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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Kerala. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Kerala. Sort by date Show all posts

Monday, June 15, 2009

Half-Converted Kerala

By Ajith Kumar

Kerala, the most ‘progressive’ state in the Indian union, is more than half converted and religious conversion was unbecoming an issue in Kerala these days. But the recent demise of Kamala Suraiyya (Madhavikutty or Kamala Das) has highlighted the issue once again. The story goes that she was lured into Islam by the tricks and nuptial promises of a much married, learned and cunning lawmaker belonging to an overtly communal party. Madhavikutty’s literary works represent some of the finest aspects of uninhibited and immaculate Hindu culture that had once prevailed in most parts of Kerala. She could easily differentiate between the quintessence of pristine love of ‘gopikas’ for Krishna vis-à-vis the cheap commonplace lust, by deft handling of both in her stories and poetry. The fact that even such a tall literary figure could fall an easy victim shows the reach of proselytization forces in a region of India with the highest literacy rate.

What is happening in Kerala today is bound to be repeated in all other parts of India as our skewed version of secular education is spreading everywhere. Like in Kerala today, Hindus are bound to reduce themselves to a minority community in their own nation one day.

The unfortunate saga of conversion in Kerala begins from around 1500 AD when the first European colonizers landed at one of those beautiful beaches of Kerala. Though we had traders, fugitives and tourists landing at Kerala’s long seashore from time immemorial, damages by them remained limited to their excreta in the coastal belts. The highly structured Kerala society then was impenetrable to foreigners who were much below in terms of social and economic evolution.

Cooked-up stories about adventures of one Saint Thomas who could convert the forward castes are nothing but mythology invented as afterthoughts. Kerala’s decadence started much later when the naturally symbiotic caste system became rigid and triggered internal revolts. Foreign religions were waiting at the sea and seacoasts for such an internal upheaval for easy penetration into the much coveted God’s Own Country. In 500 years they could convert more than 50% of the population is no mean achievement for the proponents of the two major religions in the world today.

Silent Terrorism
What happened in the last five centuries and what is happening in Kerala today is nothing but silent terrorism in the form of organized and externally fuelled religious conversion. It was Christianity which started first with the intention of conditioning the ground ready for European colonization. In every colony of ‘ours’, we need quite a few of our ‘own’ people.

In distant lands the only way to get ‘our own’ people is by way of aggressive and accelerated cultural conversion. Religion is an integral part of culture and religious conversion is the best tool available for easy conditioning of the target population. Increasing rigidity of the caste system provided a golden opportunity for the European missionaries to penetrate into the Indian society. Enemies of India had budgeted big sums for the project and India’s toiling masses could be easily made disgruntled and aggrieved. As most of them were lacking any formal education, tricking them into a new religious system was easy with the help of material inducements in terms of milk powder and rice.

The next predator in Kerala started their work in terms of organized conversion much later. Though we had sizeable number of Muslim population in the coastal areas, especially in the north Malabar region, their intrusion into the interiors of Kerala as an organized religion is only about one century old. The Mapillah Rebellion in 1921 was perhaps the first organized assault aimed at religious conversion under the guise of so many other objectives. Though North India was under Muslim rule for several centuries, its influence in the southern regions of the country was minimal.

Also their enmity with the European colonial powers was not helpful in increasing their numerical strength by targeting Hindus. But the situation has changed drastically in the 20th century when millions of Oil money started flowing into Kerala. Increasing their number by all means and capturing power by organized might is high on the agenda of the Muslim mind of Kerala.

Suicidal Indifference
Any nation or people in decay will ultimately have only themselves to blame. The current status of Hindus in Kerala is at a highly critical juncture in this regard. Three or four prominent Hindu sections are totally indifferent about the overall status of the Hindu religion and society in Kerala today. The leaders of these sections are forgetting one of the most important rules of science and history – any culture can survive only if there is the minimum quantity. Most of these sub-sections of the Hindu society namely Nairs, Ezhavas, Brahmins and OBCS are fighting more among themselves than for their combined rights. They have left their weakest brothers (Adivasis) at the complete mercy of the two predators vying for numbers and real estate. Almost the entire five lakh Adivasis of Kerala will either die off or get converted, and their entire property will ultimately lie with one of the predating groups.

Much has been said and written about the suicidal indifference of Hindus in Kerala and the catastrophe impending their community a few generations from now. None of the Hindu community leaders of any significance have shown the courage to speak up for consolidation and caution. It will be only at their extreme peril that the entire spectrum of Hindu society in Kerala can feign ignorance to the following basic FACTS:

Hinduism is no more the dominant religion in Kerala. As half of those born as Hindus are genuine communists, Hinduism is only at par with Islam and Christianity in Kerala. And uninhibited religious conversion is still rampant in many parts of Kerala.

Kerala has the highest (family) suicidal rate in the world and at least 75% of them are Hindus.

Hindu temples are the only one in government custody. All income from temples (which are only from Hindus) flow into the common government coffers.

Kerala politics is overwhelmingly dominated by leaders belonging to the two dominant communities and parties which are overtly communal (Muslim League and Kerala Congress).

There is almost complete monopoly of the two dominant communities in the print and electronic media in Kerala.

Almost all Hindu families in the current generation have only two children. But one can invariably find three children in all Christian families and four children in most Muslim families. This trend is almost confirmed if they are more educated and richer. This clearly shows a determined and deliberate effort to increase the numbers.

Christian clergy and Muslim religious leaders are freely indulging in politics in Kerala which is a part of the so-called secular republic of India. Many times they openly challenge the authority of democratically elected governments and the rule of law, with no impunity.

Ownership of land (especially high valued), number of professionals (doctors, IAS officers etc) and untaxed (and unaccounted) income from abroad are disproportionately high in favor of the two dominant communities in Kerala.

The few critical aspects listed above point to a determined and calculated move by the foreign religious ideologies to establish their superiority over Kerala within one or two decades. Both are now equally organized, resourceful and determined to achieve their ultimate aim. The apparent discordant notes among subsidiary factions within these religious forces are designed and serve as deceptive distracters for those who are opposing the move. In Kerala (also India) today, anything Hindu or Hindutva is condemnably communal, Muslim or Islamic is secularly acceptable and Christian or Christianity is laudably broad-minded. Any one who talks anything about Hinduism or Hindus are ostracized in public life and politically unacceptable.

