SALAFISM IS HERE TO STAY

Kerala is on a self destructive path and no one is to be blamed for it other than the malayalees themselves. The salafist school of orthodox Islam has established itself to such an extent in the state that it is rapidly eroding the social and cultural gains that the state had achieved over the years and turning the clock back forever. The fear of being labelled as “communal” has stopped many from the majority community from raising their voice against the Saudisation of the state , while the feeble resistance offered by the handful within the Muslim community is muzzled with an iron fist. It is high time that we acknowledge this phenomenon and start asking some hard questions.

As we all know wahabbi incursions started with the gulf boom but it took nearly two decades to get itself planted on this soil. As a non Muslim my first encounter with it was at school when some of my classmates who used to cover their heads with shawl switched to wearing hijab. It was 15 years back and they themselves were a rarity as Muslim women like most of the Malayalees wore saree or salwar kameez . Then all of a sudden mosques started to come up at each and every locality and with it came orthodoxy. Though my school had fewer Muslims they started to segregate themselves from us and many of them started to preach what they were being taught. I was told what a sin it was to pray to an idol and that I will most probably go to hell for that where I would be roasted and fed to devil. With the onset of teenage like anyone I turned to atheism , but for my fellow classmates it was a greater sin. During this time Minority schools started to prop up , some even had fez cap as their uniform. Madrassas became ubiquitous so did the religious sermons. Today my part of the state is unrecognisable , The land where once communism thrived is now a Mecca of sorts and the sad part is that , it is still in a state of flux.

When Muslims started to wear their identity on their sleeves , their Hindu neighbours also started to do the same especially those from the higher castes. The Nairs , who were staunch communists started to gravitate towards RSS. The main reason was their economic decline. Unlike the Muslims , Nairs ignored the gulf boom , which made them financially weaker. Most of the old Tharavadus were sold to Muslims at cheap rates and many of them migrated out of the state. Those who remained only had the family names and a baggage of history. They were envious of the success their Muslim compatriots were having and budding BJP was their refuge. Now Nairs and a huge section of Ezhavas are staunch RSS men. They sport Kavi Mundu, red thilak , kangan and a plethora of sacred threads.

Though Hindutva is a threat to Malayanma, it is just a fringe phenomenon. With a falling birthrate the chance of Hindus being a driving force in the region is a lesser possibility. It is believed that by 2060 Muslims would become the largest religious group in the state. In such a situation the ascend of orthodoxy is a real threat to the survival of us as a people. Moreover this could elicit counter reactions from the Hindu hardliners from outside the state causing the situation to deteriorate. It is high time that Kerala come out of the false facade of secularism and address the serious issue at hand.

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LETS TRY DICTATORSHIP

For me , the last general elections were a turning point in my outlook towards India and its democratic system. I believed that a single party attaining majority without the baggage of alliances could turn the policy paralysis dogma over its head and push India towards newer horizons . But I was wrong , the last government was no different from the coalition melting pots that were the staple for the previous three decades. This is quite an irony. If a stable government with a powerful leader at its helm cannot bring a change , then we must certainly review the system itself. Democracy as we are practicing is not working out . Hence let us look for an alternative , why not a Benevolent Dictatorship? .

The dictator who from now on be called the “Leader” should have absolute , unrestrained powers to bring about revolutionary changes . The restrains that have been put on our current system owing to the fear of tyranny have itself become a tyrant to such an extent that the best in the administration are finding it difficult to navigate the cobweb.So an absolutist framework is necessary to bring about changes to a diverse society like ours. It is a crime these days to romanticize the British Raj , But the authoritarian Raj did turn India on its head. Imagine the uproar William Bentick would have faced if he had tried to pass the Sati abolition through our current Parliament. With absolute powers the array of Governor Generals and Viceroys turned a feudal , medieval society into the one that we see today hence unrestrained power on benevolent hands could bring about wonders.

