Hours after the two women entered Sabarimala, the Hindu terrorists began their handiwork. Mad mobs, including women, began to roam the streets and attack by-passers, in their desperation to foment violence and provoke riots. In Karunagappally, Muslim establishments and shops were singled out for vandalism. The Sangh-backed Sabarimala Action Council called for a hartal today and they have spared no effort to make sure that people are terrorized.
A library was set aflame in Palakkad in true fascist tradition; CPM offices are being attacked. Small public meetings called by independent feminists and human rights activists in major cities were attacked. In Calicut, activists suffered serious injuries while in Kochi, brave dalit feminists fought back three Hindutva women who sought to disrupt their meetings with Jai-Bhim slogans. The government announced its determination to hold firm against this unspeakable violence against the Malayali people as a whole — by this horde inspired by Indo-Gangetic barbarians who attack their neighbors for the sake of one among the lakhs and lakhs of Hindu deities.
The Sangh finally got the Balidaani they had sought so fervently — in Chandran Unnithan who died yesterday after being allegedly attacked by left supporters when he was participating in a protest against the entry of the two women. This is no doubt unjustifiable, but several doubts are being raised about the circumstances of his death, especially about why he was not taken to the nearest medical institution equipped to handle his injury, the Pusphagiri Medical college. But the point really is that the responsibility for the situation lies partly with the Sangh, which instigated the violence, and that too, violence against the implementation of the Supreme Court judgment.
Reports from north Kerala suggest that while people are ready to defy this atrocious disruption of public life, the police seem reluctant and even complicit. In Calicut shop-keepers had vowed to open their shops in defiance; however, they now complain that the police seem to be reluctant not only to offer serious protection, but also to take action against miscreants who were caught by local people and handed over to them. Buses of the already-enervated KSRTC are being attacked by these goons. Of course, that was never new, and certainly those incidents, too, are unjustifiable. But what galls me is that these attacks are for a deity’s alleged celibacy, it has nothing to do with any issue that is currently of significance to Kerala’s people. In fact, such irresponsible and brainless protests render significant issues — issues on which we need to take the government to task, for example, the neglect of ecology in the planned post-flood reconstruction — invisible. Which only proves the point that these Indo-Gangetic barbarian-inspired fascists who lead the protests are no friends of Kerala in any sense. I do not see why the UAPA has not been used yet against these Hindutva terrorists? Is it reserved only for Muslims?
Today the need is to stand by the elements within the mainstream left that are committed to implementing the SC judgment even as the criticism of the hidden Hindutva elements in it — especially the Nair-Hindu male patriarchy represented by the Devaswam Minister Kadakampally Surendran — remains valid. The Chief Minister of Kerala is now widely and shamelessly defamed with casteist insults and threats to his life. Citizens need to rise up and fight this rot — in courts, homes, social media, and public spaces of all kinds.
I just walked about my part of town, just to prove a point. Life had clearly been disrupted. Thiruvananthapuram is infected particularly by the Sangh pestilence given the high concentration of sudras here. People there, clearly Sangh supporters, stared. Barely two days back, the streets were agog with preparations for the Women’s Wall organized by the CPM leadership in collaboration with the male leaders of majorcaste- community organizations. I could not help thinking: if only the CPM male leadership were less insecure, if only they had acknowledged the freedom – the Renaissance value that they now claim to be ready to hold aloft – of women in their fold and as a gesture of that shift, entrusted the women’s mass organization with the task of campaigning for the wall and bringing all of Kerala’s women, and the AIDWA took up that responsibility with verve, vigour, and democratic sensibilities towards others, then we would have probably seen them coming out in large numbers to celebrate the entry of Bindu and Kanaka into Sabarimala. Indeed, we do see them celebrating widely on Facebook, acknowledging this to be the critical act.
But no, what we saw as the Woman’s Wall was actually an affirmation of the modern patriarchy that shaped up in the early twentieth century social awakening, and what continues to be accepted as the unquestionable, normal horizon of gendered life within the mainstream left. And so I am not surprised that the spontaneous public celebrations of the entry were by the small groups of feminists and human rights activists. The Sangh found them easy targets to vent their ire.
If the AIDWA, which has an immense presence in Kerala had, instead, come out yesterday evening or today in large numbers, I am quite certain, no Sangh thug would have dared to raise a finger. That is really the reason why I keep saying, despite the fact that mine is a very lone voice today, that we should interpret the task of reclaiming ‘Renaissance’ values as not affirming once again the modern patriarchy that was shaped in those times (even if we pit it against the far-more barbarous traditional order, which is what the Sangh wants to reimpose). Rather, we need to acknowledge the inability of modern patriarchy which casts the man as the agent of reform, and the woman as the passive object of reform, to confront the Sangh’s intrusions effectively. And we need to draw on streams of anti-caste struggle of the 19th and 20th centuries that are not easily reducible to the terms of the modern patriarchy of the Navoddhana mainstream: specifically what I call stree-vaashi — she-intent- or resolve.
If the Woman’s Wall, however exciting it looked or felt, rested on the command of Reformer-Man, the entry of the two women was no doubt a manifestation of streevaashi – evidence that it runs in society still, like an underground stream that breaks out through the rocks at opportune moments.
There can be no doubt that the mainstream left needs to refurbish its hegemony desperately. At present, the refurbishment achieved in the 1990s through women’s entry into decentralization is in tatters. On the one hand, forces unleashed by precisely such refurbishment have eaten into the left’s foundations. The self-help culture fostered among poor women have kept them closely with the left at many crucial moments, but it has proved to be highly individualising; moreover, this culture is not immune to right-wing sensibilities at all, private and public. The large passive-beneficiary-oriented welfare system is also not beyond replication or at least close imitation by the right-wing if it secures power. On the other, the rise of Hindutva majoritarianism in the national horizon makes it attractive to a great many men, especially subaltern men, whose masculine insecurities have been on the rise for many reasons. And so we have seen men move too easily between the CPM and the BJP, and indeed, share positions, especially on gender – especially on the right to command women in public space.
The way to renew the mainstream left’s hegemony, perhaps, is to open itself up to a critique of patriarchy in its structure and functioning and to bring in all women, subaltern men, and people of all other genders, in large numbers — share power with them, defend their freedom, voice, equal rights, and agency. It is clear that only the left can take this path. In contrast, what the right cannot do is take the lead in establishing gender democracy given its deep embeddedness in regressive brahmanism. Again, the left can well acknowledge the force of the dalit and muslim critiques with no real loss to its self-understanding as left if it abandons short-sighted and dogmatic conceptions of itself. In short, the left could rebuild itself precisely by abandoning what it shares with the right.And this looks even more convincing to me in the wake of the relentless stream of casteist insults against the Chief Minister.
Comrade Vijayan, it is this streevaashi that we need to reclaim if we are to realize the dream of a Sangh-free and caste-free society in which women can claim equality and freedom. If in the 1990s the CPM bolstered its hegemony by inducting lakhs of women, however partially, into development, maybe now is the time to extend it further by acknowledging their freedom and independent agency, and more importantly, their critical abilities to expand the political imagination of the mainstream left?
You have been brave to support the women who entered the shrine. That is remarkable — as the proverb goes luck favours not the timid, but the brave. And extending the proverb, some have pointed out, only the prepared can really seize a chance. Prepare yourself by opening up to a critique of patriarchy and casteist exclusion, prepare yourself by acknowledging women’s inborn right to be free and equal.