The historical narrative of the Ayodhya movement is incomplete without acknowledging the pivotal role played by Kandangalathil Karunakaran Nair, popularly known as KK Nair. Born on September 11, 1907, in Kuttanad, Alappuzha, Kerala, Nair emerged as a fearless Indian Civil Service (ICS) officer whose actions in the face of political pressures left an indelible mark on the quest for religious freedom.
After pursuing his education in Kerala, Nair ventured to England for higher studies, achieving the remarkable feat of securing ICS at the age of 21. His journey in civil service commenced in Uttar Pradesh in 1945, and on June 1, 1949, he assumed the role of Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Magistrate of Faizabad.
In a crucial turn of events, Nair tasked his assistant, Guru Datt Singh, to investigate the Ayodhya issue and present a ground report. Singh’s report, submitted on October 10, 1949, unequivocally recommended the construction of a grand Ram temple at the contested site, stressing the willingness of the Hindu population for a more significant and dignified structure.
“As per your orders, I went to the spot and inspected the site and enquired all about it in detail. Mosque and the temple both are situated side by side and both Hindus and Muslims perform their rites and religious ceremonies. Hindu public has put in this application with a view to erecting a decent and vishal temple instead of the small one which exists at present. There is nothing on the way and permission can be given as Hindu population is very keen to have a nice temple at the place where Bhagwan Ram Chandra Ji was born. The land where temple is to be erected is of Nazul [government land],” says Singh’s report to Nair.
The year took a dramatic turn on December 22, 1949, when Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Govind Vallabh Pant, influenced by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, ordered the expulsion of Hindus from the Ram Lalla temple. In a stance that defined his legacy, Nair refused to implement the order, citing the potential for riots and bloodshed as the real stakeholders continued to perform Pooja at the site.
The consequence of Nair’s defiance was suspension from service by Pant, but Nair’s legal battle against the Congress Government resulted in a court order in his favor. Despite rejoining the service, the contentious relationship with Nehru led Nair to resign from the IAS and pursue a career as a lawyer in the Allahabad High Court.
By challenging the ‘Aurangzebic diktat’ of Nehru against Hindus, KK Nair upheld justice and made the way to the hearts of millions of people. People in and around Faizabad fondly called him ‘Nair Saheb’. His dedication to the cause continued as he joined the Jana Sangh, with his wife, Sakunatala Nair, winning a seat in the Uttar Pradesh assembly in 1952 on a Jana Sangh ticket. The couple later became members of the 4th Lok Sabha in 1962.
However, their activism during the Emergency, protesting against Indira Gandhi’s regime, led to their arrest and imprisonment. Nair remained a committed Jana Sangh worker until his death on September 7, 1977.
Despite his revered status in Uttar Pradesh, KK Nair did not receive due recognition in his home state of Kerala. Today, a group of nationalists is taking a step to rectify this oversight by establishing a memorial in Nair’s home village. The KK Nair Memorial Charitable Trust, operating on land donated by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, aims to commemorate his legacy and contribute to society by offering training for civil service aspirants and scholarships for eligible students.
KK Nair’s life is a testament to courage, resilience, and unwavering commitment to justice, making him an unsung hero in Kerala’s history, and now, efforts are underway to ensure that his contributions are never forgotten.
(This report was originally published by Organiser on August 1, 2020)