All posts by jdevika

And Now, Fears of ‘Intellectual Jihad’!

Hameed Chennamangalur’s recent article in the Mathrubhoomi Weekly (16 May) in Malayalam seems to have set alight a new round of fears about the ‘hidden agenda’ of Muslim extremism . Over the past weeks many friends, mostly left-liberals, have been urging me to take heed of the warning issued by Chennamangalur, a well-known, long-time critic of Muslim identity politics.

The article that has sparked off such worries takes a line that is quite familiar: it accuses the Jamaat-e-Islami in Kerala of pursuing their ‘hidden agenda’ of establishing the dominance of radical Islam through secular means. Chennamangalur argues that the Jamaat has ‘penetrated’ the space of radical activism through its all-male youth organizations such as the Solidarity Youth Movement, and through setting the terms of radical activist debate through its popular weekly magazine, the Madhyamam. Its recent efforts at discussing such ideas as Muslim feminism, and Muslim feminist thinkers such as Amina Wadood and Fatima Mernissi can only be regarded as cover-ups for a strategy through which it seeks to displace the more liberal and plural Muslim League — something he finds worrying in the present context in which the Jamaat is making a bid to enter local governance through contesting the forthcoming panchayat elections in Kerala. He laments that the radical intellectuals in Kerala are becoming mere pawns of this strategy; they do not see, for instance, that despite all the support that the Madhyamam offers dalit intellectuals, it remains biased heavily towards upper-caste Muslims, unlike the Communist Party in Kerala, which, he claims, offered upward mobility and political presence to dalit leaders in its fold. Continue reading And Now, Fears of ‘Intellectual Jihad’!

Peeing in Peace and the Revival of Labour Activism in Kerala

The city of Kozhikode in northern Kerala has seen many a spectacular public protest by women since the 1930s. Recently, it witnessed a truly unique protest which hopefully reveal the shape of things to come. This was over the denial of safe toilet facilities to women, especially the large numbers of underpaid and overworked women employees in the city shops.The issue was successfully raised by the action committee organized by Penkoottu,an organisation of women workers in the city–  which included many  organizations including the feminist group Anveshi,the Muslim women’s organization Nisa, some activists of the Mahila Congress, and independent activists. Continue reading Peeing in Peace and the Revival of Labour Activism in Kerala

The Many ‘Vices’ of Chitralekha

Chitralekha, a dalit woman from Payyanur, Kannur, has been in the news since 2005, for her open challenge to the CITU in that left bastion. An autorickshaw driver, she had protested at the CITU’s constant interference at work and the intensely male hostility against her presence in an almost exclusively male line of work. Braving ‘character-assault’ from the CITU which called her a ‘loose woman’, a ‘regular drunk’ and so on, she continued working until,in December 2005, her autorickshaw was burned down. She fought, however, and was supported by various Dalit, Feminists and Citizen’s initiatives. In June 2008, she procured a new autorickshaw with their support. This did not mean that she was now acceptable to the CITU . Now recently, she complained that the CITU had seized a chance encounter to beat her and her husband, and the police, who arrived on the scene, took them to the police station and unleashed even worse violence. Her complaints have been ignored or treated with hostility by the mainstream media in Kerala. Activists and concerned persons in and outside Kerala, however, have rallied to her support. Continue reading The Many ‘Vices’ of Chitralekha

Inaugurated: The Malabar Moral Police!

The dastardly attack on the eminent writer Paul Zachariah by the DYFI in the CPM fortress of Payyanur in north Kerala on 10 January has been roundly condemned across the political spectrum in Kerala. Zacharia was heckled and abused at a literary seminar organized by a publisher for  criticizing the moral policing  practiced by the official left in Kerala. He condemned the recent DYFI-PDP joint ‘moral action’ against the Congress leader Rajmohan Unnithan and a Sewa Dal leader which, according to the the DYFI leadership, were ‘provocative’. Zacharia was accosted by a gang of men when he was about to leave Payyanur and openly threatened. He was told that such talk was not permitted in the left bastion of Payyanur; when the threat did not produce the desired reaction, they resorted to physical intimidation, and relented only after the intervention of the organizers who are CPM sympathizers, and other writers present there. The day after, prominent leaders in the CPM, including the Chief Minister and the Minister for Education, condemned the action. Continue reading Inaugurated: The Malabar Moral Police!

Protest and Terrorism, Is there a Difference?

Sufiya Madani of the PDP has been granted conditional bail by the Ernakulam Sessions Court Judge after a tense wait following her arrest on 17 December. She was remanded to judicial custody by the first class magistrate court at Aluva which had refused her bail. Meanwhile, the mainstream media went on a speculation-spree, even publishing ‘evidence’ that she had abetted terrorism and violence — the burning of a bus owned by the Tamil Nadu Road Transport Corporation at Kalamassery in 2005 during protests against the PDP leader Abdul Nasser Madani’s (Sufiya’s husband) continued detention in the Coimbatore jail . Continue reading Protest and Terrorism, Is there a Difference?

Savarna Terror Erupts in Kerala

(with inputs from Mythri Prasad Aleyamma)
I admit, this title sounds sensationalist. But one can hardly avoid resorting to it when confronted with utterly stupefying news of attacks on dalit colonies almost next door to Kerala’s capital city and nerve centre of Malayalee politics, and that too, by a minor anti-political force that has a legacy of anti-South Indian hatred — the Siva Sena. And of course when one is confronted with the hard, stony silence of almost all sections of the media about this. The mystery of the murder of an elderly, innocent morning-walker in Varkala, a town close to Thiruvananthapuram (of which I wrote in an earlier post) still remains a mystery; the police story is so full of holes that it looks like a sieve. But the Guardians of our Free Press are still lapping police versions and not conducting independent investigation. Activists who have dared to do so have been heckled and hounded, even senior and respected human rights activists like B.R.P.Bhaskar, by the Siva Sena, and their protests have been ignored. Meanwhile violence continues to be unleashed against the supporters of the group that has been accused of murder, the Dalit Human Rights Movement (DHRM).

Continue reading Savarna Terror Erupts in Kerala

Who’s at ‘Jihad’? : ‘Love Jihad’ and the Judge in Kerala

It looked as if the controversy over ‘Love Jihad’ ( ‘jihad defined as ‘war by other means’) had  blown over with state authorities in Kerala and Karnatake denying that such a threat ever existed.The Central Government informed the Kerala High Court early this month that there was no such thing and that the term ‘love jihad’ was being used by the media.However, today, the Kerala High Court openly voiced its scepticism of police reports, claiming that the reports were inconsistent and citing various technical flaws.The Court claims that it is abiding by the secular spirit of the Indian Constitution: it agrees that the freedoms to choose one’s faith and one’s partner in marriage are fundamental rights. However, it feels that the present instances of marriage and conversions that have been brought to its attention are not the exercise of freedom by individuals — specifically, by young women, though the Court does not say it that way. It is difficult to imagine a more anti-Muslim and anti-woman position; and it is a serious matter that the muddle-headed reasoning of the judge has been uncritically circulated in the dominant media.
Continue reading Who’s at ‘Jihad’? : ‘Love Jihad’ and the Judge in Kerala