Sunday, July 1, 2012

Leftists in Kerala not off the wall





Meeting a living "poster icon" of India's notorious episode in its
history on its anniversary day was awesome-it was
purely a coincidence that I met K. Ajitha, a firebrand socio-political
activist, on July 26! To my surprise she has forgotten that it was the
36thanniversary of Indian Emergency.

An embarrassed look and silence, upon my reminder, spoke volumes of
harsh experiences she had met as a young radical leader in late 1960’s
and 1970’s. The only daughter of hardcore Naxal leaders Kunnikkal Narayanan and
Mandakini, the 19-year-old revolutionary took part in Pulpally Station
attack on Nov.22, 1968 along with a group of armed activists. Ajitha
was arrested, sent to solitary confinement, and she left the movement after spending more than seven years in jail.

But in her inimitable stoic manner, she did not allow that ‘closed”
chapters of history to invade her thoughts while talking about her
present activities ranging from perennial issues of women in Kerala
and the recent political murder that has shaken up the roots of
Kerala’s political milieu.

Though she could in no way be compared to her past activities, the born-fighter in her is still keen on “eliminating” social evils and
empowering women through an all-women-team magazine, one of its first
kinds in Kerala named Sanghaditha. The monthly magazine has Sara
Joseph, a prolific writer-activist as its editor. It is run by
Anweshi, the leading women’s organisation, focusing on social issues
across the state.

Lashing out at the Congress-led Oommen Chandy government’s
lackluster attitude towards women issues, Ajitha pitched for an
alternative Leftist political group, which is very-much needed in
contemporary social scene in Kerala. She disagreed with the allegation that Leftist movement is disintegrating in the state.

"VS is my leader"

“Isn’t it the CPI-M that is disintegrating? You could see so many
alternative movements that are springing up across Kerala. Personally
speaking, people like us badly need a Left government as they are more
considerate in dealing social issues than the Congress party. “
She said the political environment prevailing now is not conducive
either for left or Congress.

“Opportunist politics that we have seen in the election in
Neyyattinkara by-election is the biggest example. I would have felt
happiness if Rajagopal (even if he belongs to communal Bharatiya
Janata Party) won the election. Congress candidate Selvaraj’s win
shows how far opportunist politics could go. But I am sure Bengal wont be repeated in Kerala”

“There is no point in blaming the people. The politicians have created
such a situation that they voted for Selvaraj. Congress has made use
of TP murder for their political mileage in Neyyattinkara, but I don’t
think they have a hand in that brutal murder.”

Ajitha lauded the stance taken by veteran Communist party of
India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader VS Achuthanandan in the sensational
murder of Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) leader TP Chandrasekharan.
“Other than VS, I don’t see a reliable leader now, who we can easily
approach to highlight social issues. But he is sidelined by own party
and demoralised by Congress. Thought VS is in a Catch 22 situation, it
is good to see he is fighting back.”

“I strongly believe CPI-M party leadership has a role in TP murder
case. Chandrasekharan, who opposed political killings, became a common
enemy for the Congress and CPI-M in Onchiyam, as people drew closer to
him. CPI-M leaders find no other way, but to cleanse him from the
leftist soil of Onchiyam. Do you think contract-killers will consider
timing of election when they confront their prey?

On Revolution

Ajitha feels the ongoing crisis in CPI-M will in turn revamp the
party. She was of the opinion Bengal won’t be repeated in Kerala. “And
if people of Kerala have gone away from leftist ideology and
revolutionary ideals, it is just because common man has his rights
granted, poverty is not a big issue and after all it indicates epeople are satisfied."

"I don't think Kerala economy is strong. The productive processes are so anti people.
Our agriculture which was mainly food producing has changed over years and decades to cash crops producing agriculture, which means dependence on international market on prices. This is the main reason for the phenomenon of peasant suicides all over India and especially Kerala.Our small scale industry scene is so pathetic because the market has been totally liberalised.

"What I want to say is the productive sector is stagnant, resulting in an economy which depends totally on other states or even international market for its people's needs.Whenever a strike by lorry operators occur, there is panic because we will be directly affected.But peasant suicides don't affect us directly! This means we have a very weak economy on top of which Tourism has been imposed by World bank and IMF, and the policy of globalization. The reason for Kerala not having total starvation is mainly due to the flow of Gulf money, through its NRIs."


