SUBH MANGAL ZYADA SAVDHAN

Yesterday , while watching the trailer of Subh Mangal Zyada Savdhan trailer something not short of a revelation dawn on me. I was watching a trailer of a gay love story set in Hindi heartland ( cow belt ) while living under a fascist regime. Wow…what? Really?. Then as I started scrolling down to the comment section it got worse. Almost all of the comments were enthusiastic about the concept and surprisingly those who sneered were heavily trolled. But how can this happen during a Nazisque administration , weren’t the homosexuals sent to concentration camps in droves under Hitler?. This is were the English language media narrative about the ruling dispension at the centre starts to unravel.

The problem starts with the liberal belief that globalization is a done deal and hence human beings around the world now constitute a monolith. This generalisation is not restricted to the present but they also see parallels from the past to what is happening today. This lopsided worldview , which clouds their judgement stems from the lack of exposure to the real world outside their echo chambers. Let’s analyse this argument with the prime example of BJP and the duo who call the shots at the centre.

Firstly let us look at the statement – “BJP is a right wing communal party” . Now let us dissect the statement. There is the allegation of being right wing and there is that of being communal. BJP is a nationalist party that prides itself in India’s past glory. Hinduism being the indigeneous religion of the land , it would be natural for them to identify themselves with it. Together with this there is a staunch anti Islamic bias. This stems from the belief that the glorious Indian civilisation started to decline with the Islamic conquest and the ravages it brought with it culminated with the partition of Bharat Mata. For the party and its supporters the fight against Islam is the fight for survival and it is ethical to take any route to success including riots. So BJP is communal.

Now let us look into the right wing aspect of BJP. Though Hinduism is the basis of the party ideology , it cannot be called right wing conservatism. Here is where the anglicised journalists starts to go astray. Hinduism is not a monolithic like Christianity or Islam and is basically an amalgamation of multitude of local beliefs. So one cannot have a Iranian style theocracy in this diverse and more populous land. Brahminism or the priesthood version of vedic religion is being projected as what Hinduism will metamorphosise into under a prolonged spell of BJP rule. But the critics fail to notice the broader caste base of the party cadre today and the anti caste stand of the parent organisation the RSS Moreover the RSS blame the lack of unity that was prevalent during the medieval period as the main reason for the ascend of Islamic forces. So BJP cannot be called conservative in terms of casteism , Moreover it is the least casteist political party in India ( if we look at the caste make up of the top leadership ) and it would rank second behind the BSP in Dalit participation. The failure to notice the difference between BJP and the other conservative entities in the West arises from the elite’s tendency to extrapolate western idioms into Indian reality. In Europe conservative parties are seen as the extension of the dominant church of that country , but India lacks a national church and the dominant religion lacks a theology. Take the movie which we started this post with – subh mangal zyada savdhan , In a western reality homosexuality is a sin and hence the conservatives would be up in arms ( The social reality in the West today cannot be equated with ours as it is more woke , so let’s take the reference point as the 1990s). But Hinduism is vague about sexual ideals and some of the puranic stories even endorse homosexuality. This has resulted in lesser opposition to the removal of article 377 or commercial release of movies with similar story lines. So the argument about BJP’s conservatism also falls apart.

Now comes the most important part – the economic one. All the right wing parties from the conservatives in UK to Republicans in the US are spokespersons of extreme capitalism and globalisation. BJP is an exception here too. Its main ideology is much closer to the left than even congress’s . The cold reception Jeff Bezos received in India shows the movement of BJP closer to the RSS dream of a self sufficient Bharat. In this respect one could see the adoration the BJP cadre has for China , which they yearn to simulate here. The capitalistic set up BJP yearn is also similar to the Chinese government controlled market place with more emphasis on MSME sector. Though the media celebrate the Modi – Ambani nexus , it totally ignores the impetus the government provides for startups and smaller industries. MSME sector is an extrapolation of Gandhian self sufficient Villages in the modern era , which the RSS endorses at great length. Hence it would be correct to call BJP a centre left party in the economic ecosystem.