Barring unforeseen developments, Kerala’s Hindu goose will be cooked and eaten with full satisfaction as precisely planned. And once that is digested, the harvest of entire South India is only one decade away and Indian nation a few more. Only organized reforms and determined positive action can save Hinduism from the combined onslaught of its three known enemies.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Socially Engaged Islam: A View From Kerala

By Nabi Arshad

Unlike much of the rest of India, Islamic organizations in Kerala are heavily involved in various forms social activism, not limiting themselves simply to religious education and preaching or to petitioning the government for sops. This is one of the major reasons for the remarkable social, economic and educational progress that Kerala’s Muslims, who account for around a fourth of the state’s population, have witnessed in recent decades. Among the major Islamic movements in Kerala is the Jamaat-e Islami (JI).

The Kerala JI’s headquarters are located at the Hira Centre, an imposing multi-storey building in the heart of Calicut (Kozhikode), a town which, for centuries, has been a major Muslim centre. Enter the building and the stark contrast with north Indian Muslim organizations—even with the JI’s units in the north—is immediately evident. The building is sparkling clean and well-maintained, and it has separate offices for its different wings, which are a staffed by team of professionally qualified activists (and not just maulanas).

The ‘Dialogue Centre’ is one of the Kerala JI’s major initiatives. Set up six years ago, it aims at promoting inter-community dialogue and understanding. Says Shaikh Muhammad Karakunnu, its Director, ‘In recent years in Kerala, particularly after 9/11, there has been a sudden surge in debates about Islam—mostly negative though—and so we felt it important to reach out to Hindus, Christians and others in the state to address their misunderstandings about our faith.

The Dialogue Centre seeks to do that by publishing literature and by organizing periodic seminars and public conventions, to which we also invite Hindu and Christian religious leaders as well as Marxists. We dialogue in a friendly way, not in the old-fashioned polemical manner, and do not limit ourselves simply to religious issues but also take up matters of common social concern, on which people of different faiths can work together.’

‘Dharma Dhara’ is the Kerala JI’s communications division. So far, it has produced some 50 CDs in Malayalam, mainly about Islam, but also on social issues and struggles for justice for marginalized groups. One of its most recent productions is a digitalized edition in Malayalam of Syed Abul Ala Maududi’s voluminous commentary on the Quran, Tahfim ul-Quran. It has also produced tapes and CDs containing Islamically-inspired feature films, dramas and songs, some by non-Muslim singers and actors, something quite inconceivable in the Urdu-Hindi belt.

Through its ‘Jana Sevanam’ wing the Kerala JI engages in small economic development projects for the poor and assisting people affected by natural calamities. In the wake of the deadly Tsunami which struck coastal India some years ago, it collected and disbursed more than three crore rupees to victims in Kerala and the Andaman Islands. Says T.K.Hussain, the head of the programme, ‘Jana Sevanam runs more than 300 small interest-free lending institutions to help poor families set up small scale industries and for loans for emergencies and for education. Taken together, every year then lend out more than five crore rupees, the money being collected from zakat funds and donations or sadqa.’

Jana Sevanam’s ‘Ideal Relief Wing’ has trained some 500 volunteers, including girls, to help in relief work, and its teams have worked in emergency situations not just in Kerala but in Kashmir, Bihar and Rajasthan as well. Recently, it sponsored the repair of two general wards in the Calicut government hospital. Activists associated with Jana Sevanam run six hospitals in Kerala, including a new three hundred-bed super-speciality medical centre, and also provide subsidized medical treatment, including to poor non-Muslim patients, through the Association of Ideal Medical Services, a network of Muslim and non-Muslim doctors in the state. Across Kerala JI activists run some 150 regular schools, mostly from kindergarten to the twelfth standard and affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education, in addition to some 200 part-time madrasas and a dozen or so Arabic Colleges for higher Islamic learning.

Established in 2003, ‘Solidarity’ is an organization led by youth activists of the Kerala JI. It has been involved in generating mass awareness on a range of social issues as well as leading and participating in social movements against anti-people government policies, fascism, imperialism, terrorism and environmental degradation. Says Solidarity’s Public Relations Secretary K.K.Basheer, ‘We now have a membership of some 4000, including some two hundred non-Muslims. Most are teachers, businessmen, doctors, but also fishermen, small farmers and labourers, between the age of 18 and 40. Members provide one per cent of their income to Solidarity’s bait ul-mal (treasury) to meet our expenses.

We work closely with non-Muslim groups in Kerala, particularly leftists, who are concerned about similar social causes. Some of our activists work with Adivasis in Wynad, on issues of empowerment, education and drug de-addiction. Some other activists helped out with the government’s Ambedkar Housing Scheme for Dalits. We’ve constructed some 500 houses for the poor, and plan to build a hundred homes for Adivasis soon.’ Over the years, ‘Solidarity’ has organized mass rallies across Kerala, to which it has invited such noted social activists as Medha Patkar, Arundhati Roy, Sandeep Pandey, Ram Puniyani, Suresh Khairnar, Iftikhar Gilani, Ajit Sahi, Yvonne Ridley, Claude Alvares and Kuldeep Nayyar.

‘Kerala is very different from north India,’ Basheer goes on, with evident pride. ‘People here, including Muslims, are much more socially aware and politically conscious. The contrast with north Indian Muslims is glaring. But the Solidarity experiment in Kerala has definitely had an impact on youth associated with the Jamaat-e Islami, some of who are now trying to get more socially involved as a result, moving beyond issues that are narrowly framed as specifically Islamic or Muslim.’ But this is not a phenomenon limited just to the JI. As Basheer adds, ‘Other Muslim groups in Kerala are also, like the Jamaat, increasingly working on social, economic and educational empowerment, and for communal harmony and against terrorism and fascism. These initiatives in Kerala, which, unfortunately, are hardly known elsewhere in India, can provide a powerful inspiration and example for Muslim activists in the rest of India to learn from.’

