To the National Leadership which is currently participating in the 13th National Conference of the AIDWA in Thiruvananthapuram.
Dear sisters in struggle
I write to you from Kerala, where the CPM is currently in power for a second time, a rare achievement indeed, in a state where power changes hands usually in each election. I know that most of you hail from places where the CPM is very far from power. I know the difference that makes to activism.
GR Santhosh Kumar captured the crux of the unbelievable denigration of democracy by the ruling CPM leadership who are out to defend their local level leaders guilty of the grossest patriarchy that rivals any khap panchayat misogyny. The context is the ongoing struggle by a couple, Anupama Chandran and Ajithkumar, to find their baby who was abducted by her parents, both influential local-level leaders of the CPM, last year and given away illegally for adoption. The story of Anupama’s experience of unspeakable death threats, physical violence, cheating, exposure to health risk, forced confinement, denial of vital information and means of communication, casteist insults, and on and on strips off the claims of women’s empowerment which the left in Kerala has claimed for so long. On social media, thousands of left supporters have literally rubbished women’s rights and the Indian Constitutional morality itself, even as the AIDWA in Kerala has been largely struck dumb.
The cartoon is a spoof on Raja Ravi Varma’ famous mother-and-child painting ‘Here Comes Papa’ in which an aristocratic woman dressed in a way identifiable as ‘traditional’ holds her baby and points to it the unseen ‘papa’ . Though the cartoon is captioned ‘Know the pain of the adopting mother’, an obvious reference to the cry by CPM sympathisers on social media that the child need not be returned, and that the adopting mother was fitter, and though the protagonists here are Pinarayi Vijayan and Anupama’s father, Peroorkkada Jayachandran, who he has been defending, it has layers. Ajithkumar’s dalit status and his earlier marriage has, in the eyes of CPM supporters, rendered him unfit for fatherhood — of a child by the daughter of an influential CPM family. Papa, then, and Papa’s coming, continues to be our favourite obsession.
Throughout the terrible times we have seen these last two years, it is the news from Kerala that has helped so many of us to keep faith in governance – that a state can be honest, open, participatory, concerned for its people, focused on health, and not play politics, all of these have been remarkable and many of us, Keralites and non-Keralites alike, have drawn valuable lessons from the Kerala experience.
Today morning we woke up to the news that the Child Welfare Committee has ordered that Anupama’s child must be brought to Kerala in five days for a DNA test.
However, the process is still overseen by the officials who directly connived to give the baby away for adoption. The family’s criminal acts are still under a very lax, lagging investigation. Anupama’s educational certificates are still in their possession and the police refuses to intervene to restore them to her.
Indeed, the evil that Prof Kannabiran identifies so excellently in this letter must still be fought, until justice is done. Just the return of the child to Kerala cannot replace justice. Anupama suffered tremendous domestic violence, deliberate endangerment, cheating, and illegal custody at the hands of her family. That cannot be papered over,
… we are troubled that the state finds it hard to grant a woman the right to lead a life of her choice and to have custody over her child. These are hard won rights, and it has taken generations of struggle by women, many of whom are from your state, to secure both civil and legal acknowledgement for women’s rights to marriages of their choice, and for their right to motherhood, divorce, adoption and so on.
That the entire state machinery, ostensibly at the behest of parents who are important functionaries in the ruling party, has been deployed to not only keep the baby, mother and father apart but hem them in such a way that redressal will require untangling of very many complex issues that have deliberately been tied together, reveals the deep and destructive patriarchal underpinnings of the party and family.
Anupama has committed no crime. She got pregnant. She did not murder anyone. She did not rob a bank. She did not betray the nation. She committed no terroristic threats or acts. She is not a smuggler, a thief, a rapist, or a crook. She got pregnant. Getting pregnant is not a crime. She got pregnant and decided to keep her baby. This is not a crime.
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.
I should be forgiven for this flippant-sounding title. But it is a living reality in Kerala that gender politics is increasingly reduced to soppy sentimental drama. Honestly, if there are CPM supporters out there, especially the Delhi-elite breed who call this title mere click-bait, I don’t give a flying fuck about what you think. You are not living this nightmare, we are.