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.
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.
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→