The first step the leader must take with these powers is to dismantle the Hindu caste system. Jati , Varna or whatever it is called is the biggest stumbling block to our progress. The priesthood must be disbanded and the Brahmin monopoly over the divine must be done away with. Though it may sound harsh but people must not be allowed to marry from their erstwhile castes. This is the opposite of what we have today where people go to great lengths to arrange marriages from their own communities. This must continue for a few generations where by varna/jati would become non existent and what we would have will be a Hindu community which would be egalitarian in its true sense. some might ask why this could not be extended to the whole of the country and the religious divisions be done away with?. Religion is a personal choice but a caste is not. One is born into a caste , even if a non Brahmin wants to be a devout Hindu he would always be inferior in the ritualistic hierarchy , hence once we dismantle the caste, the hierarchy would automatically implode.

The second step must include the empowerment of women and other sexual minorities.Indian women have been at the receiving end of patriarchy since the time of Manu.To make gender equality a reality women must stop putting all the blame on the society and must take matters into their own hands. The Dalit empowerment movement bore fruits only when the leadership of the struggle moved into the hands of the leaders like Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram who belonged to these castes and knew what it meant to be “broken”. It must also be taken into account that women themselves are the greatest proponents of Patriarchy especially in rural India , Hence a reform from within is what is the needed. On the societal front the leader must make discrimination with respect to boys and girls a penal offense , which must be monitored regularly at the community level. Marriage age of girls must be raised to at least 24 ( after post graduation and attainment of job) .Men must be made to take paternity leave equivalent to the one taken by women , so the unfair advantage the men have at the workplace owing to career break of their female colleagues would be dented. More over this would help women share the burden of child rearing with men.

The third and the most important step must be to suspend our current constitution and replace it with a shorter less complicated one. It must be unique , conceptually non ambiguous and most importantly – rigid. It would be better to have a short rigid constitution than the mess that we have right now. Secularism must be re interpreted in similar lines with the French constitution. State and Religion must be separate , more over minority religions must be treated at par with Hinduism. The cushioning given by the constitution have made these religions resistant to change , Hence a uniform civil code is of utmost importance. Fundamental rights must be absolute , exemptions , that are the hallmark of the present constitution is an insult to the whole concept , hence it must be done with.

Fourthly the leader must overhaul the judiciary. The power of the supreme court must be limited to those subjects that affect the federation as a whole. The new constitution must not have article 32 or any of those provisions that would give preeminence to the supreme court. The new system must have stronger High courts at the state level , which could parallel the current supreme court in its jurisdiction but at the state level. specialized courts must be the order of the day there by de clogging the complicated maze that we face today. Judges must be selected by the people , for a fixed tenure may be 30 years , their transfer and promotions should be decided by an independent body which would again be elected by the people from time to time.

Finally, the leader must dismantle the All India Services. It is a vestige of the Victorian past which has no meaning in today’s world. Along with this , states must be given more autonomy especially in the administrative space  . A more autonomous , self reliant provinces could actually bring about competitive federalism a reality . The local self governing institutions should be empowered and the administrative machinery disbanded at the panchayat level , making them more representative.

The leader would replace the central government as we have today, but there will be elected governments at the provincial level . These governments would be elected based on universal adult franchise and will be answerable to the Leader , who would have absolute powers over them , which is to be used sparingly .The Leader must abdicate his position after 20 years in office to be replaced by another leader , selected and trained by him , who is no way will be his kin.

So , instead of towing with a failed concept i.e Democracy lets think about a viable alternative this election season.

THE DONKEY NATION

India is a blemish on the face of this planet. How much i wish this ignorant mass of worthless souls be cast into the abyss of outer space. We don’t deserve democracy nor we deserve this facade of equality. The unending streams of invaders were right in conquering us as this worthless sea of humanity could be nothing more than a slave brigade.

Why should we be given the right to elect our leaders when we never learn from our mistakes?. We as a herd could easily be manipulated by political dimwits with their tacky punchlines of “Mandir ” ,”Garibi” or “Mathil” over and over again. Even after 70 years of existence we could never look past the sacred thread of caste , churning out diktats against intercaste marriages with lethal impunity , all the while hiding under the mask of benovelance. This nation of donkeys should never be called a “paradox” or an “Aberration” , it should instead be called an absurdity which should never be celebrated.

