Kerala History: Glimpses from 1956 to 2011

 

Kerala is the No.1 state in India.

(Originally written for Bodhi Commons on November 1st anniversary)

At 55, Kerala is at legal retirement age, an age when a more healthy, a better educated crop takes over. But United Nation’s Human Development Report for 2011 seems to suggest Kerala has just started. Kerala has the least loss in human development due to inequality in healthcare, the least loss due to inequality in education, and a host of other parameters.

National & state media were distracted by another significant finding in the report which suggested that Gujarat, in spite of its fan boys and poster boy chief minister, performed really poorly. Given the fact that Gujarat has been one of India’s wealthiest states historically should make us question the inherent assumptions of industrialization and development. What is progress after all? Each of us have different opinions (which is natural), this compilation will try for some agreement around the facts (which should be common).

Anniversaries are unique, because they give us the opportunity to drill into the ground water of yesterday, and splash it for a second on our day to day. It is a time to celebrate our triumphs, and our pitfalls. To retrospect on how we fared, and to figure out what is in store. To brood on our darkest hours, and to celebrate our Santosh trophy victories. To mark the last 55 years with 55 landmarks is naïve. Then Bodhi has all the naivety of a campus wall magazine, and I assume we do not give a damn.

Because the list below is nothing short of impressive, and nowhere near comprehensive. This list is subjective, and at times prejudiced, though it tries to be prejudiced towards the best within us. Like this video:

httpv://youtu.be/SZtWQp-CyqE

Because it tilts more towards the generation that grew up in the 90s, so that’s what we are. Because there are multiple events and people and struggles we left out from our long list, we would like to hear your thoughts. Because rather than big events, we have focused on big patterns. And while we disagree on a lot many things here – political, cultural, developmental, social, and personal, I hope we all agree that Kerala got it mostly right in the past 55 years. Because Kerala is the No.1 state in India, here we go, and as always we would like to hear your thoughts.

1. Woman’s Work Participation Rate
Because this man-woman divide is evident even in migration, for every 10 men who migrate only one woman leaves the country, and most of them are Syrian Christian women, while least of them are Muslim women. Because in spite of the human development claims, Kerala has an abysmal woman’s participation in the economy with a 15% WPR, nearly 10 percentage points below the national average. Because while initiatives like Kudumbasree try to address the issue, this remains one of the reasons why social progress is not reflecting in economic progress in the state. Because there isn’t a sunrise sector of the economy which can compensate for the jobs lost by women in the declining agricultural sector (where women engaged in economic activities alongside their household work).

2. M.T. Vasudevan Nair writes ‘Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha’
Because MT redefined vernacular language and dialect in movies like no one ever did, and kindled our softest emotions. Because one of malayalam’s most loved novelists turned three of our classic folk tales on their head: Chanthu was not the arch betrayer anymore, there was no Freudian “Perumthachan Complex”, and Bhiman was the sidelined, sensitive brute. Because with a Jnanpith, multiple academy awards, ten national film awards, and over 25 state film awards, MT undeniably is the towering giant of the last 55 years.

httpv://youtu.be/aPqAmcRVMr0

3. Mathrubhumi weekly publishes O.V.Vijayan’s Ithihasam
Because Appu-Kili, the town idiot, was to be allowed the freedom of both religions, some days a Muslim, some days a Hindu, and on some other days he could be Hindu, Muslim, and Appu-Kili at the same time. Because O.V. Vijayan was brutal at times, like his geometric cartoons, like his sweeping criticisms of geo-politics, and like Ravi who walked the slopes of Khasak reminding us of the loveless thread of Karma. Because O.V. Vijayan was the classic iconoclast in our search for modernism, and ourselves.

4. Migration to the Middle East 1970s
Because with close to 3 million Malayalis in the Gulf nations, remittances augment one-fourth of the Kerala economy, where neon lights of post-1991 India shine next to fluttering red flags. Because with its millennia old relationship with Arab states, unique religious demographic, and highly educated population, Kerala was at the right place to maximize the benefits of an exploding workforce demand in the Arab states starting in 1972. Because some call Kerala a “money order economy”, even though that is not true.