This is what BJP is , it is a Nationalist Hindu party which is moderately conservative with a centre left ideology. Seeing this party through a western lense cannot help us explain its success or its ever consistent support among the masses.

The average Indian is a nationalist to the core ( Have anyone seen the number of reaction videos on YouTube by foreigners and the self appreciating Indian comments on those pages ) and Hindu ( they make up 80% of the population). The Hindus today are more proud of their heritage than they were 20 years ago thanks to the free flow of information ( or misinformation) through internet and sees no problem in asserting their right over their land. Indians are also sceptical of the elite especially the English speaking upper wafer thin crust who mock at every turn , the liberal culture is often associated with this group and as a counter reaction the masses gravitated towards the moderate conservatism of BJP. The liberal media have painted the anti CAA protests as a student revolt , but the reality is that the protests are limited to a few minority institutions and the left fortress of JNU. Most Indian students come under the category of silent majority that supports the ruling party and are happy with the actions of the government even the fatal shootings. Ordinary Indians also hate the old rich and their previleges , so Modi supporting a self made Ambani group ( thanks to the movie Guru ) is acceptable while a dynast like Rahul Bajaj preaching them sanity is anathema. Unlike the West where the “ordinary” people are the rural white collar folks , Indians come in all hues with the richest to the poorest United by nationalism. This group is inherently centre left due to their disdain for the rich from the license Raj era ( old money ). This brings me to my conclusion that it is not the BJP that moulds the people as the elite in the media wants us to believe but the people who see their projection in BJP or in short the success of BJP can be attributed to the rise of a Nationalistic Hindu populace with a centre left ideology.

VALLUVANAD IN MALABAR MANUAL

Malabar Manual by William Logan published in 1887 could be considered as the first treatise on Malabar by a Modern scholar . Though the book is intended as a manual to help future British officials to navigate the administrative complexities of the region with ease , It’s importance as a historical record of the period cannot be contested. As the British took up the administration of the region in 1792 they were confronted by the task of rebuilding a region utterly devastated by the Mysorean invasion and the British offensive. They started from the basics like repairing the roads (built by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan), connecting the region to the railway grid and most importantly reverting the administrative machinery back to the indegeneous system of amsams and desams from the persianised system of the invaders.

Valluvanad as we know today is a British creation. It comprises of ;

1. The core regions of erstwhile state of Valluvanad which comprises of the present day taluks of Perinthalmanna and Mannarkkad.

2. The peripheral region of Nedunganad including parts of Ottapalam and Pattambi taluks which were ruled separately by the Samuthiri . Nedunganad was an independent state for many years before being annexed by Vellatiri. The region never really came under the sway of the new rulers and was mostly autonomous.

3. The chiefdom of Kavalappara with its Muppil Nair was semi independent. It comprised of the regions around Shoranur and the ruler often shifted his allegiance between Samuthiri and the King of Kochi.

Now let us see what the Malabar Manual says about the region;

The first major reference to the region comes with the list of navigable roads in the region. It talks about a road broad enough to carry guns running from Tanur through thirunavaya , Tritala , Kavalappara and Lakkidi to Palakkad mentioned by Captain Johnson in 1796. This must be the Palakkad – Ottapalam – Pattambi road which now serves as the main artery of the region.

The second road to be mentioned is quiet fascinating one which is rarely used these days. It starts from Feroke , passes Venkadakkotta (Kottakkal) then on to Angadipuram and Cherpulassery finally terminating at Mannarkkad. This actually validates the antiquity of the Perinthalmanna – Kottakkal route and Cherpulassery – Mannarkkad road. This road also had an extension to Lakkidi from Cherpulassery which must be the Cherpulassery – Ottapalam road.

