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.Continue reading The Angry Young Woman and the Malayali (Progressive) Acchan -2 : The Second Season
Before I start, a request: Friends who are reading this, if you are close to Noam Chomsky, Amartya Sen, or Soumya Swaminathan, or the other left-liberals who appear in the Kerala government-sponsored talk series from outside Kerala, please do forward this to them? I hope to reach them.
The Left government in Kerala is gathering its international intellectual-activist support base to cash on its commendable — ongoing — success in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. This is not new — it has always been part of the dominant Left’s hegemony-bolstering exercises, especially after the 1990s, when its unquestionable hegemony in Kerala began to face a series of challenges. It has also been forced to pay attention to the oppositional civil society which relentlessly questions the dominant Left’s fundamental understanding of social justice and forces it to take seriously such ideas as freedom, autonomy, as well as identities not reducible to class. Continue reading Why does the Left in Kerala fear Rehana Fathima and not COVID- 19?
One of the effects of the pandemic in Kerala, like in most other parts of the world, is that the government’s narrative muffles all other narratives, and this is not just about the containment of the pandemic. Here the government’s narrative about the pandemic enjoys far greater legitimacy than elsewhere, and with good reason. It is true that Kerala’s greater successes in dealing with the pandemic are unique and commendable; however, to think that therefore, the government is right on everything else is probably a huge mistake. Continue reading The Limits of Public Health Management: Time to Rethink Development in Kerala
As we in Kerala gear up for the long struggle that can cease only when the evil of Hindutva is finally uprooted from India and Kerala, and only after the toxins that it has spewed is wiped clean from the hearts and souls of our brethren, my only request is: please do not forget Allen and Twaha. Continue reading Do not Forget Allen and Twaha as we fight the U-r-b-a-n N-a-z-i
Last year, around this time, I wrote you an open letter about the plight of Hadiya Asokan who was being hunted down by the Hindutva groups for her choice of faith and partner while the CPM and its cyber force was either actively abetting the violence or watching passively. I wrote in joy, because you had taken a firm stand and despite angry howls of protest against you from your own party. However, this time, I write in sheer despair at your silence; not just yours, but of the AIDWA in Kerala in general, in the wake of the twisted machinations of the Hindutva forces around the Supreme Court’s order permitting the entry of women of menstruating ages to the Sabarimala temple. Continue reading An Open Letter to Brinda Karat about Rehana Fathima: Why are we being hunted in Kerala?
It looks like the CPM’s enmity towards the Muslim organizations is such that they do not mind sacrificing women’s human rights and reinforcing the patriarchal family just to teach them a lesson. So they are happy to stick with the Sanghi understanding of conversion as necessarily forced in some way, ideological or physical. Media One broke news yesterday about a Sanghi torture camp for Hindu women who marry Christians or Muslims concealed as a yoga center. A woman incarcerated there for marrying a Christian managed to escape and complain to the police. Sixty-five women were reportedly incarcerated there when she was an inmate (a later report, after the place was shut down today on the order of the High Court, said 22 women and 23 men were allegedly for reconversion) . The reconversion therapy includes physical assault and threats. This 28-year-old woman married a Christian man without converting and her family seems to have initially accepted it. However, she was taken to this yoga cum counseling center by her own family without her consent and they left her there to the mercy of the criminals who ran the place. She also confirms that a young woman, Athira from Kasaragod, who had chosen to convert to Islam on her own who recently ‘returned’ to ‘Sanatana dharma’ with much fanfare, was in this place for twenty-two days and that she had continued to insist on her preference for Islam.
This place is in Tripunithura, in the heart of urban Kerala quite near the High Court at Ernakulam, which damned Hadiya’s right to choose her faith and a partner. Apparently, it is the Sanghi gang from this place who visited Hadiya at her father’s house. Here is the story:
So it appears that the Sangh is clearly seeking to reverse what is an outcome of long-term social processes shaped by increasing access to higher education for most social groups in Kerala. Women entered higher education here in larger numbers in the 1980s and Muslims, men and women, since the 1990s till now. The expansion of the media and cellphones is such that young people are not influenced solely by their parents or community. In other words, there is a greater livelihood of women and men choosing partners actors communities. Even sensible people here whisper about how zealous Muslims are about conversion away from Islam but the discourse of Hindu tolerance is so pervasive that it lets concentration camp proliferate in secret. The response of the CPM participant is truly revealing — indeed, this is cutting the nose to spite the face. Whatever be their position about welfare and economic development, the CPM in Kerala seems appallingly on the side of the Hindutva security state. And the questions this raises for the fabled autonomy of women here that the CPM ideologues never ceases to claim credit for, are huge.
