Batting for land-grabbers, the ruling CPM and its ministers now openly threaten the District Administration and accuse the Sub-Collector of acting as ‘an RSS man’ for removing an illegally installed Cross on Public land
T Satisan from Kochi
Verbal wars between CPM, the leader of the ruling LDF in Kerala and CPI, the second-largest party in the ruling coalition troubles the peace of mind of the LDF rank and file. At the same time it is a laughing stock for the rest of the people in Kerala. It started with the eviction in Munnar encroachments. But, of late the CPM-CPI dispute has been eclipsed by the nonsense utterances by the power minister and veteran CPM leader MM Mani. Whenever he talks about a hot issue, it stirs thousands of hornet nests not only in the state or country but even in far away countries. A few years back he described the methods his party applied to kill their political opponents.
This time he blasted Dr Sriram Venkataraman IAS, Devikulam Sub-Collector in Idukki District and a dynamic young civil service officer who heads the eviction of mammoth encroachments in Munnar, the beautiful tourist spot in Dakshin Bharat. It is a crystal clear fact that Mani and his party are always dead against eviction encroachments in Munnar. There are allegations that it is because Mani and his younger brother Lambodharan are serious stakeholders in encroachment game. People say that these “have-nots” are now millionaires. They refer to the details of a company, Lambodharan allegedly heads, to buttress their arguments. The matter came up when the eviction team led by Sriram, of course with the consent of his boss, the District Collector G R Gokul IAS, demolished a 25 feet tall gigantic cross found installed in Pappathichola, the mountain area, a place which is inaccessible under normal circumstances; vehicular traffic is a tough try. The demolition took place on April 20. The ‘cross’ing is the usual modus operandi for encroachment in hilly areas in any part of Bharat. The same method was deployed in 1983 to encroach the land which belonged to Sabarimala temple; but it turned futile, thanks to the popular agitations unleashed by RSS-oriented organisations when Congress veteran (late) K Karunakaran was the CM who supported the Church.
The demolition of the cross took place during the wee hours and took several hours before completing the task since it was a strong and solid concrete and steel construction. And, there was no hint of any protest from the side of any Church, Christian leaders or priests. But, in the evening CM Pinarayi denounced the IAS officers for demolition as it might cause communal disharmony. Immediately the bishops, priests and spokespersons of the Church came out to blame the authorities for demolishing the Cross, even though they stuck on to the previous anti-encroachment stand. One of them said, the demolition before the media was undesirable. Some others said that it should not have been demolished with JCB (proclainer) but in some other gentle manner. All of them held that even though encroachment was wrong, the cross was divine! Leaders of both CPM and Congress and also small parties started to follow the suit. CPI took a different line. The Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan informed the CM that the demolition was carried out after completing all formal procedures required for it.
BJP alleged that the Spirit in Jesus, the cult group reported to have installed the cross, was led by a family and they are the encroachers; they used the cross as a camouflage. BJP leaders demanded a thorough inquiry into the family’s illegal activities. The next evening the “interested” group installed a wooden cross on the same place. Police have arrested two men and the vehicle seized from them belonged to the member of the above-mentioned family. Reports from Munnar suggest that Spirit in Jesus group, an evangelist group, has encroached hundreds of acres in that area.
Consequently, the Chief Minister summoned both the District Collector and the Sub-Collector to the capital and blasted them for “mishandling” the eviction process. The Revenue Minister tried to rescue them, but in vain. In other words, the collective responsibility of the cabinet has turned a thing of past. The CM talks something and CPI Minister talks something else. Under such a circumstance, a government has got no right to exist. In other words, it is the constitutional crisis.