5. Keltron, CDS, Sree Chitra, and C. Achutha Menon.
Because middle-class Kerala perhaps has no doubts about it, Achutha Menon was our best Chief Minister ever. Because Kerala’s first finance minister brought land reforms to a meaningful legislative conclusion, picked KPP Nambiar to establish Keltron (yes our first TV sets were homemade), K.N.Raj to setup CDS (which to date remain one of Kerala’s most respected intellectual playgrounds), and M.S.Valiathan to lead Sree Chitra Institute (yes we make our own heart valves). Because, not many people have survived in Kerala politics from being EMS’s Man Friday to Arch Nemesis. Because if SSLC 1st rank is the minimum qualification for a Chief Minister, we would have had only one.

6. Muthanga Massacre
Because there are some people we have screwed over 55 times, and then banished into the western ghats of our political consciousness. Because our inability to meet their basic demands and accept their organic leadership continues to this day, and our interaction with them is limited to exploitation of their forest lands and marginalization of their ethos. Because adivasis make up just 2% of Kerala’s population, similar to christian and sikh demographic from a national context, and may be it is ok to screw the 2%.

7. Naxal movement
Because blood was on the streets of Kerala from 1968 to 1976, and Thalasseri, Pulpally, Kuttiyadi, Varghese, Mandakini, Ajitha, Venu, Philip, Stephen, are names that remind us that annihilation of class enemies isn’t utopian, but yet it is. Because one could blame the youth of the summer of love, for ideological confusion and moral disarray, one could question their methods, but even today, there aren’t many who question their intentions. Because suppressing the Naxal movement is considered K. Karunakaran’s towering achievement in the minds of people who fail to understand the historic role of democratic progressive politics in making Kerala less suitable for extremist left movements.

8. New Wave Malayalam Cinema circa 1970
Because Adoor Gopalakrishnan, MT Vasudevan Nair, K.G. George, Aravindan, Padmarajan, and John Abraham took malayalam cinema to its current international repute with films that embraced modernism and portrayed human condition at its brutal best. Because suddenly a village priest could spit blood on an idol, and a lazy middle class man in ‘Elipathayam’ could spit on our collective paralysis. Because cinema for cinema’s sake isn’t such a bad idea, and malayalam cinema realized that in the late 70’s.

9. Land reforms 1957 & 1971
Because every political revolution worth its salt should have a considerable impact on the political economy, ours surely did. Because when the EMS government came to power in 1957, 60% of Keralites owned just 10% of the land, and 1% of the wealthy owned 40%. Because the acceleration of human development in Kerala lists land reforms as an important catalyst. Because this one we have to give to the political will of the Communist party, which even after a host of compromises, finally kept its word to the peasants who lost their life fighting for a more equal society. Because India might catch up one day, and then we’ll have a more perfect republic.

10. Overthrow of EMS Government in 1959
Because Vimochana Samaram brought together feudal caste and religious forces in the state against education and land reforms, and institutionalized a political coalition that continues to this day. Because CIA funding of churches to topple the world’s first democratically elected communist government, union of hindu upper caste land owners under NSS, and Indira Gandhi’s first successful homicide of democracy (she became a serial killer of democracy after that), now figure in the darkest chapter of democracy in India.

11. Kerala Police Football Team circa 1990
Because people who grew up in the 90s would have listened with bated breath to All India Radio’s live telecast of Federation Cup and Santosh Trophy. Because if they won, schools would close in celebration, and win they did. Because after the untimely death of Jimmy George, it took a while for the state to coalesce behind a galaxy of stars. Because Kerala police boys – Anchery, Sharafali, Chacko, Sathyan, Pappachan, and IM Vijayan, took India to its highest FIFA rankings ever.

12. K Karunakaran vs A K Antony
Because in spite of Congress (I) and Congress (A) merging in early 80s, congress politics in Kerala has revolved around these two entities for over three decades. Because partisan squabbles have haunted every UDF government to the extent of paralyzing the state, and brought down three of its own Chief Ministers. Because Karunakaran and A.K.Antony are the tallest leaders INC has produced in the state, towering over the pygmy coteries of today. Because Antony has risen to the top of national politics as we speak, despite expectations to the contrary, and Karunakaran is dead, despite expectations to the contrary.

13. People’s plan campaign launched
Because after EMS government was overthrown in 1959, decentralization of power was never treated seriously in Kerala, except the creation of district councils during 1990-91. Because People’s plan campaign launched by LDF government in 1996 (thanks to KSSP, Rajiv Gandhi, and EMS) earmarked 40% of the plan budget of the state to facilitate local level development by mobilizing both people and resources to strengthen the productive base, especially in the primary sector by creating and maintaining public and collective goods. Because despite criticism around execution issues, and capacity building, People’s plan brought ground level changes to the remotest areas in the state at a pace unseen before or hence. Because when people plan, you do not need to wait for Delhi’s or Trivandrum’s kindness, and that is empowering.