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Reverse Exodus: Gulf Workers Return to India, Bringing New Travails

In March, Dhananjay Datar, promoter of the US$50 million United Arab Emirates-based Al Adil Trading Co., celebrated the 25th year of his business. He hired a Boeing 737 and circled Dubai for several hours as 50 guests popped champagne and ate cake. After touchdown, he presented his wife, Vandana, with a US$2 million Rolls Royce Phantom.

Around the same time, other Boeing 737s were ferrying laid-off Indian workers back from Dubai to Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Kochi, principal cities in the southern Indian state of Kerala. They hope to return, but at the moment it doesn't seem likely.

Some 200,000 to 500,000 Keralites working in the Gulf are likely to return home by midyear, state finance minister T.M. Thomas Isaac told the State Assembly recently. This is a considerable chunk of the estimated two million-plus Keralites working abroad, nearly 90% of them in the Gulf. The 2001 census put Kerala's population at 31.8 million. Non-resident Keralites (NRKs) send back close to US$8 billion in remittances annually, more than double the state's tax revenues. The impact of the reverse exodus -- both economically and socially -- could be devastating, according to experts.

"There will naturally be a considerable negative impact on Kerala, as the remittances will stop and the number of unemployed will increase simultaneously," says Rajesh Chakrabarti, assistant professor of finance at the Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB). "Socially, adjusting to the returnees will be a problem. They would be quickly perceived as liabilities as opposed to assets, affecting both them as well as the residents."

The reasons for the reverse migration have been well-documented. The Gulf economy has been suffering after the crash in oil prices. Dubai has been hit particularly hard because it was the region's key financial center, and finance has taken a backseat amid the global economic slowdown. "It is mainly the real estate and property segments along with bankers who have been hard-hit," says Datar of Al Adil Trading. "The other businesses are not doing too badly. They may be down by 15% to 20%." Adds Faisal Shamsudheen, a Dubai-based journalist-turned-PR manager who lost his job in the crisis: "Construction and banking are the worst hit. Mass redundancies are happening by the day in the private sector and semi-governmental organizations."

The bulk of the NRKs were working in construction. "The Gulf has been a significant employer in blue-collar jobs and the worker class," says Narayanan Ramaswamy, executive director, KPMG Advisory Services. "That influx will come into India." People have left other Indian states for jobs in the Gulf, but in much lower numbers. (Labor migration from states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar has more often been to richer states such as Gujarat and Punjab.) Kerala will bear the brunt.

Kerala's Main Export Commodity

"The main commodity which Kerala exports to the Gulf countries is manpower," says Ajay Kumar, chairman of the Kerala State IT Mission and secretary of IT. "They have been engaged in the construction, real estate and tourism sectors, which have been badly hit by the global slowdown."

Ramaswamy notes that Kerala's rule by a Left alliance may create additional problems. "One of the things this will definitely cause, especially in an economy like that of Kerala, with its Communist flavor, is more unrest," he says. "Jobs will be affected. Unions will protest. If this continues for the medium to long term, it will also lead to law-and-order problems."

Though some observers sense disaster, authorities don't seem particularly concerned yet. "The Dubai government is still in a denial phase and continues to repeat that there is no mass exodus of Indian workers," says Shamsudheen. The Center for Development Studies (CDS), in Thiruvananthapuram, said in a report this year that there was no cause for worry. The main conclusion of the report, the Kerala Migration Monitoring Study 2008, is that "as of December 2008, there is neither any indication of a significant slowdown of emigration from the state nor any large-scale increase in return emigrants to Kerala." Authors S. Irudaya Rajan and K.C. Zachariah acknowledge, however, that the situation may have changed in 2009. But not all return migration is related to the recession, they say.

According to the CDS, the number of emigrants from Kerala in 2008 was 2.16 million, up from 1.84 million in 2003. The number of return emigrants was 1.1 million in 2008, up from 890,000 in 2003. So return emigration rose only 210,000, compared with an increase of 320,000 outward-bound. "I don't think there is a crisis," says Rajan, who is chair professor in the research unit on international migration and a fellow at CDS. "A few hundred people may have lost their jobs. But what are they among the two million [Indians] in the Gulf?" Shamsudheen also points out, however, that these figures were calculated before the economic crisis struck the region.

And some data can be misread. Take remittances, the lifeblood of the Kerala economy. According to K.V. Shamsudheen, chairman of the Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust, a UAE-based charitable organization working for the welfare of expatriate Indians, NRKs have remitted more than US$42 billion to Kerala in the last 35 years. Weekly newsmagazine India Today reports that non-resident external deposits with Kerala banks, which were US$6.73 billion in June 2008, are expected to cross US$7.39 billion by June this year. Adds Binoy Augustine, manager of the Tiruvalla branch of Federal Bank, which has one of the largest numbers of NRK accounts in the state: "In the past two months, we have seen a surge in NRI remittances thanks to the favorable exchange rates." This boom in remittances is considered good news; it's business as usual.

Coming Home Permanently

Others, however, say that returning NRKs are closing their accounts in the Gulf because they are coming home permanently. The spike is also attributable to the more expensive dollar, which makes it attractive to convert to rupees, and the migration of accounts from foreign banks, perceived as risky, to Indian public-sector banks. Such a surge cannot continue.

A Planning Commission report submitted recently to the Union government suggests as much. Remittances could decline by 20%, the report says. As workers abroad return to India, "they may bring back their accumulated savings and a one-time increase may take place. During 2009-2010, private transfers can be between US$35 billion and US$50 billion."

A World Bank study reaches a similar conclusion. "Cash remittances to developing nations sharply slackened in the last few months of 2008 because of the global financial distress, and they are projected to continue their slowdown this year," the report says. "Their lower growth in 2009 will likely be a result of the global crisis, the downward impact of the oil price collapse on the Gulf economies and the uncertainty about exchange rates.... The growth of remittance flows is expected to slow significantly from 6.7% in 2008 to 0.9% in 2009, but could recover in the medium term to 6.1% growth in 2010."

