Vol. XL No. 37 September 11, 2016

Protect Secular Base, Resist Communal Forces

Kodiyeri Balakrishnan

The centenary year of the great declaration of Sree Narayana Guru that “we have no caste” was celebrated from August 24 to 28 in approximately two thousand centres across Kerala. A variety of programmes were organised and people from all walks of life, including intellectuals, cultural activists, sportspersons and political leaders, took part in them. The programmes commenced on the birth anniversary of social reformer Chattambi Swamikal and culminated on the birth anniversary of another social reformer Mahatma Ayyankali.
In 1916, Sree Narayana Guru had declared publicly that “we have no caste” when religions and castes divided the common man and untouchability and ‘unseeability’ were practised in the society. His declaration, that he does not belong to any religion or caste, had electrified the social reform movement of Kerala. The message of Guru – “Don’t ask caste, don’t tell caste, and don’t think caste” -- had helped bring about great changes in the social structure of Kerala. It is the work taken up by the national movement and the Communist party as a continuation of Sree Narayana Guru’s social reform movement that helped in the mitigation of severe caste discrimination to a certain extent.
The state government, led by EMS Namboodiripad, had in 1957 taken several administrative steps for this purpose. Universalisation of education and free education up to seventh standard had been implemented and the same government had taken measures to stop caste discrimination in education institutions. Initiatives were undertaken to provide equal opportunity to the backward communities through the decentralisation of power.

But today we observe a very calculated attempt to communalise and divide Kerala society. Hindutva and Muslim fundamentalist ideologies are being spread by the Sangh Parivar, led by RSS, and various Muslim fundamentalist organisations like the Popular Front of India.
After the emergence of the Modi government, Sangh Parivar has been utilising the political power very systematically to break the secular base of Kerala society. Still they have not succeeded in it because the Kerala society is keeping its secular foundations strong. The Sangh Parivar knows that its divisive communal agenda can be introduced only by demolishing the secular base. Towards this purpose, RSS and BJP have been utilising SNDP which was founded by the great social reformer, Sree Narayana Guru, and they formed a political party BDJS which has the present SNDP leadership as its office-bearers. BJP has influenced and hijacked a faction of the dalit organisation, Kerala Pulayar Mahasaba. One of the social reformers, Ayyankalli was born into this community and he had stood against casteism. RSS and the Sangh Parivar are trying to use the name of social reformers to their divisive politics and they are using the organisations which have a legacy of secularism and have taken strong actions to eradicate caste oppression.
A group of activists and leaders of SNDP had tried to project its founder Sree Narayana Guru as the saint of a particular religion and a particular community even during his life time. Then, way back in 1916, Guru had written a special declaration of historical significance at the Aluwa Adwaita Ashramam concerning his caste and religious identity. In the declaration, he said that he does not belong to any particular caste or religion and added that till then he had selected the inmates of his Ashramam especially on the basis of this concept and it should be continued in future too. The leadership of SNDP today are trying again to portray and project Guru as a representative of a particular community and religion to serve their own short term political interest.
In 1903, SNDP was formed but immediately after its formation, a group of vested interests had captured its leadership which resulted in the resignation of Narayana Guru and other prominent leaders from SNDP. In Kerala today, the electorate has rejected the policy followed by SNDP and it is proved by the lacklustre performance of the BJP-BDJS alliance in the Assembly elections earlier this year.

Even though the ruling classes are employing their political clout to inject venom of communalism in different sectors of our society, it should be resisted tooth and nail. In this regard, messages of Chattambi Swamikal, Ayankalli, Sree Narayanna Guru and other social reformers should be spread across the society. Towards this goal, various Left and progressive organisations have together conducted an extensive campaign from August 24 to 28. Lakhs of people have participated in the campaign. The CPI(M) has decided that the campaign should be continued in the future. November 1, 2016, marks the sixtieth anniversary of the formation of Kerala. In this November, the Party will organise month-long programmes against the communal ideology. The secular base of Kerala society should be defended, at any cost.