The Kerala Law Academy in Thiruvananthapuram now finds itself at the epicentre of the fight between the CPI(M) and the CPI, the two main parties of the Left government in Kerala.
On Monday, Janayugam -CPI’s mouthpiece- dedicated its entire editorial page to discuss the issue, as well as to hit out at Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in this regard.
The primary question posed was who exactly owns the 12 acres of land on which the Academy now stands?
One of the articles written on the edit-page was by VP Unnikrishnan titled “PS Natarajan Pillai is not some Pillai” -a direct reference to Pinarayi terming the latter as ‘some Pillai’. It mentions that the said land was originally given to a state-government controlled trust which has now been completely taken over by (Lakshmi Nair’s) family.
Criticizing Pinarayi’s lackadaisical attitude to the whole issue, Unnikrishnan opines that the state Revenue Department -headed by the CM himself- is well within its rights to take over the land.
The 12-acre land was originally owned by former state minister, the late P.S. Nataraja Pillai. It was subsequently taken over by the then Diwan of Travancore Sir C.P. Ramaswamy as a punitive measure, for the former’s participation in the freedom struggle.
Later however, the CPI(M) showed little enthusiasm about rectifying the same, despite repeated requests from Pillai’s wife.
Pillai, a respected political figure, had served as the state Finance Minister for Travancore-Cochin in 1954-55. He was also a member of the Constituent Assembly (1948-50), the Travancore Legislative Assembly (1944-50), and the Travancore-Cochin Legislative Assembly (1951 and 1954-57).
Pillai had also represented the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency in the third Lok Sabha as an independent candidate.
In 1981 when Lekshmi Nair’s mother had joined the Kerala Congress (Jacob), the then state Revenue Minister PJ Joseph had got the land registered in the name of the Kerala Law Academy.
When Pillai died in 1966, he had hardly ten cents to his name. His 12 children had virtually no land to be divided between them, while Lekshmi Nair’s father Narayanan Nair and his family resided on the land that was rightfully Pillai’s.
Last week, N Venkatesan -Pillai's son- had asked the Kerala government to negate the registration of 11.49 acres of Pillai’s land with the privately-run Kerala Law Academy. He requested the government to take over the land, as the Academy was trying to commercially exploit the same.
On Saturday when Pinarayi was asked about the protesters’ demand that the state government take over the land, the CM had flippantly retorted that his government had no intention of doing anything of the kind that family members of "some Pillai" had asked for.
Pinarayi naturally was widely criticized for his ‘rude’ remarks, leaving him with no choice but to later clarify that his words were misinterpreted.
Another editorial written by Devika was titled “If whatever Sir CP did was right, what about martyrs of Punnapra Vayalar?”
To quote from the article:
“Sitting in a shabby hut, Pillai told his son that no sooner had he died, the world would forget him. It came true when Pinarayi Vijayan termed him ‘some Pillai’. It would be good to recall that this Pillai had won the state elections for the Communist party.”
Coming down heavily on the Chief Minister, the writer warns Pinarayi that history should never be forgotten, as those who do so, are themselves erased from its annals. The article also does not forget to brand the SFI as a ‘cheat’.
Responding to the scathing editorials, senior CPI(M) leader and former state Industries Minister EP Jayayrajan told reporters in Thrisuur that Janayugam has turned into a tool that was out to destroy the Left in Kerala.
“It is a newspaper with deplorable standards. CPI workers think they are geniuses. But the truth is they do not wield any power in the state," he mocked.
The rift between the two LDF constituents became worse with the withdrawal of the Students Federation of India (SFI -the CPI(M) student wing) from the continuing protests by students -affiliated to other unions- against the Academy Principal Dr. Lekshmi Nair.