Geetha Nazeer has been an active member of the CPI in Kerala, a journalist, an activist and more.

Geetha in a blue cotton sari and blouse a black beaded necklace and spectacles smiles directly at the camera
news Kerala Local Body Polls 2020 Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - 14:15

It was sudden, the move from a minister’s residence to a makeshift rented place in the city. Geetha was then 14 years old, a child. Her father NE Balaram, one of the founding members of the Communist movement in Kerala, had just resigned as minister from the Achutha Menon Government of 1970. The family moved to a ‘party school’ called Young India run by the Communist Party of India – the CPI – at the Van Ross junction in Thiruvananthapuram. Benches and desks were put together to form beds for the family - that included Geetha and her three siblings. Those days, members of the All India Students Federation (AISF), the oldest student organisation in the country, would come home to meet Balaram. One such day, Geetha asked, why can’t she too be a member of AISF. That day, her political life had begun. It would however take another 50 years for her to contest her first election.

Geetha Nazeer is the Left Democratic Party’s (LDF) candidate from the Chemmaruthy divison of the Thiruvananthapuram district panchayat in Varkala, for this year’s local body polls. She is now 64, obviously having been in no great hurry to hold power. She has these past five decades been a very active member of the CPI. Geetha is the patron of the cultural wing of the party.

“I have been doing party work all these years, just didn’t come to power. I had won as AISF councillor from the Women’s College and then become the state secretary of AISF. M Nazeer who was then the state president of AISF later became my husband and we moved to his hometown of Varkala. My political work has been based there since then,” Geetha says, in between visiting houses in Varkala. Her campaign began after lunch and went on till late evening, when the November rain poured down heavily. It was November 17, three Tuesdays before election day.

Forty-four kilometers away, in Thiruvananthapuram, is an office that Geetha had worked at for 11 to 12 years – the office of the Janayugam newspaper, a Malayalam daily affiliated to the CPI. Last year, Geetha retired as deputy coordinating editor of the paper.

For those who have met Geetha in Thiruvananthapuram, it’d be hard to believe she now lives so far away in Edava, in Varkala Taluk. Geetha is always there for city protests, shouting slogans for rights of women, the oppressed and the underprivileged, and fighting fascism. Most of the time she’d be among the organisers, giving out badges or ribbons or else, coordinating the speakers. Her calls would bring several women to the spot for any short notice gathering. Those are the members of Sthree Kootayma, a women’s collective, driven by the likes of Geetha and others.

This drive for activism lies closely with her roots in Communism, Geetha says. She was born into a Communist family. Her father, NE Balaram, that minister who resigned to be state president of the CPI, was also the one that organised a secret meeting on the rocks of Pinarayi in Thalassery that led to the formation of the Communist party in Kerala, in 1939. “He was the one who brought the founding leaders of the party – Krishna Pillai and AKG (AK Gopalan) and EMS (Namboodiripad) – to that secret meeting. I grew up listening to those stories,” Geetha says fondly.

But just listening to these stories needn’t push one to communism, she says. She got pulled by the ideas they put forth – human love, equality, fight for the oppressed and those denied opportunities. “Those were days the worker could neither ask for his wages nor walk on the public path. It is with the winning of these rights that the party was formed. Communist leaders of those days went through a lot to win these rights – took beatings of police and zamindars, went to jail and went underground. I got pulled to communism, learning this history and studying the theories,” Geetha says.

Geetha knows it is a very crucial election, a reply to the performance of the LDF government so far. “Local body election results are a reflection of what had immediately reached the public. The LDF government, unlike no other, had released a progress card of their development work every year. The performance of the government gives you the confidence to ask for votes. Leaders should start from grassroots. Women too have played a good role in the governance,” Geetha says, as the clock strikes eight in the evening.

The rain has by then subsided and throwing back her beaded necklace, pulling her cotton Sari around her shoulders, she goes back home for the evening. Wednesday morning, there’s new work to be done.

Also read: Meet 3 of the 46 women fielded by CPI(M) in Thiruvananthapuram corporation polls

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