Hinduism must have met the fate of its contemporaries in Rome , Greece or the Andes where a fractured society ruled by the elites was overthrown by faiths which preached equality. I envy Indonesians who escaped its clutches and became a true egalitarian state. This billion caste worshippers could never create a true Nation state or wield power of any stature . So you stupid optimist stop dreaming of a future for this nation of miserables. Let it sink into the ocean for good.

NEDUNGANAD OR VALLUVANAD

Every time the bus crosses the river from Malappuram to Palakkad at Thootha I used to wonder why this river became the demarcation line between the two regions which were once part of the same taluk named valluvanad. yes there were some subtle differences  between the areas north and south of the river , mainly the demographics , but that never solved the puzzle. That is when I stumbled up on Mr. S. Rajendu’s “Nedunganad Charitram”.

Erstwhile Nedunganad once extended from the kalladikkodan hills in the east to the Arabian sea in the west with its core lying between the thoothapuzha and Bharatapuzha. Its rulers were quiet weak resulting in parts west of Bharatapuzha being lost permanently to Eralpad by the 13th century . The Valluvakonathiri to the north always had an eye on this fertile region of which certain parts were annexed by him in the 15th century. According to Rajendu sir’s research the present day taluks of pattambi and Ottapalam remained independent of valluvanadan rule till the Mysore invasion of the 18th century. This might be the reason why this region was spared of the atrocities Tippu committed in other parts of southern Malabar. Nedunganad lost its identity forever when it was merged with Valluvanad taluk in 1860.

Ottapalam , Cherpulassery , pattambi and Shornur are your quintessential Valluvnadan areas . Under the light of newer findings could the region be called Valluvanad at all?. Should it be called Nedunganad instead?  . share your opinion in the comment section.

Here is the link to Rajendu sir’s site

http://nedunganad.blogspot.com/

NOT ALL MALAYALEES ARE BEEF EATERS

Ever since BJP came to power 4 years back Beef as a delicacy has become a contentious issue. Kerala is often thrown as a counter punch against the sanghis by all the so called free thinkers as a haven for beef eaters. It has reached such a proportion that a non beef eating malayali is now getting automatically identified as a BJP sympathiser. The food habits of keralites are a bit complexed to be categorised into well defined brackets. Though over 90% of us are non vegetarians , vegetarian hotels are one of the most lucrative businesses in the state. It is true that beef is served at every nook and cranny of the state , a significant number of Hindus from all castes refrain from consuming it due to religious reasons. In a state where Hindus make up just over 54% that could come to somewhere near 30%. Though a relatively large percentage of Hindu men consume it with the traditional toddy , women rarely make it a part of their diet. Kerala is a highly religious society , Hindu tenants do hold sway especially at the household level . Hence the percentage of non beef cooking households could go up to around 45 percent.

Culinary choices are personal preferences hence eating beef is not a crime and the atrocities being perpetuated in its name is shameful. But forcing beef on others just to prove ones secular credentials is equally deplorable.

WHY PARVATHY THIRUVOTH KOTTUVATA SHOULD BE HEARD

Parvathy Thiruvoth Kottuvatta has an unenviable body of work to prove that she is one of the best actors of our generation , but it is her outspoken nature that has kept her in the news for the past few months. It is true that most of her interviews are cringe worthy and over the top , but the points she tries to get across needs to be heeded to.  With her misogyny remarks she is questioning the very foundation of the Malayali society which prides itself in being the most gender egalitarian one in the country.  Such a serious accusation needs to be probed into.

A society’s evolution from poverty to prosperity involves many visible and invisible changes . One of the most important of them is the change in gender dynamics. With education and economic development women would start taking up jobs outside of the household , resulting in a visible changes in the gender equation. But Nairs of Kerala are an exemption. They were a Matriarchal caste which over time turned patriarchal and hence by the time of attainment of statehood we were all under patriarchy. The communist movement and the entrenched socialist values were the first to challenge the status quo. Their initial commitment was on breaking the caste barriers which were successfully dismantled by the 1970s and that is when they started focusing on the gender conundrum. It had become a complicated maze by then. women were literate and many had jobs , but their position in the society had remained the same. The initial burst of Feminism, supported by the liberals was welcomed by the menfolk but by the 1980s resistance was palpable , especially after the rise of Machismo.

