In the last week of October, politicians of the opposition parties in the Parliament, mostly from the Communist parties and Congress, erupted in fury against the ruling NDA because a member of a fringe Hindu group filed a complaint against Kerala House in Delhi for serving beef. Following this, and anticipating trouble, Delhi police entered Kerala House and investigated if indeed it was the case.
This was happening at the thick of the ‘intolerance’ debate and Award-wapsi campaign. The political reaction to it was strong. Led by Left’s stalwart VS Achuthanandan, several Kerala MPs set aside their political differences and protested in Parliament. Kerala CM shot-off a letter to the PM asking him why there was such an attack on the federal structure. English TV news channels discovered the state of Kerala after a long time, and even South Delhi’s op-ed writers noticed it enough to write sympathetic social media posts.
Throughout this season of debate on ‘rising intolerance’ in India, there have been two distinct camps divided on the lines of religion, politics and ideology. The target clearly has been the Hindu right-wing, which includes the BJP, RSS and its affiliates, parties like Shiv Sena, celebrities who support them and right-wing social media army which also encompasses common Indians.
Those mounting the attack are from the left-liberal political spectrum, other personalities, activists, the ‘intelligentsia’, many sections of the media and average citizens. But politically speaking, the attack has emerged from two main sections: the Congress and Communist parties.
We have written earlier about the hypocrisy of those who are mounting the attack, but as one looks at what’s happening to Kerala, an unabashed bastion of the Congress-Left, it is hard to digest that we let politicians get away with their sanctimonious speeches on tolerance and liberalism.
We can cite the examples of states like West Bengal and Karnataka too. West Bengal is known for its culture of political violence. In Karnataka, the Congress government is actively provoking religious tensions over the beef debate and Tipu Jayanti. So this is not to target Kerala, but to show that intolerance exists everywhere, including the safe havens of the supposedly progressive parties, and our politics cannot be blind to it. This is an example. Don't stop outraging about Dadri, help bring attention to this too.
Kerala is put up on a pedestal as the left-liberal ecosystem’s answer to Gujarat. Congress and Communist leaders have run this state since Independence. So is Kerala tolerant or liberal?
No, I am not going to point out to you leftist absurdities like trying to legislate on prices of food in restaurants, the rampant corruption as one can see in the Bar-bribery scam and illegal quarrying or the incompetency in running the state’s education system. I am talking about instances which show the moral bankruptcy of their very secular-liberal politics.
In the past few days, The News Minute has brought to light the treatment meted out to VP Rajeena, a journalist who dared to speak against sexual abuse in madrassas in Kerala, which she herself has experienced as a child she says. The all-round abuse that she has received from people cannot be explained. It can be reported on, which we have done here. There has been little political support forthcoming from the state's leaders.
Over the past few weeks, through the high-voltage local body elections in Kerala, a beautiful new women’s movement called Pembilai Orumai emerged. These were women plantation workers in Munnar, who grouped themselves independently to fight for higher wages and better working conditions. They refused to take help from the Leftist unions, and one of their women leaders went on to win a local body seat and defeat the Left there. What happened to them? They were brutally attacked by Left trade union members who even justified the attack.
One of them, Gomathi Augustine who won the elections, was hospitalised. When she stepped out after the bloody ordeal, her Communist opponents alleged that she was backed by Tamil politicians, in a bid to provoke parochial passions against the women group. The last we heard of her, she tried to commit suicide.
These are not the only such incidents. We have been reporting on several such incidents, and one does not have to go back too far. Just in the past couple of months, horrific events have happened which tear apart the Congress-Left’s mask of tolerance.
Among the most popular candidates from the Communist stable for the local by-polls were these two men: the Karayi brothers. Both of them stand accused of murdering a political activist of Popular Front of India. The court barred them from entering Kannur where they were contesting, but they campaigned on social media and won.
In October, as a former Congress politician made a vile comment about women members of the party stating that they indulge in sexual favours, some members of the CPI(M) cheered him on.
Following the beef debate, when right-wing sympathiser Rahul Easwar refused to make a statement supporting the beef-festivals which were being organized across Kerala by Congress and Left youth organizations, he was attacked and his car vandalized.
What’s worse, threatened by the increasing grip of the BJP in the state, sections of the CPI(M) even held and participated in Krishna Jayanti celebrations. Apparently, they also planned to support the Navaratri festival, just like in Gujarat.
During the local polls, a former model contested the elections on a BJP ticket. Online junta, presumably of the opposing political dispensation, dug out her old images in western clothes and trolled her with lewd comments.
And this is how Muslim League partymen celebrated their victory – they made a crass video mocking the woman candidate who lost.
Kerala’ education minister too had his share of controversy. PK Abdu Rabb openly endorsed the system of a college in Kerala forcing boys and girls to sit separately in class. He asked, why is it necessary for boys and girls to sit together?
Just last week, there was a controversy following a Kerala government diktat to its employees stating that if they wanted to show their creativity at public forums, then they would have to take prior permission from the government.
In Kerala’s Mallapuram districts, leaders of religious organizations have been arguing against vaccinations, making alarming statements like they are the ‘activity of the devil’, possibly costing young lives. Last week, a Sunni leader said that if the country were to be ruled by women, it would collapse.
If you are tired of all this intolerance and religious conservativeness, here – watch this fun video from a small town in Cherthala in Alappuzha, which shows the tragic extent of alcoholism in the state.
Amidst all the intolerance, violence, misogyny, religious bigotry and conservatism – what is the Kerala Left doing? They are joining forces to warn the people of Kerala that Hindu fundamentalism is making its way in thanks to the SNDP.
This is the state of Kerala today. Have Brinda Karat, Sitaram Yechury or Sonia Gandhi spoken about any of this? Why is Rahul Gandhi ignoring it? Why are we not exerting moral pressure on Oomen Chandy to resign? Why isn’t there enough on the op-ed pages? Why are there not enough prime debates about it in television channels? Why are awards not being returned and why are star journalists not parachuting to Kerala to save the day, and instead making do with sympathetic tweets like these?
Sashi Kumar of ACJ is right: Rajeena case doesn't make 'natl' headlines because it is in 'far-off' Kerala, a bit like Chennai rains he says.— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) November 26, 2015
This is not whataboutery, it is a serious demand made to the crusaders for a liberal India to be better than this. For those of us who want a truly progressive country, it is this reeking hypocrisy which makes us think every once in a while, perhaps Narendra Modi is not all that different from those claiming to be more secular or liberal. When you look at Gomathi Augustine, the silence of Left's leaders is as disturbing as that of Narendra Modi over Dadri.
Correction: The line referring to a Congress politician has been changed to a former Congress politician. The error is regretted.