളുടെ രണ്ടു മക്കളില്‍ മൂത്തവനായ കുര്യാക്കോസ്‌ എന്ന യുവരാഷ്ട്രീയ നേതാവ്‌ . . . ഐക്യകേരളത്തിലെ ആദ്യത്തെ ജനകീയ സര്‍ക്കാര്‍ ഇ.എം.എസ്‌. മന്ത്രിസഭയ്ക്കെതിരെ പ്രതിലോമ ശക്തികളൊന്നാകെ അഴിച്ചു വിട്ട കുപ്രസിദ്ധമായ വിമോചന സമരത്തിന്‌ ഊര്‍ജ്ജം പകരാന്‍ സമരക്കാര്‍ തന്നെ രൂപം നല്‍കിയ 'കുറുവടിപ്പട' എന്ന ഗുണ്ടാസംഘത്തിന്റെ ഏറ്റുമാനൂര്‍ നിയോജക മണ്ഡലത്തിലെ ക്യാപ്റ്റന്‍. ആദ്യ ജനകീയ മന്ത്രിസഭയുടെ അമരക്കാരനായിരുന്ന ഇ.എം.എസ്‌. ന്റെ ജീവിത മുഹൂര്‍ത്തങ്ങള്‍ അനാവരണം ചെയ്യുന്ന ചിത്രപ്രദര്‍ശനത്തില്‍ പിരിച്ചുവിടപ്പെട്ട മന്ത്രിസഭാംഗങ്ങളുടെ നിയമസഭയില്‍ നിന്നു മടങ്ങുന്ന ചിത്രം കണ്ടശേഷം അദ്ദേഹം പ്രതികരിച്ചു . . . വിമോചന സമരം ഒരു സമരാഭാസമായിരുന്നു . . . കാരണം, ഓരോ സമരരംഗത്തും പൊലീസിനെ പ്രകോപിപ്പിക്കാന്‍ അത്യാവശ്യം കല്ലുകളുമായി ഒരു ദൗത്യസംഘത്തെ തന്നെ സമരക്കാര്‍ പ്രത്യേകം നിയോഗിച്ചിരുന്നു. സമരത്തിന്റെ തലേദിവസം കുമ്പസാരിച്ചായിരുന്നു ഞങ്ങള്‍ സമരത്തിനണിനിരന്നത്‌. വെടിവയ്പ്പില്‍ മരിച്ചാല്‍ സ്വര്‍ഗ്ഗപ്രവേശനത്തിനായിരുന്നു പാപങ്ങള്‍ ഏറ്റു പറഞ്ഞ്‌ കുമ്പസാരിച്ചിരുന്നത്‌" (
But, as history shows, this kind of violence was unable to thwart progress on land reforms or the fight against caste discrimination. 

The second phase of political violence in the State began in north Malabar in the late-1960s and early-1970s with the entry of the fascist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS specifically chose the Thalassery taluk in Kannur district as a target for spreading their politics of hate and violence against Muslims and Communists. The choice of Thalassery was not accidental. Thalassery has large concentration of the Muslim community and the RSS sought to foment communal trouble in the area. They orchestrated a communal riot in Thalassery in 1972 by spreading rumours of Muslim attacks on temples and Hindu women. They also planned to attack mosques in a big way. The CPI (M) played a determined role in resisting the attacks by RSS criminals and and the CPI (M) leader U. K. Kunhiraman sacrificed his life while guarding a mosque from an RSS attack. The Justice Joseph Vithayathil Commission's Report on the Thalassery Riots appreciated the role played by the CPI (M) in ensuring communal harmony and censured the RSS for "rousing up" communal feelings and for "preparing the background" for the disturbances. This was when Pinarayi Vijayan was a 23 year old MLA; when no one treaded the terror tracks, he hired a jeep and traveled into the riot-affected regions armed with a small microphone. He called out to people in that microphone to keep harmony and not fall into the RSS propaganda. That he was not killed there was only thanks to his luck and guts (this was before 1975, when Pinarayi Vijayan was beaten by the Police from head to foot and reduced to a vegetable during the emergency; that story is here:

From then on, the RSS and the CPI (M) have fought pitched battles in north Malabar. To its credit, the CPI (M) was able to guard communal harmony in Malabar, though at the cost of many of its finest and bravest cadre, and keep the RSS at bay. Much of the so-called "political violence" in Malabar has to be seen as part of this fight to protect secularism in the State. We should salute those people who laid their lives at the cause of secularism in Kerala, and not simply dismiss them as goons. The sheer political strength of the CPI (M) required the RSS to apply violence so that they can create spaces for growth. It was not the CPI (M)'s fault that it was politically strong among the masses, and that others wanted to break its strength through violence. But whenever the RSS tried to break through, either through political killings or inciting communal violence, there have been, admittedly, reactions in defense, which too have been violent. A much lesser number of people on the other side have also died, unfortunately. 

Modi, however, is flying kites with statements like "the CPI(M) in Kerala had killed at least 250 volunteers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and because of its politics of murder, the BJP could never win an election in that State." This is just a white lie. I challenge Modi to produce that list of 250 RSS people killed in Kerala. For his information, a striking majority of political killings in Kerala have been instances where CPI (M) people were brutally murdered by RSS/Congress/NDF/ML. Someone has to tell this moron that the BJP does not win seats in Kerala (Kerala is the only Indian State where the BJP has not been able to open its account in the State Assembly even once) because the democratically-minded people of Kerala thoroughly reject his party's fascist politics. 

In sum, my argument was that the so-called "political violence" in Kerala has to be seen as part of a larger process of social conflict that was associated with its long and chequered process of progressive transformation. However, the fact that conflict was associated with the process of transformation in the State does not make political violence a "good thing" in any form. Human values have advanced rapidly, human rights (including the right to live) are being appreciated globally and no society can be divorced from these changes in value systems. Violence is increasingly abhorred in modern societies, and the CPI (M) too cannot remain alien to these change-processes. Even while resisting RSS' fascism or facing Congress goondas, the CPI (M) cannot, and should not, follow violent forms.

To their credit, Kerala's CPI (M) leaders have already made it clear that their party does not believe in the annihilation of class enemies to facilitate the party's growth. To illustrate this, let me quote three prominent CPI (M) leaders from Kerala, all in the wake of the controversies surrounding the brutal murder of T. P. Chandrasekharan in Onchiyam in the Kozhikode district of the State.

1) T. M. Thomas Isaac, CPI (M) Central Committee member:
"If anybody in the CPI(M) has any role in the murder of T. P. Chandrasekharan, such people will not remain in the party." (Mathrubhumi, 17 May 2012)

2) A. K. Balan, CPI (M) Kerala State Secretariat member:
"The party will consider the murderers of T. P. Chandrasekharan as class enemies. The murder of T. P. Chandrasekharan was tragic and brutal. Hired goons were used to murder him. The whole goon culture needs to be uprooted and destroyed." (Mathrubhumi, 19 May 2012)

3) M. V. Govindan Master, CPI (M) Kerala State Secretariat member:
"The Communist Party does not have any objection if there are indeed CPI (M) members among the culprits and if they are nabbed. The Communist Party does not have to defend anybody regarding this. There is no way we are going to defend anybody. If anybody (in the party) is involved, we'll look into it and take appropriate action on the basis of that." (Indiavision channel, 16 May 2012)

Though political conflict in Kerala is rooted in its history, it is high time that the culture is uprooted and sustained peace is restored. As the UNDP's "Human Development Report" in 1994 argued, "physical security" is an integral part of "human security"; it noted:
"Personal security aims to protect people from physical violence, whether from the state or external states, from violent individuals and sub-state actors, from domestic abuse, or from predatory adults. For many people, the greatest source of anxiety is crime, particularly violent crime."
I am sure the CPI (M), as always in Kerala, will take a lead here too. Modi's kite flying may well end up a day-dream. People of Kerala have rebuffed his politics, and will continue to rebuff his politics.

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