On Women

Ajitha agreed with the increasing level of atrocities against women in Kerala despite its colourful records in social indices. She expressed deep concern over dowry
deaths and moral policing that have affected certain “pockets” of
Kerala. She was of the opinion that though the young generation women have a
new approach to life, they lack self-confidence to deal with
unexpected, conflicting situations that may arise in everyday life.
She also expressed her helplessness to understand the real reason
behind ‘mental retardation’ among girl population.

Setting a trend for women publications, Sanghaditha has decided not to
entertain advertisements from jewelleries as part of their anti-dowry
campaign. She appreciated women activists and writers, who write
voluntarily for Sangaditha, which was started in 2009.

She denied Sangaditha is a tool to revive feminism and as a platform
for just feminists. She insisted it is a publication that deals with
common issues of society and women, in a feminist perspective. She
also reminded that it took six years of relentless efforts to make it
happen.

She clarified doubts about scholarly writings helping common people and issues.
”Do you think an ordinary women will be able to write things for
themselves. That’s why you see academicians, litterateurs, media
persons in the magazine. We are united for common purpose and nobody
is taking remuneration. I don’t bother the criticism coming against
all-women team. I know there won’t be any shortage of male writers for
any subject. But by employing a woman to write issues related to more
serious subjects like environment, labour, media, it becomes a
challenge to her and it will develop her skills too. Thereby, we are
creating new set of writers who might have been sidelined in
mainstream.”


On Dowry Deaths

Expressing her shock in the increasing number of dowry deaths and
other offences, she said, “With the gold rate shooting up, shockingly,
the demand for dowry too is growing. Dowry does not end with the marriages in the prevailing system. Why should we need hard and fast rules for women alone when it comes to marriage? Girls are forced to leave their home the day she gets
married? Naturally she finds it difficult to handle hostile situations
of new home. These days even in love marriages, girls do not feel
safe. She has to get into love affairs, with so many apprehensions.
Naturally, she opts for arranged marriages.”

But she rubbished reports of “love jihad” that has taken the society
by storm. She said those were fabricated incidents with the intention
of polarizing a secular society, communally. Ajitha also drew attention to several instances of sexual scams and expressed her anguish for justice being denied to victims.

“When victims are denied justice by state machinery, it sends a
misleading message to the society. It is not difficult to see an
organised mafia in sexual scams. Our democratic system is politically
corrupt and weak to take measures to safeguard the victims.”
She agreed that education is not helping the women in Kerala in
protecting herself from gender injustices. She blamed social
conditioning as the biggest block in empowering girls to speak up for
herself.

“It is a question of mindset, which is reinforced by social and
cultural elements. Girls are expected to think and act in a certain
set of rules stipulated by the society. See how movies are portraying
women. Of course contemporary Malayalam cinema presents women
protagonists breaking away from clich├ęd roles on screen. But if you
ask me whether that change is happening in real life, sadly it is not
happening. Of course there are girls who are able to think in a
different way. But there is little that boosts the confidence of girls
and segregation of sexes is also affecting in creating healthy
environment for a girl to develop along with her male counterpart.
There comes the role of Sanghaditha.”

“If domestic violence is being highlighted now, it is not because
women have started resisting to it, but the civil society has adopted
it as its issue. Domestic violence has broken out of family circles
and came under public purview.

"We have long forgotten that we are agrarian society, based on food
crops. But globalisation has transformed food crop-based economy to
cash crop. It is not hard to see that women too have become a
commodity in the market.”


Sex scams


She finds tourism as the biggest catalyst in luring young women to
flesh trade, knowingly and unknowingly. The women, acting as middle
agents, in this thriving business are difficult to be broken as they
were part of prostitution rings.

“They are hard nuts to be broken off from their shells. They are so
negatively charged that they don’t feel any prick of conscience in
trapping young girls into the rackets. And Men think they have the
right over women, whom he considers as an object of interest. It is a
question of power only,” she added.

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