Kerala: Communal politics goes viral

April 11, 2012 by  
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Kerala, April 10, 2012: The communal genii whose support the Congress invoked to oust Kerala’s first Communist government more than 50 years ago are still around and turning the state’s politics viral.

Across the fractured polity there is animated discussion on how the decision of the Indian Union Muslim League, the second largest constituent of the Congress-led United Democratic Front, to press its year-old demand for an additional ministerial berth will affect the communal balance.

The third largest UDF constituent, the Kerala Congress (Mani), a camouflaged Christian formation with a Nair sprinkle, supports the League demand. However, several prominent Congressmen as well as leaders of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Nair Service Society of the forward Nair community and Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam of the backward Ezhava community have said raising League representation in the government will upset the communal balance.

While forming the government after the UDF scraped through with a 72-68 majority in the 140-member assembly in last year’s elections, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy offered the League four ministerial berths, as in his previous government. However, League president Hyderali Shihab Thangal named Manjalamkuzhi Ali as the party’s fifth minister. Last week he demanded that Ali must be sworn in along with Anoop Jacob of the Kerala Congress (Jacob), who won the Piravam by-election and is waiting to take his late father’s place in the council of ministers.

Unable to resist the League’s pressure, the chief minister has tossed the problem into the high command’s lap. He has also reportedly proposed that the League be offered assembly speakership, now held by a Congressman, in lieu of fifth ministership.

The League’s stubbornness and the Kerala Congress’s support to it are manifestations of growing communal assertiveness, origins of which can be traced to the ‘liberation struggle’ of 1959 which gave the Centre the pretext to dismiss the Communist ministry.

The prime movers behind the agitation were the Church, which was infuriated by the government’s attempt to curb exploitation of teachers by private managements, a majority of which are under different Christian denominations, and the NSS, which resented dismantling of the feudal system of land ownership dominated by Hindu forward castes.

The Praja Socialist Party and the Indian Union Muslim League, which had influence among Muslims of the Malabar region, made common cause with the Congress. In the elections that followed the government’s ouster the three parties together worsted the Communists. Averse to accommodating the successor of the pre-Partition Muslim League in the Cabinet, the Congress placated it with the Speakership.

After the Congress ended its ties with the League, the CPI-M stepped in. As its ally, the League got two Cabinet berths. That helped it earn political respectability. Playing his cards well in the days of political uncertainty, C.H. Mohammed Koya, leader of the 13-member League legislature party, became chief minister in 1979. However, the government lasted only 50 days.

The Kerala Congress was formed by a group of Christian and Nair legislators who revolted against backward class chief minister R. Sankar and walked out of the Congress in 1964. It has undergone many splits and mergers, but its caste/religious composition remains unchanged.

The League is now a part of the state’s political establishment. For the past several decades it has been with the Congress. Since 2009 it is also represented in the Congress-led government at the Centre.

The cry of communal imbalance is a response to the perceived over-representation of the minority communities in the present government. Of the 21 ministers sworn in last year, six, including the chief minister, were Christians and five Muslims. That made the minorities, which together account for 44 per cent of the population, a majority in the government. A fifth League minister will distort the picture further.

However, this is not the first skewed government in the state’s history. In the last Left Democratic Front government the minorities were heavily under-represented. Of the 21 ministers, only two were Muslims, although the community accounts for nearly a quarter of the population. Christians who constitute 19 per cent were better off with four ministers.

Gross imbalance between the forward and backward castes has also been a feature of successive governments. In the present Cabinet there are only two ministers from the backward Ezhava community, which is said to account for 22 per cent of the population. In the last LDF government, it had six members, including the chief minister. All four ministers of the CPI were from that community.

The cause of the persistent communal imbalance is the narrow social base of the political parties. While Hindus constitute only 56 percent of the population they form 80 percent of the CPI-M membership. The caste/religious breakup of Congress membership is not known, but its leadership is widely perceived as a combine of Savarna elements of the Christian and Hindu religions. The formula the state leadership has placed before the Congress high command reinforces this perception. It envisages increased Cabinet representation to the Hindu forward caste to contain fallout resulting from gift of Speakership to the Muslim League.

