CPM-backed group to observe Ramayana month in Kerala: Party inching closer to Hindus to resist RSS' outreach

When the Communist Party of India (Marxist) organised cultural procession of kids in Kerala on the occasion of Krishna Jayanthi in 2015, many believed it was part of a serious attempt to instil the renaissance values in the minds of the new generation.

Manjul toon

However, the intentions of the party became clear when it repeated the programme in subsequent years, and increased verve, on the same day as Balagokulam — a children's outfit backed by the RSS — organised their Shobha Yatra.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Still, the left-wing party could justify its decision by describing it as a secular campaign against the Sangh Parivar’s bid to inject communalism in the minds of children. However, the party's latest decision to observe the ‘Ramayana Masam’ (Month of Ramayana) seems to have ripped apart its pretensions.

As in the case of Krishna Jayanthi, CPM is not directly involved in conducting the Ramayana Masam programme. While Krishna Jayanthi was celebrated under the aegis of the party's children outfit Balasangham, the Ramayana Masam event will be conducted by Sanskrit Sangham, a pro-Left cultural outfit.

However, party state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan denied any involvement in organising the programme. He said Sanskrit Sangham was an independent organisation of Sanskrit scholars and teachers and the party had no connection with it.

"Moreover, the Sanskrit Sangham is not conducting Ramayana recital as reported in the media. Their programme is part of a campaign to expose the Sangh Parivar’s attempt to communalise the Ramayana month and reap political dividend from it," he added.

However, sources close to the party said that the programme was chalked out with the support of the party. The party leadership even deputed state committee member V Sivadasan to coordinate the programme.

The party also took a similar stand when controversy erupted over the organisation of the Krishna Jayanthi celebrations in 2015. However, the party continued to be associated with the event in subsequent years.

Senior CPM leaders have been talking highly of the epic for the past few days. While temple affairs minister Kadakampally Surendran said Ramayana contained lessons on leading a true family life, public works minister G Sudhakaran termed it a political guide.

"Ramayana is a true guide to life. It speaks of family relations, the conflicts they trigger, motherly love, children’s obligations to the father, brother-sister relationship and women empowerment. If we read Ramayana with true devotion, we will be able to experience the intensity of the life's realities," said Surendran.

"Epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata are full of politics and political insights. They teach us rare political tactics that were practised in those days. The tactics we practice now come nowhere near them. There is a lot for the present-day politicians to learn from them," Sudhakaran said.

The Sanskrit Sangham has chalked out elaborate programmes for the entire Ramayana month starting from 17 July.  Besides Ramayana classes, the programmes also include seminars, debates and conventions from village to the state-level. The state-level convention is scheduled for 25 July.

BJP leaders have welcomed the CPM's decision to patronise the Ramayana Masam. Party spokesman J Padmakumar termed it as a vindication of their policy to promote the culture and tradition of the country.

"The CPM leaders had ridiculed and branded us communalists when we spoke about the country's rich heritage. It is heartening to note that the party leaders have lately discovered virtues in the epics that moulded this heritage," Padmakumar said.

He demanded an apology from the CPM for opposing Hindu rituals and 'insulting gods and goddesses for all these years' if it is sincere in its changed approach. However, he believes the CPM's attempt is a political gimmick to appease the majority community for the sake of political survival.

He said the CPM was trying to woo Hindus after they failed to make a dent in the Christian and Muslim vote-banks. However, he said Hindus will not fall into their trap.

Political observers see the CPM's move as an attempt to make inroads into the hearts and minds of the members of the majority community in the wake of steady exodus of its cadres to the RSS. The party has been trying to stem the flow by deploying muscle power. However, RSS claimed that the violence had brought more comrades to their ranks.

The RSS has added 300 more shakhas (branches) in the last year, according to the details shared during the annual state leadership meeting held at Adoor last month. This takes the total number of training centres in the state to 5,300. This is said to be the highest number of shakhas RSS has in any prant (region) in the country.

The Hindutva outfit has been trying to silently embed itself in the majority community by taking control of temples and Hindu festivals. It has also been trying to integrate the Hindu community in Kerala with that of the rest of the country by bringing several alien festivals such as Ganesh Chaturthi and Raksha Bandhan to the state in the recent years.

The CPM started involving itself in religious affairs after the party adopted a rectification document in 2009, allowing people having religious faith, to join the party and practice the same. Till then, the CPM card holding members were not allowed to visit temples or take part in any rituals.

Taking advantage of the freedom, the party workers grabbed the control of several temple committees and started actively promoting temple festivals and rituals. The decision to observe Ramayana Masam is seen by political observers as a natural outcome of this transformation.

NM Pearson, a Left sympathiser, said the CPM was following the same tactic the RSS adopted to make inroads into the Hindu community in the state. He warned that it will only further promote communalism in the state.

"Kerala society is highly communalised. The Left parties gained space in the political scene because they fought for secularism. The party has abandoned secularism for the sake of political survival," he said.

Pearson said CPM was seeking the help of gods and goddesses as the current brand of leaders were bereft of ideas. He said the party had deviated from the core ideology for the sake of power.

"It is trying to align with all forces and appease everybody to remain in power. If the party continues on this path it will have no relevance in the Kerala political scene in the coming years," Pearson added.

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Updated Date: Jul 12, 2018 10:31:40 IST

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