In the section relating to the geography of the region Logan talks about the Kalladikode ranges and the intensity of rains in the region , of Ananganmala near Cherpulassery and most importantly of the Ponnani river. I had always found the names Bharatapuzha and Nila to be artificial constructs hence to see Logan call the river Ponnani seems to vindicate my hunch ( though Perar is my preferred nomenclature ). The river as it is today was seasonal but it’s tributaries like Thoothapuzha is said to be perrenial.Valluvanad is said to be hilly with abundant paddy fields in the valleys between them. Arakurussi amsam was the largest in the whole of Malabar district and the wildlife of Attapady is described in great detail.

The history of Valluvanad is superficially touched upon with the Samuthiri’s partitioning of the nadu and the placement of a zamorin branch at Karimpuzha. It is the Mysorean invasion and the aftermath that is discussed in detail( may be highlight the British superiority) . It details the atrocities committed by invading forces on the Nairs including forced conversions and temple desicrations. What interested me more was the sectarianism that was prevelant at the time especially after the British conquest till the 1880s. Initially the foreigners were the targets of the Mappila insurgents but it soon turned against the Nairs. Though much of the incidents took place in the Eranad taluk , Valluvanad proper (Perinthalmanna) was a battle field. Though most of these attacks were tenant uprisings some of them were pure religious fanaticism. For example in Kunhippa Musaliyar of Thoota mosque ( currently in Malappuram) in 1872 took offence of the Komaram of the Velichapad (who supposedly insulted Islam) of Thootha Kavu on the other side of the river. Musaliyar crossed the river at night with some of his friends and killed the Velichapad. Kolathur was notorious for communal violence , even Thirumandham Kunnu temple was desicrated in 1849. It is a heartening thing to note that religious harmony was restored over the last 150 years and no traces of animosity remains today.

The British taluk of Valluvanad was headquartered at Perinthalmanna with a sub registrar office and a Deputy Tehsildar office at Cherpulassery ( Kacherikunnu).But over time Cherpulassery lost its place to Ottapalam. The initial importance of Cherpulassery might be due to its importance as the erstwhile capital of Nedunganad. Cherpulassery is listed as an important town in the book while Ottapalam, Pattambi and Shoranur are mentioned merely as market places or railway stations which is quiet strange in the modern sense. Other important towns are Angadipuram, Perinthalmanna, Karimpuzha, Mannarkkad and Vaniyamkulam.

Vaniyamkulam chanta is described as the largest fare in the region conducted on Thursdays with over 5000 in attendance. Here it must be noted that even Angadipuram Chanda would have 1500 attendees.There were chandas at Mankada, Kulattur, Thiruvegapura , Cherpulassery , Pattambi , Pattiripala , Ottapalam , Mannarkkad , Sreekrishnapuram and Alanallur. Other important fact is the use of cheruvannur for Shoranur, this might might only have changed in the 1900s which makes shornur the youngest of the major towns in Valluvanad.

Among festivals Thirumandam kunnu puram was the largest by far with 8000 people attending. The second comes the Mannarkad pooram with 4500 attendees and the third is a tie between koonathara Aryankavu puram and pariyanampatta puram with 3000 attendees. Other purams with over 1000 participants are Mulayankavu pooram, Muthassiyar Kavu Thalapolly , Mundakkottukurissi Cherumulayankavu puram ( Kayiliad ), Mulanjoor Bharani Vela , Chinakkattur puram, Chettallur pooram ,Thoota pooram, Cherampatta pooram , Elumbulassery Nallisery pooram and Karimbuzha utsavam. Cherpulassery Ayyappan Kavu utsavam is said to have an attendance of 2000 but there is no mention of Puthanalkkal pooram.

During the British rule roads expanded with Palakkad – Ponnani road and Palakkad – Kozhikode road being the most important. There is mention of a roads originating from Pattambi railway station to Nilambur , Kuttanad , Cherpulassery and Thritala. Railway stations at Ottapalam, Lakkidi, Cheruvannur , Pattambi are mentioned.

Though the book talks more about Kozhikode and Kannur , the smaller bits here and there about Valluvanad is quiet helpful in building the history of the region especially of the 18th and 19th century. It is a sad fact that our local history is never studied with vigour or is taught to us , it is high time that regional histories be brought to the forefront or some of the local knowledge will be lost for ever.

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