Although Kerala may suffer the most, the decline could hurt the entire economy. India gets the highest remittances of any country in the world (US$27 billion in 2007; US$32 billion in 2008). This is estimated to add 3% to GDP. "The slowing down will hurt particularly as it comes coupled with the reversal of portfolio capital flows," says Chakrabarti. "Together, this could hurt both the exchange rate, making the rupee weaker, and the asset markets, particularly the real estate market." The euphoria following the formation of a new, stable government may dilute this effect. The rupee is strengthening and foreign portfolio investments have resumed. But remittances have always been long-term money, while foreign investments in Indian equity, as the last year shows, can be fickle. Total foreign direct investment in India in 2008-09 (April to March) was around US$27 billion, while portfolio investments stood at a negative US$15 billion as foreign institutional investors pulled out.

The government won't acknowledge the potential for a crisis. In Dubai recently for the inauguration of a new campus of the Ghaziabad-based Institute of Management Technology, former commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath rejected a suggestion that the government work out a loan or grant scheme for Gulf workers who had lost their jobs. This has been a demand of the Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust, which earlier appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to have the government provide US$2,000 each to workers who had to return after losing their jobs. Nath instead said India had plenty of jobs.

"The government can't fund any rehabilitation or relief packages for its expatriate Indian community," Nath said, according to the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National. "However, Indians facing losses should return and find new opportunities back home. Industries like IT continue to grow in India, and business is looking positive."

But, as in other parts of the world, job losses have been considerable in India. Nath's optimism notwithstanding, having special schemes to provide jobs for returnees may invite problems. "To the extent that some of the returnees will have prior experience and skills, the government may be able to help them find employment, but any 'special efforts' directed at them will also cause social heartburn," says Chakrabarti. "So efforts, if any, should be kept low-key." Adds Ramaswamy of KPMG: "The government should take some measures. But this business of providing direct employment could just be more emotional talk. The way they should provide employment is to hasten some of the infrastructure projects and start investing in capital-intensive projects."

Financing for Repatriated Entrepreneurs

Those are big-ticket items. The Kerala government, meanwhile, is thinking small. It has announced a US$200 million entrepreneurship package for repatriates. This, finance minister Isaac says, is not a dole program. The money will go to the state-owned Kerala Financial Corp., which will borrow six or seven times that amount from the market. The principal will be used to finance entrepreneurs.

Kumar of the State IT Mission says the technology sector offers employment potential. "There is hope in the IT sector, which seems to be growing despite the economic slowdown. The growth in IT in Kerala is likely to be much more than the national average." Because of pressures on costs, IT companies will move to Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, he predicts. Kerala has enough of those and an additional edge because of "the best social infrastructure and highest physical quality of life." The government has a three-pronged plan to make Kerala an IT destination: Build infrastructure, develop human resources and focus on marketing the state. "There is a hidden opportunity for Kerala," Kumar notes.

There is a problem, however. Keralites work hard when they go out of the state to seek their fortune; at home, they seem to lack the same discipline. "Keralites are ready to do any job once they cross the state border," says Rajan of CDS. "But [at home] there is a kind of self-created social unemployment." Opportunity exists nonetheless. "There is a scarcity of workers in Kerala. If you notice, in Thiruvananthapuram city alone there are thousands of workers from other parts of India and even from Nepal."

The Kerala crisis raises issues that are larger than the impact on the state. India was supposed to benefit from a "demographic dividend." India's young workers would provide muscle as other countries turned gray. Has this theory -- and therefore India's growth prospects -- suffered a setback? "It is temporary," says Chakrabarti of ISB. "The jobs crisis is global, across countries. In the end, India will still be among the fastest-growing countries in the world. Hopefully, by 2011, 2012, the dust will settle, and by then India will also be able to get back on track for growth."

A related issue is protectionism, particularly in the labor market. Western countries have begun making noise about this as they try to preserve jobs for their own nationals. But Chakrabarti is optimistic. "These protectionist tendencies will be short-term," he says. "But if the slowdown becomes a very long one, the protectionist pressures may cross certain political thresholds, which may lead to the world going the protectionist way for decades to come." Adds Ramaswamy: "Protectionism is an emotional response and can only be a short-term phenomenon because the world has moved a long way from where we were during the last recession. The impact of the Gulf slowdown on India is only an indirect one, so we don't need to be overly concerned. Even the people who are coming back will return to the Gulf once the economy picks up."

It has happened before. During the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, there was an exodus of Indian workers from the war zone. "It was a fast turnaround for Kuwait after the Gulf War, considering the devastation and exodus the country saw with the Iraqi invasion," says Shamsudheen, the PR manager. "Almost all Kuwait returnees went back after the country was liberated, and there were more opportunities with the reconstruction projects."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Analysis: Kerala Politics - Emerging Political Realignment

The UDF needs an urgent re-working of its strategies with regard to the state’s economic development, entrepreneurship development and bettering of public perception about minority appeasement. 

An emergency cabinet reshuffling to save the disintegration of the UDF and further shrinking of its vote base is needed. The Congress should strongly assert its position regarding economy, finance, education and industrial development including taxation policy.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Deepening Communal Divide in Kerala

By M H Ahssan

Only one remaining secular space in Kerala is the meeting sessions of hard-core drinkers before and after arrack/toddy consumption in and around alcohol shops, says Mr. CK Vishwanath. Thankfully, there remains such a secular forum in Kerala, where people of diverse backgrounds can meet and forget their differences and remain together on a common platform for some time.

Swami Vivekananda once called Kerala as a lunatic or a mental asylum during one of his visits. Nothing much has changed since then? Other than State achieving better rating at social and human development indicators, of course, this is not a small achievement! But when mafia – gunda – quotation raj being the reality and norm of the day on the one hand, at the law & order front, at the socio-political front people are deeply divided over community, religious and caste lines.

Today’s Kerala is a highly communalized state. Inter community and inter religious interactions are very minimal.

People are classified on religious, caste and community lines. The potential to garner votes based on identity matter more when a political candidate for an election is being decided.

Over a period of time, with this game played-out by all, divisions within society on the lines of identity based upon caste, religious and community has deepened, poisoning Kerala society, expanding communal divide, resulting in almost irreversible shrinkage of secular space, as Mr. Vishwanath opines.

Many actors are responsible for this kind of shrinking secular space. While not disputing the contributions made by Christian missionaries to Kerala’s social development, role of contemporary Church leadership in communalizing Kerala society is a matter of concern which need serious thought.

