HomeNationMyth vs. Reality wrangling: Kerala no safe pitch for hardwired comrades

Myth vs. Reality wrangling: Kerala no safe pitch for hardwired comrades

N Muraleedharan


What would have normally been a mundane, listless clamour, the pollical conversation in Kerala turned into a bizarre interplay of myth, reality and faith.

By the time the sound and fury over the real, unreal and surreal subsided, faith stole a march on materialism, reflecting the limits of the hardline Marxist positioning in a state touted as the last outpost of Communism in the country.  

The cacophony also ruffled the boastfully paraded image of Kerala as a liberal ecosystem where voices are made, heard, countered or endorsed with equanimity.

The whole episode was triggered by a rather off-the-cuff remark by Kerala Assembly Speaker A N Shamseer, who belongs to the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M). 

Speaking at a small-time event held for distribution of educational tools by a local MLA in Ernakulam district, Shamseer held forth on the irrationality of myths being presented as history even in textbooks, as inspired by the Hindutva forces. He then went on to state that some Hindutva ideologues had gone to the extent of citing Lord Ganesha to buttress the claim that ancient Indian medical practitioners even performed plastic surgery.

What could have been ignored as a passing comment made in the flow of a speech, however, proved to be the spark for a raging controversy, as pro-Hindu outfits leveraged social media platforms to hit out at Shamseer. With the story going viral, they stormed the cyber space, demanding an unqualified apology from Shamseer, for “insulting the beliefs of the Hindus.”

The matter would have come to a gradual end if Shaseer clarified that he did not intend to hurt the religious sentiments of the Hindu community. Edged by a few hard-wired comrades in his party, Shamseer chose to remain silent.

The issue gained further traction as the General Secretary of the Nair Service Society (NSS), G Sukumaran Nair, lashed out at Shamseer and demanded that he tender an open apology for deeply wounding and insulting the beliefs of Hindus. The NSS, which has a network of community units across the state, also organised a ‘devotional march’ in the state capital, which drew a big turnout. 

There still had room for tempers to cool but for some hard-hitting, and imprudent, comments made by CPI (M) state secretary M V Govindan, ruling out the question of his party making any amends on the issue.  

Significantly, Govinda’s statement came less than hour before Shamseer himself was to address the media on the legislative business before the assembly whose session was about to commence. 

Many believe that left to himself Shamseer would have brought the matter to a close by expressing regret over the hurt by his statement might have caused. But with the party secretary taking a doctrinaire stand and sending out signals indicating that there was no need to budge, Shamseer could only say that he did not intent to hurt anybody’s sentiments. In the same breath, he added that as a person holding a constitutional office, he was duty-bound to promote the scientific temper.

To cut the story short, the heat generated by the issue was put out by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s prudent intervention, advising the LDF legislators that the ruling front had nothing to gain by offending the religious sentiments of any community. Addressing the LDF legislators ahead of the assembly session, he wanted them to focus on more important issues.

Apparently under pressure from the party bigwigs, Govindan too had to eat the humble pie stating that his words on the issue had been taken out of context misinterpreted by media.  

Obviously, the CPI (M) does not want to offend large sections of people when parliament elections are just a few months away. The party had suffered heavily due to its hard-line position supporting women’s entry into Sabarimala Ayyappa temple in the aftermath of a Supreme Court order, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The moral of the story is simple. In a society where faith holds immense sway, even hardline Communists need to think twice before going hammer and tongs at long-held beliefs. For nearly a century since its formation, the Indian Communist movement had miserably failed whenever its leadership sought to  impose the basic codes of Marxian dialectical materialism even on card-carrying cadres, let alone the masses.


N Muraleedharan
N Muraleedharan
Senior Journalist from Kerala. Worked with leading news agency Press Trust of India. He is regular columnist and writes on politics of Kerala and National Politics.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Must Read