Restore Faith in Kerala’s Progressive Legacy — Open Letter to the Chief Minister of Kerala: Prof Mohan Rao

The strange case of ‘honour-baby-snatching”,: involving a local-level CPM leader in Thiruvananthapuram city, Peroorkkada Jayachandran is still haunting us despite every attempt by the CPM cyberwarriors to smother it. Mr Jayachandran still feels completely justified and hundreds of left supporters, including so-called progressive women, are ready to proclaim that this dastardly act is a ‘father’s right’. Mr Jayachandran’s nineteen year old daughter Anupama fell in love with a dalit man, a leader of the DYFI, got pregnant by him, and decided to keep the child. Anupama’s parents decided that there was loss of honour in this and proceeded to perpetrate unspeakable violence on the young woman, trying to force her to abort her baby, and finally by snatching away her baby days after it was born. They twisted the entire machinery of child protection and adoption and the police to give the child away without the consent of its parents.

What is absolutely chilling however is the silence or indifference of Malayali left intellectuals. I feel less mortified by the rotten conservatism pouring out of many left supporters than by the unbelievable indifference of our poets, writers, scholars and artists. However, the left outside Kerala has been more vocal and concerned about socialist ethics. Prof Mohan Rao who has fought long and bravely beside the left in JNU writes these powerful words to the Chief Minister of Kerala, below.

15th November 2021


Sri Pinarayi Vijayan
Hon. Chief Minister

Dear Mr.Chief Minister,

As a progressive person who reposes faith in the Indian Constitution and as an admirer of Kerala’s vast achievements in social development in the twentieth century, the news of the forcible removal of a young infant for adoption without the consent of its parents with the connivance of the police and the Kerala State government’s child welfare machinery, comes as an immense shock to me. That this has been done at the behest of the grandparents of the infant seeking to protect their family “honour”, in Kerala, is even more shocking.

While I am aware that patriarchy is strongly embedded in the social fabric of Kerala, it is in Kerala that we expect the fight against entrenched patriarchy to begin, led by progressive forces that believe in equality and justice that includes gender equality and gender justice.

I wish to state that there can be no justification at all for the acts of the parents of the young mother, by no standard of socialist morality. The perversion of the state machinery to help them under the watch of a left government must be speedily remedied. The officials of the Child Welfare Committee who have obviously connived in this matter must be removed from their positions until the inquiry is complete. Indeed, letting them stay in their positions only allows the injustice to be perpetrated.

Let me also point out that this issue is not merely one of restoring a child to its true parents. It is about the misuse of government machinery to achieve a socially-regressive end and about the use of misinformation and sheer bureaucratic delay to slow down and thereby deny justice to the aggrieved. The prospect of tyranny is thereby advanced — and this is no honour for a communist government that holds out the hope of redemption from right-wing oppression.

A few years back, I had attended a conference on gender equality, where I had organised a panel. The conference had been sponsored by the government of Kerala and was held in Thiruvananthapuram. It was a magnificent conference, where the then Health Minister unveiled an extraordinarily progressive policy on the rights of trangenders. The same Health Minister announced in a plenary that he would move a resolution in the Assembly for the government of Kerala to implead itself in the legal fight against Section 377, then being heard in the Supreme Court of India.

It is this leadership role that we expect from the government of Kerala.

I appeal to you to kindly restore the confidence of the aggrieved couple by taking the necessary steps to prevent manipulation of the reversal of adoption proceedings by the suspect officials and to ensure transparent procedures and speedy justice.

With regards,

Mohan Rao

Former professor, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

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