This is probably the calculation of utility that underlies the chilling indifference/ outright contempt of the CPM leadership towards the plight of the Muslims: the average CPM and CPI supporter is the middle-caste ex-avarna middle-aged male of the middle or lower middle class. This gentleman’s preferences are such that his utility is maximised by staying with the organized dominant left in matters related to securing public resources to private ends (because the mobilization for that, given Kerala’s demographics and history needs to be necessarily by a multi-community mix) and by sticking to community/caste organizations for family matters. This choice has always been detrimental to women’s personal rights, particularly personal choices. The community/caste organizations of the 20th century are becoming more of economic institutions than social — and they manage the vast community assets once secured from governments for public ends now securing mainly the interests of the community elite. The social, however, is undergoing rapid transformation, and indeed, sections of the young now even dare to define the social for themselves. Into this gap steps the Sangh, desperate to make an entry, now that their efforts to secure the ex-avarnas have failed (because of their own irremediable casteism). The above-mentioned gentleman finds it prudent to use their services in making sure that the young stay under his patriarchal thumb. Especially young women, for they have nobody to really defend their rights. Thus arise the thriving if silent business of reconversion, well-protected from public view by the pervasive Islamophobia of the Right and Left, believers and rationalists. Also remember that in a post-demographic society, children are few and they are more akin to trophies that future labour for the family. The dominant left sees that as long as they don’t disturb this gentleman’s efforts to secure his patriarchal authority through whatever means, however violent, crude, and abhorrent to democracy they may be, they retain influence. In other words, the tattered influence of the dominant left — no longer hegemonic — endures through, among other things, looking away from the social and the familial as hierarchical institutions and the abuses. This is why a sexual attack on a film actor elicits a huge response from the feminist supporters of the CPM, while the unlawful confinement of a far less privileged young woman is largely ignored or supported ‘personally’. The dominant left leadership reasons this to be its best strategy, since it loses nothing by letting the Sanghis handle family affairs. The presence of the Sangh works well for it too, since very many Muslims and Christians, who are sizeable in demographic and economic terms, will turn to it for protection from the Sangh!! This strategy has worked hitherto, and the sole risk lies in the gentleman ceasing to remain a Rational Agent and joining the ranks of the Indo-Gangetic barbarians, essentially irrational in the Kerala context (I keep urging them to leave for Haryana in pursuit of what must be their choices if they choose to become such barbarians). But this has been largely limited to the upper caste Hindus and some sections of elite Christians who regret the loss of traditional power and hope that the Sangh will restore it. They are not the growing power, demographically or economically. Meanwhile, the effete rationalists generate a ‘secularised’ Islamophobia that serves as a neutral-sounding justification for the government’s inactivity.
There are very few moments in which I have felt so lonely. Almost everyone I know seems to be a player, a rational agent, in this game, either participating or creating justifications for the strategy or participating by simply looking away and remaining silent. But this loneliness is so much more dignified — and indeed, more human. I stand with the six young women who braved the Sangh and the police trying to reach Hadiya; I condemn those who serve up her father’s sickening sentimental patriarchal shit in the public in a way that renders them vulnerable. Hadiya’s father who had not the slightest compunction in approaching the High Court and painting his own daughter a potential terrorist such that her entire life promises to be hell (even if she escapes his confinement), is showered with sympathy by our critical intellects for being a poor worried father. Meanwhile, a radical student who claims to be on Hadiya’s side flings abuse on me for wearing a sleeveless blouse, for leaving my hair untied – she does not even notice that her tirade is so like a Brahmanical patriarch’s diatribe against the well-known signs of Kali — immodest women with their hair open — such missiles seem convenient for all, radical Ambedkarites even, to use against those they dislike. The only silver lining in this mess is that it reveals with unprecedented and astounding clarity, the enormous risks, dangers, and material losses ahead of anyone who wants to remain human, and not what is substitutable with Artificial Intelligence. And that in order to be popular, you must swim with some tide or the other. But I’d rather be human than popular, still.
Shame on all of you — AIDWA leaders, Brinda Karat, M S Josephine, C K Asha, Geeta Nazir, Sreemathi teacher, Shylaja teacher — all of you women adherents of the CPM and CPI. If Hadiya dies in that horrible hell, her blood is on your hands. Her rights are already dead and you have done precious little.
We, the undersigned, wish to express our dismay and deep concern about the recent violent events at University College, Thiruvananthapuram, which seem to indicate that the rights of college students, especially women students, are seriously compromised in this venerable institution. As women researchers, academics and teachers of Malayali origin, we are deeply disappointed by the responses of the police, the concerned college authorities, and the teachers there. Continue reading An Appeal to the Education Minister of Kerala and the Teachers of the University College, Thiruvananthapuram
The police investigation about the bomb blast at the Kollam Collectorate on 15 June 2016 has now turned against us. Neither the organization nor its activists have any involvement in this incident. The accusation against us is just a ploy to use draconian laws such as the UAPA to destroy dalit-adivasi resistance.