Now, the JCB is banned in Munnar! Then jumped the cat from the bag. Power Minister MM Mani, the outspoken and undisputed CPM leader of Idukki District, invited the wrath of the public cutting across party lines for using obscene and dirty terminologies against the IAS officers and the women of Idukki, known as penpilai orumai (Women’s Solidarity Movement). The agitation of this movement of illiterate plantation labourers had won a legendary labour strike last year for better wages, without any sort of political or trade union support. The movement got international acknowledgement due to its unique style. Both the CPM and MM Mani were very much upset about this victory as they felt that such movement would endanger CPM’s relevance in the plantation sector. He spat venom against his “proclaimed enemies” utilising the backdrop of the eviction and demolition. He equated the demolition of the cross to the Ayodhya demolition of 1992! He used all sorts of unprintable curses against Sriram and Gokul and added that they are mad and should have been sent to Oolampara. (It is the place near Thiruvananthapuram where the old lunatic asylum is situated). He said that Sriram acts for RSS. BJP leader Kummanam Rajasekharan shot back, Mani’s statement conveys the message that people who discharge exemplary duties are RSS men, hence the nationalist organisation can take pride in it.
His next preys were the women belonging to penpilai orumai. He, in his usual malicious manner, alleged that the women were engaged in ‘something else’ in the forest during their struggle last year! The terminology he used was “matte pani” meaning sexual activities in common spoken Malayalam. This speech has pushed him into a hot soup. Even though Pinarayi tried his level best to justify him that he belongs to the poor working class of the plantation in Munnar hence his language is ‘rustic’, no takers seen. Several CPM leaders, Ministers, women leaders and even Sitaram Yechury have expressed their disagreement. Kerala Assembly witnessed tumultuous scenes in this regard and Opposition UDF has decided to boycott Mani as a Minister both within and without the House. State Women’s Commission has registered suo moto case against Mani for this speech. But, Pinarayi tried to exploit the messy Assembly session to repeat the cliché that RSS killed Mahatmaji. RSS Prant Karyavah Gopalankutty Master and Kummanam have lambasted the Chief Minister Vijayan for ignoring various Commissions’ findings and uttering lies against RSS.
Now, CPM has censured MM Mani publicly for his indecent references made to the penpilai orumai. People see it as nothing but a mere eye wash. Because the party does not intend to take any disciplinary action against Mani; and the question does not arise about dropping him from the cabinet!
Gomathi, Rajeshwari and other leaders of penpilai orumai are observing satyagraha in Munnar demanding the resignation of Mani from the government. They started their agitation in the form of indefinite hunger strike. They had put forward two demands, viz., Mani should come to Munnar and tender this apology, in their presence, for his obscene reference to them and for his immediate resignation from the cabinet? When three days were over some goons attacked their pandal and destroyed it. The women leaders alleged that they were CPM workers; they could identify them. They even disclosed their names to the media. On the fifth day, the hunger strikers’ health deteriorated and they were arrested by police and taken to the hospital by force. After getting the treatment they rushed back to the pandal and since then they have been observing satyagraha demanding the resignation of Mani. It seems, they have dropped the demand of Mani’s apology in their presence in the pandal itself.
BJP leader Kummanam Rajshekharan and Tamil Nadu BJP chief Smt. Tamilisai Soundararajan visited the pandal and expressed their solidarity with the striking women. BJP leader Shobha Surendran and women leaders of Congress also spent several hours in the pandal. The participants of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha protest rally were water cannoned near the pandal.
But, CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan did not take Kanam’s words lightly. He went to the media to counter Kanam’s arguments. He said, LDF constituents’ stand should not serve to weaken LDF; they should not give weapons to the Opposition. He opposed the voicing of the differences of opinion on the administration for it would weaken the government. Kodiyeri added that Devikulam Sub-Collector went to remove the illegal buildings and encroachments sans informing the police, hence the tension mounted in Munnar.
Kanam hinted to the media persons that the revenue department will continue with its anti-encroachment drive in Munnar. He asked Pinarayi to prevail upon those who betray the LDF policy on the Munnar eviction.
At the end of the day, Munnar eviction looks like dying a natural death. Meanwhile, revenue authorities found out that 35 acres of land has been encroached in Wagamon, another hilly tourist spot in Idukki. And 15 crosses have been installed there. It is reported that the encroachment was done by the same family which encroached land in Pappathichola and installed the controversial cross. Large scale ginger cultivation is going on there. Sheds have been erected there! n