The narrow religious base of the League and the Kerala Congress is just one of the problems. Their geographical base and gender base too are narrow. More representation for them in the Cabinet means more men from the same religions and same regions.

– brp bhaskar, ians

Archbishop: Kudankulam concern not baseless *Kerala: Marxists bat for minorities

April 9, 2012 by  
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Concerns over Kudankulam not baseless, says archbishopTamil Nadu, April 08, 2012: He said that the authorities should address these concerns before going ahead with the project.

Archbishop Susai Pakam of Trivandrum has said that concerns of people regarding the Kudankulam nuclear power plant are not baseless.

He said that the authorities should address these concerns before going ahead with the project.

“Although experts repeatedly claim that the project is safe, incidents such as the Fukushima nuclear disaster only reaffirm the fact that the concerns aired by the local people about Kudankulam are not baseless,” the prelate said after the ‘Way of the Cross’ procession for the Good Friday observance on April 6 in Thiruvananthapuram.

He lamented that instead of addressing the fears of the people of this small fishing hamlet, their agitation is now being suppressed.

Earlier, delivering the opening message ahead of the ceremony, head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Baselios Cleemis said that human life was more precious than development and growth.

The procession began from St. Joseph Metropolitan Cathedral, Palayam.

It was led by Archbishop Susai Pakiam, Archbishop Cleemis and Auxiliary Bishop of Trivandrum Samuel Mar Irenios.

Also called the ‘Nagarikanickal’ ritual, the ceremony is a re-enactment of the Christ’s final journey to Mount Calvary along 14 Stations of the Cross.

– the hindu

Marxists bat for minorities


Kerala, April 09, 2012: They criticized delay in implementation of Ranganath Misra Commission report.

Criticizing the federal government’s delay in implementing a report on minorities, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has said that Christians and Muslims of dalit origin should be included in the Scheduled Caste list.

The party also demanded 10 percent reservation for Muslims and additional reservation for other minorities in education and employment sector.

A resolution adopted at the party’s ongoing congress in Kozhikode, Kerala, protested the “deliberate” delay in the implementation of the Ranganath Misra Commission.

It drew attention to the Commission’s two recommendations — reservation of jobs for Muslims on grounds of social and economic backwardness and including Dalit Christians and Muslims in the Scheduled Caste list.

The party said the job reservation recommendation would require a law to end the present 50 percent limit on total reservation “arbitrarily imposed” by the Supreme Court.

The commission’s report had recommended an amendment to the 1950 Presidential Order which, it said, was discriminatory against schedule castes who had converted to either Islam or Christianity.

The CPI(M) meeting condemned the communal campaign of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (national volunteers corps)-BJP combine against this “legitimate right of the minorities for reservation in jobs and education and against the legitimate claims of Dalit Muslims and Christians.”

– the hindu

Mayawati responsible for plight of women in UP: Rahul *Being socially relevant in Kerala

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Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister MayawatiUttar Pradesh, February 12, 2012: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi Sunday blamed Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati for the sorry plight of women in the state.

“Even though this state is ruled by a woman chief minister, there is no one to hear the voice of women,” Gandhi said, addressing a pubic rally in this Uttar Pradesh district where polling is due Feb 15 in the third phase of the seven-phase assembly election.

“With a view to ensuring participation of women right down to the grassroots level, the Congress made it a point to give reservation to women in panchayats, but that is not being implemented in the true spirit in this state,” he alleged.

Citing a examples of injustice to women in the state, Gandhi said: “I was told by an old woman how her agricultural land was forcibly acquired for some builders. When the builder demanded immediate vacation of the plot, the woman complained to the local police station but to no avail.

“Police not only refused to intervene but even went to the extent of setting fire to the standing crop on the poor woman’s land,” he alleged.

Stressing he was not here to make promises like other political parties, he said: “When one has clear intentions, he need not make promises. I have not come here to make promises but to take UP on the path for change and I am sure that we will win this battle.”

“Ask Mayawati and (Samajwadi Party chief) Mulayam Singh Yadav whether they cared to visit any village in the last five years, but when they go about addressing election rallies, they were busy making tall promises,” he said, adding he wondered why they had not done so when in power.

