The facts are as follows: Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit the Sivagiri Ashram established by Sree Narayana Guru today. The monks had, to be even-handed, invited Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to the same event, but they demurred, so only Modi is visiting. This has caused paroxysms of outrage amongst the Communists in Kerala, with head honcho Pinarayi Vijayan lamenting that this was an effort to turn Sivagiri into a Hindu ashram!
You could have fooled me, but I used to think that Sivagiri is, in fact, a Hindu matham. My first clue was the name ‘Sivagiri’ = Siva + giri, and I was under the impression that Siva was usually a Hindu deity. My second clue is that I have been there, and it definitely looked and felt like a Hindu ashram. I must have been mistaken: it must be an elaborate hoax, like those Christian faux-ashrams run by clever people in saffron with remarkable names such as Swami Charles Satchidananda, etc, and discreet crosses placed in strategic places.
Or perhaps not: Vijayan may be suffering from terminal confusion, or this is yet another instance of Communist double-speak. In the tradition of the Soviets and the Chinese, they are making up history as they go along, erasing certain facts and inserting convenient, new fables.
There is an ironic symmetry in the whole episode if you look at it from the point of view of jati. Here is Narendra Modi, an OBC, visiting the ashram of Sree Narayana Guru, himself an Ezhava OBC, the person most responsible for creating self-respect amongst the oppressed lower castes of Kerala. And who is objecting? The Communists, most of whose support base are OBC Ezhavas! The alleged saviours of the oppressed are now showing their true casteism.
Sree Narayana Guru deserves wider renown than he gets, because he created a quiet revolution in Kerala. In addition to being an orthodox Saivite monk, he was a social reformer of the first order. He was the one who first provided a theoretical underpinning to the rise of the so-called lower castes. Kerala, which had once been termed a ‘lunatic asylum’ by Swami Vivekananda, was riven by casteism in the last decades of the 1800s – a curious phenomenon for an area that had produced the great Sri Sankara (also known as Adi Sankara).
In fact, Sree Narayana Guru was the greatest religious and social reformer from Kerala after Sri Sankara. Let us note that Sankara cleansed Hinduism, circa 800 CE, of a lot of its accumulated excesses, and provided the intellectual heft for the Counter-Reformation. Along with the ecstatic personal devotion of the Tamil Bhakti saints, this led to the counter-resurgence of Hinduism, which ate into the Reformation that Buddhism and Jainism had created about 1,200 years earlier.
In a metaphysical coincidence, 1,200 years after Sri Sankara (sambhavami yuge yuge?), Sree Narayana was able to rescue Hinduism in Kerala from the accumulated excrescences that threatened it. By providing an intellectual basis for the resurgence of the so-called lower castes, he enabled them to make their rightful claim to the traditions of their ancestral religion.
In 1888, exactly 125 years ago, on Sivaratri, Sree Narayana Guru consecrated a Siva temple at Aruvippuram, near Thiruvananthapuram. When questioned how he, an Ezhava, dared to do something that was the monopoly of the so-called upper-castes, he replied mildly that it was “only an Ezhava Siva” that he had invoked. That epochal statement laid bare the absurdity of limiting Siva, the Creator and Destroyer of all, to just the property of some small group of people.
Following this, in 1936, the enlightened Maharaja of Travancore signed the Temple Entry Proclamation, throwing open all Hindu temples to all Hindus, regardless of caste. This year, interestingly, is the 100th birth anniversary of that beloved Maharaja, Sri Chitra Tirunal.
And so, a century after the monk and the Maharaja removed the fetters, and Kerala has become the least (overtly) casteist part of India – although I note that there is tremendous covert casteism and religious prejudice there – here come the obscurantist Communists, wanting to oppress people based on caste and religious identities. Whatever happened to egalitarianism?
Perhaps this is not too remarkable if you think about it, because it is evident that Communism is another neo-Semitic religion, pretty much a clone of Christianity. The parallels are numerous, although that is outside our scope here. But that makes Communists paranoid: a Hindu consolidation may wipe them out as a political force (much as the Pope and the Americans collaborated discreetly to bring down Communism in the Soviet Union and its empire).
I have long been entertained that the Ezhavas are the very backbone of the Communists in Kerala, but they have become increasingly resentful at the fact that they are merely the water-carriers and hewers of wood for the Communists. The loaves and fishes of office, as it were, are enjoyed by the so-called upper caste Hindus, and increasingly by Christians and Muslims.
The Communists came to power in Kerala in 1957 under EMS Namboodiripad (a Brahmin) even though their cadres were overwhelmingly Ezhavas. For 50 long years, the Communists contrived to deny an Ezhava the post of Chief Minister. For instance, there was KR Gowri, a woman and arguably the tallest leader among the Communists, who was denied the CM post on extremely flimsy grounds.
It was only in 2007 that, with much hemming and hawing, that V Achuthanandan, an Ezhava, finally became Communist CM. That too after they had contrived to defeat him in a ‘safe seat’ at one point, and even in 2007, the party appartchiks had pushed forward a Muslim candidate.
This is not surprising behaviour for Communists. So far as I can tell, in that other bastion of theirs, Bengal, all the top leaders are so-called upper caste Banerjis and Boses and other such. They disdain the lower-castes, and do nothing for them, despite all the fine words and crocodile tears.
What is the concern, really, that Vijayan is expressing? That there will be a consolidation of the Hindu vote in Kerala? The Ezhavas have been proposing just such a tie-up, but the other large group of Kerala Hindus, the Nairs, have been hesitant.
If the Ezhavas abandon the Communists and vote in large numbers for the BJP, that would instantly mean the BJP, hitherto winless in Kerala, would become a force. If in fact the Nairs also do the same thing, then Hindus will become the swing-vote in Kerala and thus the BJP the king-makers, determining whether the Congress or the Communists come to power.
This is precisely the game that the Muslims and Christians have played in Kerala. They vote together as a bloc, and thus whoever they side with will be able to form a government.
Thus, a Hindu consolidation, which Modi may catalyze, would mean the rather quick eclipse of the Communists; and maybe of the Congress too. Therefore, quite rationally, the circus we are seeing in Kerala now. On the one hand, Communist fulmination from Vijayan et al.
On the other hand, the Congress has been berating Shibu Baby John, an ally and a minister, who visited Modi to, as he put it, “study development in Gujarat”. Shibu has been forced to recant (I am reminded of Galileo at the Vatican) and show remorse for his alleged sin.
So we have come full circle. Irony of ironies, the OBC Modi has become an “untouchable”. And “untouchability” has come back to Kerala, a century after Sree Narayana Guru helped eradicate the practice. I tell you, Kerala is a place where an impartial observer has to be rolling on the floor laughing almost all the time. That is, when he is not weeping with frustration.
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Updated Date: Apr 24, 2013 10:54:35 IST