In olden days Masculinity was usually identified with chivalry . By the advent of Mustache in the 70s Masculinity started to get associated with Machismo . By the 1990s Kerala was at its patriarchal zenith as seen from the umpteen number of male chauvinist movies produced every year.  The socio-economic Indicators of our state are comparable to Middle income countries of South East Asia , Latin America or Middle East .This could have meant a more gender neutral society . Sadly we are the worst in terms of gender equality outside the Islamic world.

The hypocrisy of the malayali society is evident from the Gender stereotypes that have become so deep seated in our psyche that many try to justify it on the basis of tradition and culture. If a man or a woman acts inconsistent with the predefined gender norms , he/she is ridiculed and even their sexuality is questioned. For eg: A man is supposed to be aggressive and a woman docile . A docile man is called a woman and an aggressive woman an outcast. The appearances,mannerisms and costumes are also important. A man with so called “feminine” mannerisms is called chandupottu and a women with coarse features is called a Hijada. If this is the case with straight men and women imagine the trauma of being a gay or lesbian. The Malayalam media which prides on being the most vibrant in the country have never discussed the issue relating to article 377 in a positive light.

This is what parvathy talked about and we as a society must heed . The world is moving forward and gender equality is the norm. If we remain fossilized in the 1990s the malayali society is doomed.

VELICHAPPAD

One of the remnants of the pre vedic malayali heritage is the institution of Velichappad. Here in Valluvanad with its numerous Devi temples and Kavus (Sacred grooves) velichappads are ever more important to the spiritual ecosystem than anywhere else in the state . This post is about the only Velichappad i know and how he brought the Devi of our temple to life every night during the Chuttuvilakku ( an occasion when lamps are lit around the kavu premises).

Velichappads get initiated to serve the Goddess of the land on self will . It is said that the goddess would choose her representative by sending certain specific omens to him . In case of Bhaskaran Velichappad it was the Devi appearing in his dream to invite him to serve her . Our velichappad is something of an anomaly , He was born into a very wealthy Nair Tharavad and had spent most of his childhood in Rangoon. His uncle had a very good library with best books of the time , while his cousins were white collared professionals. My early memories of him are very vague , It was during mid 1990s that we moved here from Cherpulassery , so he must have been the velichappad of the Desam from the early 90s. The first thing that comes to my mind are his long locks and the sword (vaal in malayalam) which he carried with him . Once a year we would have our turn to host the chuttuvilakku and that is when I saw his fury.

In kavus like ours the vellichapad also doubles up as the temple priest , so on the evening of chuttuvilakku he would first do the regular offerings to the Devi while we lit the lamps. After the lamps are lit and the sun has set , he accompanied with an assistant would go to the temple pond to bathe and this is when his transformation into the goddess starts. He would first discard his normal clothes to wear the red pattu ( silk) , which is the color of the goddess and wear the Devi’s anklet . As he return , the ambience would have been set for his performance thanks to highly energizing percussion by the melam ( Kerala chenda performance) . The out of the world experience would be exemplified by the starry sky of the makara month ( Malayalam calendar)  and the rustling of the banyan leaves swaying in the light wind . He would first enter the kavu , take the blessing from the Devi and then pick up his sword to circumambulate the premise thrice , stopping at all the four corners to communicate with the goddess so as to make his transformation into the Devi less turbulent.

Once the Devi possess him , he would run violently like the Bhadra kali around the kavu proclaiming her utterances to everyone and blessing them. It is an extraordinary sight to watch him move about trembling in fury of the great spirit. At the end he would take a coconut and smash it over a granite carved like a snake , dissipating all our sins. Over the next hour the Velichappad would return back to him human spirit and he would place the red dress and the anklet as an offering to the mother goddess.

sadly we don’t have a desam(region) velichappad today as Bhaskaran Velichappad passed away a few years back . It is only during the pooram that we have a velichappad , who in most cases would be brought from our rival desams.