Flaying successive non-Congress governments in Uttar Pradish where Congress had been out of power for 22 years, Gandhi asserted he was committed to the cause of Uttar Pradesh’s development.

“And I will not budge from here. Let me tell you that when I choose to take up something, I do not leave it halfway,” he said.

“Even if only one person from UP stands by me, I will continue to fight for you because you have been duped for 22 years,” Gandhi said.

He blamed the BSP, the Samajwadi Party as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for neglecting the state for “not doing anything to build the future of the state’s youth”.

He also accused all the three parties for fuelling corruption in the state and pilfering funds sent by the central government for various development tasks.

Gandhi later addressed another meeting in Zafrabad town of Jaunpur, followed by one in Kaushambhi and two meetings in Allahabad.

– ians

Being socially relevant in Kerala


Being socially relevant in KeralaKerala, February 11, 2012: Recent actions by the communist party has caused fury among the clergy and the ruling Congress. Last week I met John Peter, a Catholic selling tender coconut on the streets of Kochi. His red-colored headgear indicated his leftist sympathies. As he waited for customers, I tried to have a conversation with him and started by mentioning the recent controversy over depictions of Christ as a communist and the Church’s subsequent condemnation of them.

“Nonsense,” the seller said.

Which part was the nonsense, I asked: the Church’s condemnation or the communists’ depictions?

What followed was an hour-long lecture on how people have grown tired of discussing the war of words between the leaders of the Church and communists, how self-acclaimed intellectuals bring to centre-stage issues irrelevant to people’s daily lives.

“These people are a waste, and discussing them we waste time. Do something useful,” he concluded.

I purchased a coconut drink and then left.

Whether Peter is right or not, the history of communists in Kerala has always been marked by the leftists’ tussles with the Church. Nothing has changed in this southern Indian state, where the communists are in the opposition but continue aiming for power. They might well succeed. After all, it is the first place in the world where communists came to power through elections, in 1957.

Their recent expressions of solidarity with Christ, enlisting him among their leaders along with Marx, Engels and Che Guevara, should be seen in the light of political ambition and their struggle to build up losing relevance and cadre support.

Recent actions by the party designed to lessen the gap between Christians and communists has caused fury among the clergy and the ruling Congress Party, and has inspired widespread condemnation.

First, a party leader equated Christianity with communism by saying the religion follows the same ideals that communists embrace. This revelation came from Communist Party of India (Marxist) Central Committee member E P Jayarajan on January 28, ahead of the party’s state meet that began February 6.

A major controversy broke out days before the state-level meeting opened. An exhibition the party organized included a picture of the crucified Christ among those of communist leaders, as if to assert that Christ was among their leaders who struggled for the oppressed.

CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan justified the presence of the crucifix, saying Christ championed the cause of the oppressed just as communists are doing now.

Almost at the same time the party’s confederation of the labor unions sponsored a poster campaign in which they altered an image of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. It replaced Christ with US President Barack Obama and put a motley group of Indian politicians with him at the table. It was subtitled in Malayalam: “The last supper of capitalism…hope only in Marxism.”

They went a step further by also depicting St Sebastian, a popular saint among Kerala Christians, as a martyr who died “fighting oppression” under the Roman emperor Diocletian. The youth wing of the party (DYFI) did it in a poster that greeted a parish celebrating the saint’s feast.

When Church leaders condemned these actions, Vijyan volunteered in a public meeting to explain why his party draws inspiration from Christ. To help Church leaders understand it better, he explained it in terms of Latin American liberation theology and quoted from the Bible.

Vijayan and his cadres are familiar with liberation theology, thanks to some Catholic priests who attempted to practice the Latin American liberation model among the fisher-people on Kerala’s southern coast in the 1980s. That experiment failed when the official Church began to explain it as the “sugar-coated poison” of communists and blacklisted priests who they suspected were communist sympathizers.