Similarly we need to give serious attention to political parties that contribute parochial feelings among broader Kerala society. Just for instance, the name Kerala Congress itself is an example. That name is not attuned to Kerala people’s nationalistic outlook; moreover their suspected - clandestine links with the Church leadership is yet another issue. It is generally believed that various political groupings under Kerala Congress (KC) brand name have much to do with Christian and Church’s political and economic interests.

Support of religious and community leaders are a critical factor for winning elections in Kerala. Knowing this well and the strategy to adopt so as to gain maximum political clout, Churches always attempt to influence voting pattern and thereby electoral fortunes of candidates.

A bishop, if cannot openly declare support to a party or a candidate, often do express his leniency in a number of ways, just for instance, by posing for camera with the candidate to appear that photo in next day’s newspaper, during electioneering time, signaling believers whom should they vote. That may be an old gimmick and highly un- doubtful, if bishops can any longer influence believers considerably.

But the larger civil society is divided and danger is already done and made. Division created will here to stay for a long time to come, at least till the coming up IT generation taking strong strides to break up with the past and move forward with a large number of inter-caste, inter-religious and inter-community marriages. And of course through multicultural worksites especially in the newly sprouting IT and BPO companies!

The problem of communal poisoning arose because, it was a politics related to economic power, managing social infrastructural investments.

Managing a host of social institutions, commercially, is not an easy task. Clearances, extensions, permits, new licenses and a whole lot of things are involved. Here the need to have a political representative, who can help in such matters, is quite understandable, for a country, where dealing with regulatory mechanism functioning with a rent-seeking motto. It is good to some representation at political level to speed up matters and to at least partially overcome rent seeking behavior of people concerned.

There are two kinds of minority institutions in the country. One is a minority religious institute directly managed by the Church bodies. The second category is the institutions formed to grab minority benefits by investors, NRIs from minority community. It is the sprouting of such institutes and support given to them by the contemporary church leadership often causes problem.

Some of these spiritual leaders move on specially imported heavier vehicles that consume much more fuel than fuel economy model cars that are available in the local market. And when they speak out vehemently for minority institutions ( as some of them have minority business men’s investment in them) spectators of all backgrounds raise eyebrows.

And on whose money these heavy model vehicles run? Is it the believers money or the business lobby finance them? And politicians from their community are needed to ensure safe passage of those ‘holy vehicles’ at custom points and ensure clearances at various governmental level. Also, political representation are needed to clear up some of the serious violation of various income tax laws in those non-Church managed money making minority institution. Here many out of one advantage it seems to me for the spiritual leaders for aligning with business are may be those heavy luxury vehicles and free fuel, so that cost of running them need not figure in the account statements.

Fall out of this nexus between the trinity, spiritual leaders – business men – political leaders is that other communities, religious groups and caste organizations started adopting same model. And this pattern is now widespread. There is a huge competition between different groups to become the largest capitalist force within the State of Kerala. Interestingly, each and every community organizations have their micro credit arrangements.

Between the Trinity mentioned above, there are mutual give and take which may be broadly finance related, business related, vote related and many more. This has nothing to do with Christianity or the Church. Helping a political leader or a political party is none of Church’s business.

Late Bishop Paulose Mar Paulose, Late Abraham Marthoma and Bishop Yuhanon Marthoma all used to take strong political positions for different causes, for or against policies and decisions of the governments. Yuhanon Marthoma took a position against former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s emergency rule in the late 1970s.

But participating actively in politics, as behind the curtain strategy masters, religious leaders are poisoning Kerala’s political space! It was indeed a ‘slow poisoning’, a process started with the formation of Kerala Congress!

Many of the UDF constituents, especially, non-Congress constituents, it is highly doubtful, if they can count even 1000 votes for sure to their kitty today. But in a coalition context they bargain for their seats and continuously win elections. It is an interesting phenomenon.

So often those who win seats in the Christian–Rubber clusters are people who have not much grassroots base except for the right equation with the bishops, the Church and community leaders.

Altogether this game where religions, Churches, political leaders and business men are involved has more to do with money making and advancement of individual business interests rather than politics or representing a constituency. It has indeed poisoned secular Kerala polity. It has fragmented Kerala’s secular polity as splinter groups keep on splitting together with their public display of their denominational or congregational oriented claims for rights, as they claim & believe, such as claims for particular number of seats etc.

In the last parliament elections, it appeared in the news paper that certain religious leaders have written to a particular political party to provide seats to members of their diocese as well as persons whom they think as suitable. Threatening statements by church representatives also were being reported by the media.

Where is it all going to end?

This kind of intervention by religious leaders is not at all a welcome thing. Political parties and political leadership must decide not to give tickets to people who associate too much with religious leaders. Just for instance, if a young person’s/leaders case is being pushed or advocated by a religious leader too much, that leader should be shown the way. In the secular context of India, for the furtherance of secularism in India, these kinds of measures, a kind of internal discipline measures are needed.

In a country like India, we have too bad experiences related to communalism, communal riots and violence between different religious groups.

For the long term and larger interest of Indian Republic, Election Commission must create a special cell to monitor the pre-poll activities of political parties and political leaders during non-electioneering and normal years 365 days 24X7 or all throughout. This cell should constantly watch and observe all kinds of maneuverings that are happening in the political circles and remove those groups and persons that contribute divisions within society from contesting elections as political parties and black list such individuals.

This cell should have an advisory board consisting of judges, journalists, NGOs, senior academics as well as representatives from industry and businesses. There was a mention by UPA government regarding a legislation to curb communal riots. Nothing has come out yet. UPA can think of this kind of an arrangement to begin with, as a first step in the direction of creating a communalism-free polity.

Pressurizing the leadership of a mainstream national party for allocating tickets to a person from a particular community and a political party with less than 10 voters hijacking a constituency from UDF or LDF is something that we are all aware but always something that is being ignored. It is all at the behest of confidence of their ability to play a communal card during election.

While practitioners of this kind of communal politics thrive all across the State of Kerala and all across the political spectrum , communalization of politics that is also happening with the sanction and approval from the religious leadership.

This trend is being adopted by more and more groups day by day, while how one could use the communal tag effectively being the decisive factor. Just for instance, for a Christian to be successful in the political fray is much to do with how effectively he/she could evoke his/her communal identity.