The demeaning and enslaving social norms in Kerala have, since centuries, denied dalit people the most basic human rights such as the right to education, the right to decently clothe one’s body, the right to travel on public roads, and express one’s views. But India became a democracy that aimed for social democratisation, and Dr B R Ambedkar raised the possibility of social equality and reservations for the underprivileged groups through the Indian Constitution. Yet, sixty-five years later, the classes fundamental to this society have made no social, economic, or cultural progress and they continue to endure caste slavery and and exploitation in all areas of public life. The mainstream political parties who surfaced as the protectors of these classes have never offered them complete protection at any time. Though they have been faithful followers and workers of these parties, members of the disadvantaged groups have had little economic security; they have lacked social education; they have had to cry out for tiny parcels of land. Continue reading Stop Trying to Portray Us as Extremists: Dalit Human Rights Movement
The hunt, it seems, is on again. The CPM in power has begun to show its fangs again, and shamefully, they seem to threaten only dalit people who refuse and criticise their disciplinary/welfarist embrace. In north Kerala, two dalit women were arrested for having allegedly attacked a DYFI leader who abused them in casteist terms. In the south, the persecution of the Buddhist Dalit Human Rights Movement (DHRM)seems to have begun afresh, with the police and the press foisting on them responsibility for the recent bomb blast at the premises of the Kollam Collectorate. The two women mentioned belong to the Congress party; as for the DHRM, the CPM has had a long-standing grouse against them, carried forward now from their last term in power. I am not sure, but the recent ouster of Laha Gopalan, the leader of the Chengara land struggle in the wake of the CPM’s return to power, could be part of this story too. I have no love lost for that man, who evoked the name of Ambedkar but ran the village set up by the landless in Chengara like a crude caste headman. But the timing of his expulsion and the way the village seems to be under the thumb of the police arouses discomfort. Continue reading Crushing Dignity, Force-feeding Honour: The CPM is Back in Form Again!
I do not write on Kafila as frequently as I used to because I don’t want to be writing stories of impending doom all the time. These are times in which we appear doomed, but it does not help to get obsessed with it; in fact, the obsession may actually hasten the downfall.
But these days, we also hear stories which may be told either way. For example, I can tell the story of the mining going on at Mookunnimala in Trivandrum as yet another episode in the continuing story of the destruction of our natural environment and its impending collapse. But I can also tell it another way, foregrounding the resistance that has shaped up there despite the formation of a deadly nexus of Kerala’s political parties, bureaucracy, predatory capitalists and other criminals against local people. Or, I can tell the story of the ‘development’ of the government school at Attakkulangara in the heart of Trivandrum city as another incident that proves the unrelenting march of ‘urban development’ which is nothing but shorthand for the steady takeover of prime urban space by corrupt officials and venal politicians. But it is also a David-and-Goliath tale of how a few dedicated members of the school’s old students’ association, and nature-lovers and environmental activists who go by the name Tree Walk managed to draw the attention of others, alert authorities, and arrest the steady pace of these forces. Continue reading Don’t let the Magic Fade: Thoughts on Kudumbashree’s Sixteenth Anniversary
No, this post is not mainly about the ghastly murder of the rebel communist leader T P Chandrasekharan at Vatakara in Kerala early this month. It appears clear now that irrespective of whether the CPM leadership was directly involved or not, local CPM cadre were involved in the conspiracy. Certainly, it is an act gruesome enough to feed nightmares through many nights. And the way the gory details of the planning and execution of the murder continue to appear in the print and visual media, the Malayalee public is almost on its knees, holding on to their stomachs, racked by seemingly never-ending bouts of nausea. But I have my reasons for not wanting to focus on this incident here, reasons more than the sheer irritation felt with sections of the media that demand shrilly that ‘cultural leaders’ have not condemned the murder sufficiently. Continue reading The Anti-Politics of Murder
If I weren’t aware of Kerala’s more vibrant political past,I’d have died laughing this elections. The election campaign in Kerala was impossibly funny. Just to give you an example — in Thiruvananthapuram, in the middle of the campaign, we were treated to the spectacle of all the three major contenders — of the CPI, the Congress, and BJP — don the costume of the chivalrous knight — indeed, pushing and shoving each other quite unchivalrously– determined to rescue the damsel in distress. However, there was no damsel waiting to be rescued! Continue reading Vaikom Viswan and Little Bo-Peep