But that gave enormous courage to communists to quote the Bible and find similarities with the teachings of Christ and the theories of Marx, causing confusion among ordinary Catholics. A group of devout Catholic youth once told me they were convinced that being a good Christian would mean being a good communist because a Christian is called to struggle for equality and to fight oppression and exploitation. I knew of a Church-going septuagenarian who had Marx’s picture in his scapular. In some huts of fisher-people, I have seen pictures of Marx and Engels alongside the Sacred Heart and Mother of Perpetual Help.

This confused assertion is a worry for the Church, and this confusion is exactly what the communists want because at some stage, they know, it would mean votes for them.

And they know it is time for them to play on the confusion. The state will hold a by-election soon to fill the vacancy created by the death of sitting minister T M Jacob, who won in the Christian stronghold of Piravom. A communist win there would be crucial to pull down the Congress-led alliance government, as the communists already have 68 seats in the 140-seat house.

The communist party badly needs Christian support because its mass base among the “working class” of farm laborers and workers of coir and cashew processing industries in Kerala is almost nonexistent now because of advancements in education, shrinking farmlands and brighter job opportunities overseas. Those now “working” in Kerala are a different “class” that has experienced how communists have been trying to build heaven on earth since 1957, and that experience no longer excites the “working class” to vote en masse for the communists.

However, the electoral fortunes of the communist alliance could be on the rise, as the state has almost never returned the incumbent party to power. Historically, this has meant the communist party’s influence ebbing and flowing in definite intervals, and always giving the Church a reason to fight them.

The communists know the Kerala Church has a substantial following. They have known it since 1958, when Christians protested the communist move to take over educational institutions, which soon emerged as a statewide anti-communist movement and resulted in the federal government dismissing the elected communist government a year later. Since then, the communists have studied ways to make inroads into the Church and have succeeded even beyond their expectations.

Thousands of Communion-receiving Catholics are also now card-carrying members of the party, some publically and others clandestinely. Both the Church and the party tolerate them. The Church tolerates the successful Catholic-candidates of the party simply because of the political influence they bring to the Church. The party allows them to continue in the Church because they offer ways to attract more “faithful party members.”

And why are Catholics, who have received Confirmation, easily confused about the teachings of Christ and Marx? Are they too feeble in their faith? It is surely not the job of communists to teach catechism to Catholics. If someone in the Church takes that basic job seriously, the Church can escape from the perennial worry over Catholics being misled by communists’ posters and preaching.

When the Church teaches that Christ died for all human beings, communists included, there should be nothing wrong in communists getting inspired by him, even if the Church is not preaching him to them. But when they say they are getting inspired, why not verify and strengthen it by inviting them to the Church rather than condemning them?

And will the Church and communist leaders ever offer something relevant to people like Peter? Peter can offer them tender coconut – sweet and cool.

– christopher joseph

Kerala tops liquor consumption

November 4, 2011 by  
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liquorKerala, November 4, 2011: Kerala is on the top of the chart of states consuming the maximum amount of liquor, thus far, in 2011 in the country.

A recent study by the Assocham said that people in Kerala consumed a neat 16 percent of the total 6,700 litres India consumed during the year.

It was followed by Punjab at 14 percent.

Assocham said the country’s alcohol consumption was set to cross 19,000 million litres by 2015 and the liqor industry would witness a robust growth of about 30 percent every year.

This means revenue from liquor sales would surge to a high of rupees 1,40,000 crore in 2015 from the present rupees 50,700 crore.

A sizeable middle-class with increasing power to spend and a sound economy were the key reasons for the increase in consumption of liqor, an Assocham study on ‘latest trends in domestic liqor market’ revealed.

India is one of the fastest-growing alcohol markets and consumes almost 80% of the world’s whisky.

The Indian whisky market, which currently stands at around rupees 40,500 crore,  is expected to cross the rupees 54,000 crore mark in the next two years.

Popularity of beer is also growing and consumption is expected to reach 2.4 billion litres by 2012, the study revealed. There is growing fondness for imported liquor.

Ironically, this is a result of the awareness on health benefits associated with moderate drinking.

The worrisome factor is the growing thirst of the youth. The study says almost 45 percent of 12th graders in metros consume excessive alcohol and teenage drinking has risen 100 percent in the past 10 years.

– deccan chronicle