We need to understand that riots that take place in Gujarat or Orissa and the kind of politics that is being practiced by some of the leaders with the tactic support from the Church leadership is all one and the same.

But there are positive initiatives to clean up the scenario by creating a larger and meaningful secular political space other than that of drinkers’ fellowships in and around arrack/toddy shops.

Members of Dharma Rajya Vethi led by Swami Sachidananda Bharathi are travelling all across Kerala in an attempt to create awareness against alcoholism, as part of their larger movement for a second freedom struggle and to create a violence free, corruption free, hartal free and liquor free Kerala.

Formed in 2009, Dharma Rajya Vethi is a secular political platform consisting of Gandhians, spiritualists, social activists, social workers, businessmen, and professionals etc. The campaign motto is “alcohol free Kerala Panchayats”. The journey began in Malappuram on May 27th.

Dharma Rajya Vethi is planning to make their political presence felt by contesting in upcoming elections. It may not replace communal political parties immediately, but would provide an alternative socio-spiritual and ideological option to Kerala, to begin with, a possible political awakening in the Gandhian lines!

Monday, April 07, 2014

Why Has Kerala Remained Out Of Bounds For The BJP?

By Suresh Menon (Guest Writer)

ANALYSIS As the first phase of elections to the 16th Lok Sabha begins, the question that nags the Sangh Parivar in Kerala is: Will God’s Own Country at last yield at least one parliamentary seat to the Bharatiya Janata Party?

After the BJP swept to power in Karnataka in 2008, many started wondering if the BJP will push further down in its march on the other southern states, which for decades have been elusive for the saffron party. Kerala is, in a geographical sense, the final frontier for the BJP; it has never won an Assembly or a Parliamentary seat from this southernmost State.

Elections Tracker: The Church, Muslim League And The Congress In A Tight Secular Embrace In Kerala State

By M Diwakar | Trivandrum

OPINION I have no doubt that  Narendra Modi, the Gujarat Chief Minister and the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, will help his party sweep the polls on the development plank. However, please note that this vote for development will be cast entirely by the Hindus, with negligible or little support from Christian and Muslim voters.

Sonia Gandhi, the Congress President, had sought the support of the Shahi Imam of Delhi to shore up the secular cause. The Shahi Imam, the arch-secularist, responded by asking Muslims and others to vote for the secular Congress. Students of journalism must realize that under India’s peculiar notion of secularism, only the Muslims and Christians qualify to be secular. The others too are, as long as they identify themselves as Dalits, upper caste, OBCs, etc. The moment they call themselves Hindu, they become communal.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Focus: Mango, The 'King Of Fruit' Is Now In Indian Markets

By Dabu Sadaf | INNLIVE

SPECIAL REPORT Summer in India for foodies is synonymous with the mango season. In our country, each state boasts of different varieties of mangoes, all hailed as delicacies. Some are meant to be eaten ripe, while others are best eaten when they're green and raw.

While this season starts as early as the last weeks of March, it is only around the last week of April that the many varieties make their entry in the fruit bazaars across the country. This season lasts up to the end of June. In certain areas, it lasts up to the first week of August.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Spotlight: The 'Paradoxical World' Of The 'Gulf Malayali'

The Emirati employer of a Malayali expatriate in Dubai went to Kerala for herbal rejuvenation and treatment for some illness. The month-long sojourn in 'God's own country' included a few days stay at the 'humble abode' of his loyal employee of nearly 30 years.

The Arab was mighty pleased with the hospitality, but guilt and incredulity gripped him. His worker lived in a palatial mansion, 10 times the size of his own villa in Dubai's up-market Jumeirah neighborhood.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

'Burqa Revolution' In Kerala: An Early Sign Of Islam Radicalisation

By ISMAIL KUTTY | INNLIVE

Till some 20 years ago, the burqa was not a Muslim woman's default costume in Kerala. Muslim women worekachathuni (a mundu or dhoti), pennu kuppayam (a full-sleeved loose blouse) and thattom (long scarf). This outfit differed only slightly from what the Christian and Hindu women wore. Or like the others, some Muslim women wore sari and blouse or modern attires, Indian or western.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

SEA TURTLES SKIP KERALA COAST DUE TO 'WARMING'

By Ajit Menon / Kochi

In an alarming trend, the Kerala coastline which was once a favourite nesting ground for marine turtles has been recording a dip in the number of arrivals for the past few years.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India, after a recent survey, has issued an alert that the number of turtles coming to the Kerala coast has substantially decreased over the years.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Good Food: Fishy Tales From 'God's Own Country' Kerala

By Shanti Kutty | Kochi

If the fish on the menu of your hotel is not what you were looking for, what do you do? Complain to the chef? Change your hotel? If it is Chef Ashok Pillai, of Vivanta by Taj, Bekal, the newest of the Taj properties in northern Kerala, he will simply drive you down to the nearby Kappil Fishing Village, buy the fresh fish that you like straight off the boats as it were and have it cooked for you for lunch. And that's an experience you are unlikely to forget.

Contrary to my fears, the trip was not too early in the morning. In fact, it was after a leisurely breakfast over ragi dosas, rice kanjhi (a kind of local gruel) and rich filter-coffee that we set out for Pallikera, about 15 minutes from the resort.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

In Kerala, Parents Struggle To Shake Children From The Influence Of Ultra-Conservative Islam

By ISMAIL KUTTY | INNLIVE

They say the growth of Salafism in the state has pulled their children away from mainstream life.

The news that 21 Muslims from Kerala have gone missing and were believed to have left the country to join the Islamic State has jolted several Muslim parents in the state who have seen signs of an increasing conservatism among their wards but are struggling to address the trend.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Exclusive: 'Rotten Politics' of India

By M H Ahssan

Nearly Every State Has Religious Leaders Telling Their Flock Which Way To Vote

The church and state have assiduously been kept apart in India, but a similar firewall between religion and politics has been repeatedly breached to the point where using the religion card is now accepted as part of the desi system of vote garnering.

Gurus, mahants and maulvis existed around the periphery of power structures during the Nehru era. But the growth of Congress’s perceived minorityism under Indira Gandhi, when the term ‘vote-block’ (read Muslim votes) first gained currency, probably triggered the mushrooming of similar mechanisms across religious platforms.