THE POLITICAL ARTIST

United States may be an older democracy than we are , but it is far from being a matured one. We Indians might have our political and ideological differences but it rarely spills out of the virtual space. Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a highly divisive figure , his legitimacy to the post is never questioned like they do in America. Even the staunchest critics of the current regime accepts Mr Modi as our leader. The anti Trump propaganda on display at the 79th Emmys was appalling. It has again vindicated the Indian maxim that artists should stay far away from politics untill their career is done and over with.

Artists are in a unique position were they could bring people of various hues to togather like a glue. Just look at the Bahubali phenomenon were India as a whole came up to own a Telugu fantasy movie as their own. By endorsing a political narrative an artist of repute is alienating a huge chunk of his/her fan base .Take Katy Perry for instance , Her active endorsement of Hillary Clinton might have created media hype , but her conservative fans abandoned her. Her career is now on a downward spiral with the latest single swish-swish finding no takers. At the same time her rival and a shrewd business woman Taylor Swift was conspicuous by her absence during the political debates during the elections. Having a huge country music fandom she could never have taken a stance which could offend the Redneck Middle America. Her new single is ruling the charts right now and is being lapped up by the public even being a critical dud.

Award shows must limit themselves to their core business – that is to honour the best in show biz. I am indeed proud of the fact that we Indians never wash our dirty linen on such huge platforms . We showcase our diversity and unity at such occasions unlike the “civilised ” Americans who shows the world how deeply divided they are.

WHY DO OUR NEIGHBOURS HATE US?

The political history teaches us that when a country dominates a region geographically , demographically and economically , the region becomes its backyard. Hence when The United States came up with the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 , no one was surprised . But when a country of India’s size declared a foreign policy based on equality and non interference at the time of independence a few eye brows rose . Nehruvian concept of a free and equitable world order was a revolutionary concept , according to which India would assist its neighbors with all its means in solving their problems without interfering in their internal affairs. Nehru’s vision got its first set back in the war of 1962 and by the time of his death our foreign policy was in disarray. Today if we look around us , we have more enemies than friends in our neighborhood.

so what went wrong? The failure of 1962 and the unprovoked war of 1965 made us realize the futility of an egalitarian foreign policy and the need for self preservation made us assert our stature as the regional power . Pakistan has always seen us as an existential threat , hence it tried to exploit the weakness shown by us during the war of 1962 by invading Indian territory in 1965 making us suspicious of that country’s motive ever since . Hence when the rebellion broke out in the East it was natural for India to support the Mukthi Bahini . The war of 1971 broke whatever trust pakistan had , turning it into our eternal foe . As far as Sri Lanka is concerned we never had a clear policy , we always saw Colombo through a lens that was placed at Chennai . Once we realised our folly we tried to rectify it , but the damage was already done . Bangladesh was supposed to be our friend thanks to our involvement in its birth but with the rise of ziaur Rehman and the Bangladesh National Party we were not able to cope up with the changing scenario and due to our poor judgement we lost an ally . The error in judgement was also the main problem in our relationship with Nepal , which sadly still continues with the madhesi fiasco.

Our failure could largely be attributed to the lack of clear foreign policy doctrine. Once the Nehru doctrine was thrown out we never tried to frame a new one . A country specific approach is one of the steps to rectify our current situation. Using the same yard stick for every country was the biggest mistake as far as our relations with the SAARC countries were concerned. China signing the CPEC  with Pakistan must not be equated with Sri Lanka signing a treaty with China or Nepal planning a Railway line across the Himalayas . Sri Lanka is recouping after a bitter civil war and it needs investments from across the globe , Hence that factor must be taken into consideration while evaluating the Sino-Lankan relation and its effects vis a vis  India.

Next is to evaluate the political situation in a country thoroughly before interfering or lending support to different groups. India’s policy with respect to President Nasheed of Maldives was such an issue . Tit for Tat cannot yield any results , Pakistan supporting separatists in Kashmir must not make us support the balochi cause . A stable Pakistan is more of India’s necessity than of Pakistan itself. A better judgement could help avert many of such crises.

Lastly we must have a better perspective management system. The cause for every ill in any of these countries is often directed towards us . This has much to do with how those people perceive India . This requires more cultural interactions , but sadly it is one sided with Indian culture being imposed on them , which they see as aggression . A better cultural understanding of our neighbours could go a long way in alleviating suspicions and mistrusts.

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