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→
I have been reading with interest the exchange between Aditya Nigam and Satish Deshpande on the AAP’s strategy of avoiding ‘politics’ – or rather, distancing itself mostly from the polarised ideological debates while making small moves to shape for itself a space, arguably fuzzy, in the hegemonic discourse of Hindu. I am also witness to the unbelievably egregious attacks by the CPM leadership in Kerala against Islamist organizations protesting the CAA — the free reign granted to an explicitly communalised police force, the appallingly soft treatment of Hindutva offenders, even when they make open threats that warn Malayalis to ‘remember Gujarat’, the wanton attack on internal dissidents in the CPM using the worst instruments of the security states such as the UAPA, and the threat to dismantle the pandal of the Shaheen Bagh solidarity satyagraha in Thiruvananthapuram, something even Amit Shah has not dared to do (thankfully withdrawn after public outrage), and its blatant caste-elite majoritarian thrust while claiming to be the (sole) guardians of secularism. Continue reading Thoughts on the AAP’s Hindu Gestures from Kerala’s History→
Two massive calamities, tremendous losses, continuing signs of serious ecological destruction impending — yet all we Malayalis seem to have produced in response: two reports, and even more frenzied strategic calculation. There is little doubt that the disasters happened in the first place at least partially because of the latter, but there seems to be no rethinking. Instead, we have strategic agents refurbishing their strategies to the new circumstances.
What else explains the Kerala government’s Rebuilding Kerala Development Programme Report (RKDPR)? It popped up all of a sudden around the end of last year, after the UN-led Post-Disaster Needs Assessment Report (PDNAR), and even members of the Chief Minister’s Advisory Council were caught unawares. The economist K P Kannan, whose life’s work has been focused on Kerala’s economy, a member of the Council, remarked in a recent interview in the Sastragathy that they did not know of it until the third meeting of the council. None knew who put it together, and there is no mention of this in the report itself. It draws heavily but selectively on the PDNAR, but also perhaps on the projects that were prepared for World Bank funding – and Kannan reaffirms this impression. The draft report was made available online for comments but there is no clear idea about these experts or the public consultations.Continue reading Two Reports and Many Strategic Agents: Post-Disaster Thinking in Kerala→
Yesterday’s high drama at Sabarimala told us quite a lot about the games that politicians play in Kerala. Rehana Fatima, a young woman activist who decided to take the challenge (it is now a challenge, since the trekking path to the shrine is in effect controlled by Hindutva goons heaping verbal abuse, threatening open violence, and using children as shields) had to face not only the naked threats of the so-called bhakths and the vandalisation of her home at Kochi by the same elements, she had also to swallow the Kerala Minister Kadakampally Surendran’s jibe that Sabarimala was not a playground for ‘activists’! By saying so, he hinted that only ‘pure’, ‘untainted’ women believers who are apparently by definition not activists, can be helped by the Kerala Police to reach the shrine. So much for Pinarayi Vijayan’s evocation of Kerala’s legacy of enlightened Hinduism!
I write to you as a citizen, so unlike the many eulogies and appeals you have received recently, this will not be sugar-coated. You have received much praise, which is indeed well-deserved. But most of us have done, and are still doing, our duty well, but there is no need to indulge in any more self-praise.
Today morning, The Hindu reported a decision of the Communist-led Kerala government: “The State Cabinet on Thursday decided to appoint a consultancy firm to guide in the post-floods reconstruction. The Cabinet is understood to have decided to appoint KPMG as its consultants on the subject.”
Kerala is the land of my birth, and my life is intertwined closely and inseparably with the lives of all fellow-Malayalis. I will respect and remember this truth and will never think of my life as totally unrelated to nature, my neighbours, and the government that we elect to rule us.
[This is the text of the open letter to the Chief Minister of Kerala from the celebrated Tamil poet Rajathi Salma, a leading literary and activist voice from South India whose writing has often revealed the pain and poignancy of women’s unfreedoms and the denial of a creative life of choice to them. This is about the never-ending agony that the confinement of a young woman, Hadiya, by her father, has become. Hadiya is to be heard by the Supreme Court of India on 27 November 2017, but the Kerala government refuses to take responsibility for her safe travel to Delhi, after many many pleas from civil society] Continue reading Hadiya’s Safety is the Kerala Government’s Responsibility: Rajathi Salma writes to the Chief Minister of Kerala→
[The title is inspired by Balachandran Chullikkad’s searing poetry]
I have recently been asked about why I didn’t write anything about the anniversary of the CPM-led government of Kerala. Have also been asked why I don’t write about politics in Kerala anymore. The answer to the first is easy and painless: governments are not organic things. You measure your kid’s height and weight and other things and think about how they have grown in their minds and hearts on their birthdays. There is nothing that proves that anniversaries are the best occasions to reflect on how governments have grown and thrived. The answer to the second question is more conflicted and excruciatingly painful: it is because we have no politics in Kerala, but plenty of anti-politics. therefore, what one needs to do is invest in the silent, unglamorous, unpopular, long-haul intellectual and political labour that may preserve the possibilities of politics in the future, and that may even create internalities capable of courage and responsibility necessary for being political. Continue reading Losing the Soul’s Acid Tongue … Terrorist State, Unbowed Children at Kerala’s Puthvype→
In his address to the media in Thiruvananthapuram after the Left won the mandate in Kerala, Sitaram Yechury announced two positions to be given to two leaders of his own party who had successfully contested the elections from there. One is that of the leader of the legislative party of the CPI-M, or effectively the chief ministership of Kerala. That went to Pinarayi Vijayan. The other one went to V.S. Achuthanandan. He is made the Fidel Castro of Kerala. Yechury, the embattled general secretary of the party who is also known to be closer to VS than to Vijayan, elaborated on the function of the second position since, seemingly, he felt that people could develop doubts about the implication of this honour, if not an anxiety whether the left victory in a single assembly election is turning Kerala into Cuba. He clarified that VS will be an inspirational symbol providing advice and direction to the new government, and added that the veteran leader could not head the government due to his advanced age and poor health. Yechury was, of course, flanked by the state secretary of the party Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and VS himself. The suspense thriller of this election thus had the curtain fall, with an anti-climactic scene of unity.
It would deprive us of a unique opportunity to know another meaning of the mandate if we ignore how Yechury has read it. He interpreted the mandate in the same address to the media that was held in Kerala’s capital. He had a special reading to offer us, indeed different from what we all would ordinarily imagine. His reading is distinguished from ours by its methodology itself. He does not look at the assembly elections with reference to states where elections have taken place now. According to him, elections took place in 820 seats. He took out his cell phone and provided the statistics of the results. The BJP could win only in 64 assembly seats, the Congress in 115 whereas the Left has been victorious in 124. He said that this was “the absolute ground reality”. He assured us, the anxious beings, further that this reality implied no such threat as the return of the saffron. When a journalist mentioned to him the victory of the Trinamool Congress that had won above 210 seats in West Bengal, he said he had in mind only the national parties. So, we are expected to understand if we haven’t yet, that the Left’s is indeed an impressive performance as a national party!
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→