Hindu religious organisations got a fillip with the dilution of the Supreme Court’s secular judgement in 1985 on Shah Bano when Parliament — under a brute Congress majority — overturned the SC verdict by passing the Muslim Women’s Bill that made it legally tenable for Muslim men to skip paying alimony to their divorced wives.

Today, whether it’s Gujarat with its dominant Hindu sects, or Punjab, home to hundreds of ‘Deras’ of localised gurus, or UP with its mahants and madrassas, or even Jharkhand, Orissa and Northeast with their Christian evangelists, nearly every state in the country has religious organisations and sects exhorting their flock to go out and vote. At times, they tell them who to vote for and, at others, make the choice implicit.

In Kerala, the Muslim League, which is a critical ally of the Congress-led LDF, has at its helm Syed Mohammedali Shihab Thangal, a spiritual leader with a following of his own. ‘Thangal’ is an honorific title that traces its lineage to the Prophet no less. Kerala Muslims flock to his meetings.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, with Uttar Pradesh seeing a spurt in madrassas which has taken Muslims away from modern education towards fundamentalism, Hindu ‘sansthan’ and ‘dharma raksha manch’ sprouted. Gorakhpur, which has Azamgarh in its neighbourhood, became a militant Hindu hub. The mahants and acharyas led by Yogi Adityanath, who calls for strident Hindutva, regularly clash with Muslim activists who they accuse of being ISI agents and worse. In 2005, riots broke out in Mau between supporters of Yogi and SP’s Mukhtar Ansari. But Hindu sects at times cut both ways: Just before the 2002 assembly elections in Gujarat in the aftermath of the riots, a high priest from Puri, Swami Adhoksjanand, camped with Congress’s CM candidate Shankersinh Vaghela and ran a surrogate anti-Narendra Modi campaign by telling religious gatherings to defeat the forces of Hindutva.

Mufti Shabbir Alam of Ahmedabad’s Jama Masjid issued a fatwa on the day of the Assembly elections in 2002, urging Muslims to come out and vote. Congress leaders believe the fatwa helped BJP because Hindu organisations decided to counter it. Mufti’s subsequent denials about never having issued the fatwa were of no use. In Punjab, the Dera followers, who number more than a crore, are an important consideration for non-Akali politicians. In the last assembly election, the Dera Sacha Sauda of Gurmeet Singh Ram Raheem, who faces multiple criminal charges (trumped up by Akalis, according to his followers), helped Congress get 25 out of 65 seats in Malwa, a traditional Akali stronghold.

In Jharkhand, Orissa and Northeast, Christian missions play a significant role in mobilising voters. But while in Mizoram the Christian missions involve the people in the democratic process — former CEC J M Lyngdoh once described Mizoram as a model state for elections — the ones in Jharkhand are known to harbour political preferences towards which they egg their supporters on. Christian missions in Orissa are unlikely to remain impervious to taking a pro-Congress and anti-BJP/BJD stand.

In Goa, Joaquim Loiola, secretary to Archbishop, said, ‘‘The Archbishop will be signing and publicising the message of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India on the elections.’’ While it’s unlikely to be a direct endorsement of any political party, the circular will tell its flock ‘‘how to vote’’. Though it’s anybody’s guess which way the religious heads will ask their flocks to vote.

Even the Reds seek blessings in Kerala
Given Kerala’s large minority votebank, both the Church and Muslim leaders have traditionally exerted considerable influence on the state’s politics, so much so that atheist Communists and ‘secular’ Congress leading the two coalitions have courted them with abandon.

Apart from Kerala Muslim League’s spiritual leader Syed Mohammedali Shihab Thangal, another Muslim leader who has carved out space for himself is the general secretary of Sunni Jum Iyyathul Ulema, Kanthapuram A P Aboobacker Musliyar. He attracts the state’s Sunni Muslims in droves.

The influence of the Church on Kerala’s politics is no less significant. Although fewer in number than the Muslims, the Church has the advantage of its followers spread evenly and backed by numerous institutions. The influential Catholic Church makes no secret of its political stakes. ‘‘We have discussed our position for Kerala and will soon declare it,’’ says Stephen Aalathara of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council. Asked what would be the moving factor, Aalathara said, ‘‘There are a lot of problems we face from the Communist government especially in the social and educational sectors.’’

‘‘The Church has always been an invisible factor in determining candidates in at least seven LS seats in Central Kerala,’’ says C P John, a veteran political commentator.

In UP, parties petition mahants and maulvis
For two years now, the army of mahants and dharmacharyas in Ayodhya has stood silent. Last fortnight things changed when the mighty mahant of Hanuman Garhi, Gyan Das, launched the ‘dharma raksha manch’ for Hindu re-awakening. Around the same time, former CM Mulayam Singh Yadav met the 102-year-old rector of Deoband’s Darulul Uoom seeking to explain his party’s cosying up to Kalyan Singh, who was at UP’s helm when Babri Masjid was razed.

Polls have galvanised the akharas and madrassas as much as political parties. The bigshot maulvis and mahants will be petitioned, and they will then condescend to ‘bless’ this party and that candidate.

Das made headlines in 2003 when he went door-to-door to ensure participation of Ayodhya’s Muslims. Mahant Aditya Nath accused him of polluting the mandir and demanded his ouster.

The matter was settled after Faizabad civil court stayed all such future events. Meanwhile, Maulana Amir Rashdi Madni, who founded the Ulema Council, is in politics after the arrest of his son, Talha Amir.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Are Many Gramasabhas Posing Challenge To Governance?

As the Kerala government takes steps to re-inspire citizens to engage in grassroots level governance, INNLIVE draws attention to certain critical issues that must be addressed for the Panchayati Raj Institutions in the state to be effectively revitalised.

