Secular/Communal discourse has come to the fore like never before in the body politic of Kerala in the run-up to the local body elections to be held in the first week of November. The unprecedented vigour with which the secular/communal debate, that is raging on multiple platforms, is the repercussion of the changing equations as a result of a new alliance: UDF (United Democratic Front)’s and LDF (Left Democratic Front)’s concern of a game-changing coming together of an influential caste organisation and BJP. Virtually every medium—print, electronic and social media—is abuzz with the far-reaching consequences of such an alliance.
It is not merely the major leaders of both the ruling front and the opposition who are crying foul over a possible Hindu consolidation of votes. Nearly every leader of minority religious organisations, the priests, mullahs and secularists of all hues are up in arms against any such alliance. In a state where the Congress has always allied with the Muslim League and the Kerala Congress, it is quite ironic and hypocritical of them to condemn and attack the Hindu caste organisation’s decision to align with the BJP. Nobody in his or her right mind can label the Muslim League as a party upholding secularism. They are out and out communal: from the very name to each and every policy pursued by its five ministers, MPs, MLAs and every single panchayat member. The major Kerala Congress factions have only one agenda: the protection and promotion of the interests of the Christians in Kerala. ‘Secular’ Kerala has voted such an alliance to power in every alternative assembly election.
For the CPI (M)-led LDF, ‘the façade of secularism’ has always been a ploy to dupe the gullible majority community into an acquiescent mode. The left has never been able to win over the minority communities to their fold in spite of their claim of a secular stand. This is partly due to the absolute sectarian agenda of the minority-supported parties like Muslim League and Kerala Congress; the other reason being the natural aversion of the clergy and the believers of these two communities towards both the leadership and the ideology of the Left. Whenever the left has won, it has done so with the consolidation of Hindu votes in its favour. The numerically strong Ezhava community had stood behind the Left in its victorious elections. Now when the community has decided to part ways it is anybody’s guess as to what is in store for the LDF.
The concept of secularism as practised in Kerala calls for serious research and study. If one were to make an analysis of the election victories of candidates in elections, the conclusion that one can arrive at is that in majority of the cases the community that is numerically higher in a particularly constituency has elected an MP, MLA or a panchayat member from amongst them. Very often this filters down to caste and sect considerations too. Wherever Muslims and Christians are present in sizeable numbers, even if they are not in the majority—either the UDF or the LDF—manages to get them elected because more often than not, they have been trained to vote en bloc in the name of religion! In which other part of the world can you find such exemplary paradigms of secularism? If secularism is a framework for ensuring equality throughout society – equal opportunities in politics, education, employment, industry, wealth-generation and several such things, how has ‘secular’ Kerala systematically deprived the majority community of its rightful share in all spheres of life?
In industry, agriculture and overall wealth status the Hindus have a pathetic share. The industriousness, spirit of enterprise and the single-minded pursuit of upward social mobility of the Christians and Muslims of Kerala are remarkable and commendable. But one must also not forget the billions of rupees worth foreign currency flowing into the hands of minority places of worship, religious institutions, and charitable organisations through the legal/illegal route as well as the hawala channel. Added to this is the inheritance of the British assets in the pre-partition days by the Christians. The ‘die-hard secular communist leaders’ are of the strong opinion that the immense wealth belonging to the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple should be confiscated by the state as it is the ill-begotten wealth from the ordinary people during the days of royalty. Do they have the spine to apply the same logic to British-donated Christian properties and those acquired by the Muslims in similar manner? Will anybody ever have the courage to at least make an estimate of the gold and wealth lying in Kerala’s churches and mosques? The assessment of the hereditary wealth and day to day collections of Hindu temples are meticulously done by the UDF-ruled Devaswom boards and the LDF atheists. Only the Gods can say in what worthwhile manner the Devaswom wealth is spent.
The condition of the scheduled tribes has gone from bad to worse in spite of the successive governments spending thousands of crores of rupees ‘for their welfare’. Malnutrition levels, infant mortality and premature deaths among the Kerala tribes are the highest in the country. Where has all this money really gone is a matter for serious investigation! If the ultimate and true meaning of secularism is a ‘non-religion oriented state’, exactly the opposite of this is taking place in ‘secular Kerala’. Educational institutions have always been given on the basis of being Christian, Muslim and Hindu religious bodies; Hindu caste organisations, different sects of Christianity and various Muslim denominations. Does secularism mean doling out largesse and sops by the state to various communities in ‘unequal measure’? It is in public domain that the 55 per cent Hindu community don’t even manage 30 per cent of the educational institutions (aided, unaided, private and self-financing put together) in Kerala!
Every successive government outsmarts the previous government when it comes to pampering the minorities with their munificence. The Communist stalwart, the late EMS Namboodiripad displayed amazing secular sense when he carved out a whole district (Malappuram) for Muslims in the sixties of last century. The present UDF ministry has set unprecedented records in the path of ‘Islamisation’ of Kerala education. To enlist the various gravely sectarian education policies of the present dispensation would require the space of a separate article. From denying noon-meal to non-Muslim students during Ramzan to unlawful granting of UGC pay to Arabic college teachers, communal bias is visibly present in all major decisions. Yet this is a completely ‘secular state!’
More than one hundred years back Swami Vivekananda dubbed Kerala a ‘mental asylum’. In those days if it were the complex caste equations and the retrogressive practices related to caste in Hindu community which prompted the great saint to make such a comment, a modern day Swami Vivekananda needs to spell out the home truths of Kerala to the nation as a whole. The assault on the college professor TJ Joseph of Newman College, Thodupuzha, in 2010 when the LDF was in power, by the radicalised and rabidly communal Muslim organisation, Popular Front of India, is a classic case in point. His palm was chopped off by the Islamic fundamentalists for alleged blasphemy (related to a quotation on a question paper). The hypocrisy of Kerala society, the double standards adopted by the intellectuals and the duplicity of the politicians, are no more clearly evident than in this unprecedented incident in ‘progressive secular Kerala’. ‘The irony is that Kerala’ is writ large on each and every consequent action following this heinous crime. The Christian management added insult to injury by suspending him and by terminating him from service. The Marxists, in power at that time were too weak-kneed to take strong actions though he was a member of the Left Teachers’ organisation.
No Malayalee writer’s conscience was shaken when this dastardly incident and its aftermath played out for over four years. There have been hundreds of mindless brutal attacks on the rivals emanating from the religious and political intolerance of Islamists and Marxists in Kerala. None of the writers gave back any of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi awards when a Marxist rebel, TP Chandrashekharan was murdered in 2012 with 51 grave cuts and slashes all over his body. No writer in his” right mind” had the gumption to protest, leave alone returning awards, when in 2001, KT Jayakrishnan, Yuvamorcha state committee bearer, was barbarously hacked to death in front of the adolescent students for whom he was taking class in an LP school in Kannur District. No intellectual or minority ‘secular peddlers’ ever thought of shedding even ‘crocodile tears’ when eight Hindu fishermen were massacred at Marad beach, Calicut by Muslim mob with tacit support from the ‘secular Muslim League’ and its leaders. The Leftists in Kerala are currently involved in a brainstorming session whether Indian Union Muslim League is secular or communal! What a mockery of the concept of secularism!
T H Valsaraj (The writer is sub-editor of Kesari Weekly)