The Kerala Panchayat Raj Act 1994, enacted by the then Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government, consequent to the 73rd amendment of Indian constitution, has been hailed as one of the most progressive legislations of its kind in the country.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

'ARABIAN NIGHTMARES' OF KERALA WORKERS

By Sunita Williams / Trivandrum

It's the beginning of the end of dreams for most Indians, particularly those from Kerala, working in the Gulf region, as many of them are forced to return home. INN  looks at the grim scenario and tries to find out the reason

Keralites working in the Gulf, as a class, are facing a crisis of status — and of survival. Some 30 years ago, it was a matter of pride for Kerala families to say that they had some Persian connections (the word Gulf was yet to become common among the ordinary people then). Men working in the Gulf then were in high demand in the marriage market. Half the Malayalam movies released between then and now had stories directly related with migration to the Arabian Gulf.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

'Fake Currency' On The Wings Of Kerala’s Dream Airliner

By Ramesh Menon / Trivandrum

An habituated criminal involved in several heinous crimes floated the dream airlines in Kerala state, K K Praveen kumar of Kairali Airlines Limited, the company which plans to start business operations in the domestic aviation sector, is an accused in three cases registered by the Kerala Crime Branch relating to circulating counterfeit currency. A INN investigation into a recently announced budget airline in Kerala has revealed that the company’s chairman and managing director has a murky past. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lip-Smacking, Vegan Dishes On Kerala’s Grandest 'Onam'

By LIKHA VEER | INNLIVE

Like most Indian festivals, Onam is typically celebrated with food—lots and lots of it, consisting of at least six courses.

So much so that a proverb in Malayalam on the harvest festival goes “kaanam vittum onam unnanam.” It means a man must host a sadya—or a grand vegetarian lunch banquet—even if he is forced to sell his property.

The sadya, which is served on a banana leaf and relished best without the use of cutlery, is historically known to have included 60 dishes. Over the years, however, the number of dishes has reduced and several recipes forgotten.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Knotty Problems: Kerala Debates On Wedding Restrictions

A proposal by the Kerala Women’s Commission proposal to curb marriage expenditure has started a debate that touches on issues like class and migration.

A proposal by the Kerala Women’s Commission proposal to curb marriage expenditure has created ripples in the state’s wedding industry and sparked a debate that touches on issues like class and migration.

The panel urged the state government to draft a legal framework limiting the total wedding expenditure to Rs 5 lakh by imposing caps on individual expenses.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

FLOOD OF PEOPLE, TRICKLE OF FUNDS

By Maria Kutty

With remittances from the Gulf dropping and laid-off Indians returning, the slowdown could hit home sooner than expected

For long, it was the Malayali’s Promised Land. The lure of shining cars, neon lights and petro-dollars has had Keralites flocking to Dubai since the mid-1970s. The money they sent back bolstered the state’s economy for over three decades, but the good times seem to be coming to an end, with the economic recession setting in.

An estimated 5.7 million Indian workers abroad sent home $27 billion in 2007 to make India the world's top receiver of migrant remittances, according to a World Bank report. And Kerala accounts for 19.4% or almost a fifth of all remittances by NRIs.

There are about 19 lakh Keralites in the Gulf, and 56% of remittances to the state originate from there. Economists believe that the slowdown in the Gulf countries will have a major impact on the state as it is heavily dependent on NRI remittances for its consumption expenditure.

Remittance figures with the state-level bankers’ committee show a decline in the contribution by non-residents to the total deposits received by commercial banks in Kerala since 2007. While overseas deposits comprised 32% of total bank deposits in Kerala as of September 2007, it has dropped to 27.71% in September 2008. The deposits received by the state’s banks as on September 2007 was Rs 97,113.30 crore, of which non-residents accounted for Rs 31,690 crore. But by September 2008, banks had received Rs 1,13,985 crore, of which just Rs 31,585 crore came from overseas residents.

There may be a fall in Gulf remittances as hundreds of jobs are lost in Dubai on a daily basis. Sudhir Kumar Shetty, general manager of UAE Exchange, Abu Dhabi, says, “We have not seen much of a dip in remittances compared to last year, but with new contracts not being signed and projects postponed, the situation looks bleak. There is going to be no growth in 2009.”

A number of economic activities in the state, notably trade, real estate and construction, were financed by remittances, says a study done by Thiruvananthapuram-based Centre for Development Studies. The report submitted to the state government in December 2008 says the growth in remittances could see a reduced rate during the short and medium terms.

“We never expected the problem in Gulf to be so bad. Though we mentioned that remittances could be one channel through which recession could hit us, we underestimated its effect,” says K J Joseph, who helped conduct the study.

Though there are no official figures for the number of Indians returning home, there are other indicators to show how bad the situation is. Dil Koshy, secretary of Agricultural Products and Processed Food Exporters’ Association (APEXA) says, “Since December 2008, there has been a 40% fall in export of fresh vegetables and other food items to Dubai.” Officials at the air cargo division of Kerala State Industrial Enterprises speak of a 20% fall in imports.

State finance minister T M Thomas Isaac says the worst is yet to come. “The situation is going to worsen in the coming months, particularly after March when the schools have their holidays,” he says.

However, tourism arrivals have not fallen. “Contrary to expectations, tourist arrivals for December 2008 have recorded a one per cent rise over December 2007. It is very reassuring, given that we were expecting a 25% to 30% drop,” says tourism secretary V Venu.

Schools have no space for returning students
Schools in Kerala are being flooded with enquiries for admission from Gulf countries, with thousands of overseas residents returning home after losing jobs. Ever since mega-construction projects in places like Dubai were shelved due to the slowdown, it is believed that thousands of Indians, many from Kerala, have been retrenched. Enquiries by HNN confirmed that many had already landed in Kerala, while a few fortunate ones have got time till March when children complete the school year.

Jomon Joseph from Thrissur was laid off by a construction company in Dubai. His son and daughter are studying in class IX and II. “I’ve been trying for their admission back home as I need to pack up by March, but I haven’t been lucky,” he says.

P Sunder, administrator, Chinmaya Vidyalaya, says they can admit new children only when others leave.

CBSE school rules state that the number of students in a class should not exceed 35. “We should be allowed to accommodate more students. This time, the requirement for new seats is far higher than the expected exit,” says E Ramankutty, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Kochi Kendra director.

The government could also grant ‘no objection’ certificates to schools awaiting CBSE affiliation. Some schools have approached courts to direct the government to grant NOCs. There are 300 schools awaiting NOCs. Education minister M A Baby told TOI it would be better if parents put their wards in government schools with state syllabus. “We are ready to relax norms to accommodate children. But granting NOC to CBSE schools is a major policy issue that we don’t encourage,” he says.