14. IFFK launches in Kozhikode
Because the International Film Festival of Kerala has now grown bigger than India International, and is the best that came out of Film Society movements in the state. Because cinema is our most popular art, and when a whole city comes out to celebrate quality cinema from across the world, IFFK becomes the people’s film festival, the Thrissur Pooram of all film festivals, and another feather in the cap of progressive forces in Kerala which started and sustained the festival. Because when the film Gods descend again on Thiruvananthapuram in December for the 16th edition, they will once again find packed theatres full of people who’ve been fed good cinema year after year for 16 years now.

httpv://youtu.be/m2t8zHVS55k

15. Protests against Coca Cola
Because Coca Cola exploitating water resources in Plachimada flew in the face of advocates of unbridled deregulation and industrialization. Because the struggle against Coca Cola became a larger symbol in a fight against neo-liberal tendencies in our societies at social forums across the world. Because as M.N.Vijayan said, drinking Coca Cola is drinking the politics of Coca Cola, and consumption habits may determine how we mold our future.

16. Rajan Murder Case & K Karunakaran
Because the murder of REC Calicut student Rajan under the auspices of then Police minister K. Karunakaran haunted Kerala’s strongest rightwing leader till his death, and the image of T.V.Eachara Warrier frantically searching for his son continues to haunt malayali’s collective consciousness. Because Rajan murder case, and the murder of Naxal Varghese, are classic examples of a police state, of everything that is wrong with giving police officers a blank cheque – a practice that UDF governments continue to this day. Because notorious police officers like Jayaram Padickal, Pulikkodan Narayanan, and Lakshmana had a free rein in the state, and we can only make a wild guess about how many more Rajans and Vargheses were tortured and killed back then.

17. Ramu Karyat’s Chemmeen wins national award
Because Chemmeen single handedly in 1965 put south Indian cinema in the national map, won the national award for the best movie, and went on to win best cinematography award in Cannes film festival. Because Karyat transformed one of Thakazhi’s lesser works into cinematic magic with a galaxy of stars – Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Marcus Bartley, SL Puram, Salil Choudhary, Mannadey, Sathyan, and Kottarakkara.

18. Self financing colleges in professional education
Because Kerala hasn’t started reaping what A.K.Antony started sowing in 1999. Because every private professional college has betrayed and backtracked on it’s agreements with the people of Kerala, and professional education is on sale – it shouldn’t be. Because charitable societies running these institutions, have neither charity, nor are social as one corruption case after the other come up against the church run institutions. Because if there is a second coming, one can be mighty sure who he will whip first.

19. Silent valley movement
Because Silent Valley movement and KSSP’s important role in “Save Silent Valley” was an important landmark in Kerala history, as it brought in “Green” issues to the fore in a nationally noted people’s movement. Because technology and development are not always the right option as we sometimes assume, and creating a scientific understanding of our ecosystem in the masses was Silent Valley movement’s lasting achievement. Because Munnar, Mathikettan, and Athirapalli wouldn’t make much sense in many other Indian states even now.

20. Vaikom Muhammed Basheer publishes ‘Pathummayude Aadu’
Because one plus one is a pretty big one, and so is Basheer. Because Aana Vari, Ponkurisu, Pathumma, Suhara, and Majeed are characters who despite their flaws appeals to some eccentric humanity within us. Because Beppur Sultan appeals to the best within us, and his earthly characters still live amongst us in our most poignant love stories and our best social satires.

21. Satchidananthan and Chullikkadu
Because Satchidanandan wrote an animal which has forests and gushing forest rivers in it’s memory can never be domesticated. Because Chullikadu and Satchi are animals that refuse to be domesticated, and they spread the anger, conflict, and devastation felt by a generation over their poems.

22. Wanted for Murder – Sukumara Kurup
Because we didn’t have a classic Charles Sobhraj, but we did have rippers Surendran, Chacko, and more recently Jayanandan, and Kurup trounced them all – big time. Because since he murdered Chacko and escaped, he is the most wanted fugitive from law in the state, and a pop culture phenomenon. Because he’s been supposedly arrested a hundred different times, and most recently spotted in tinsel town, making movies under the fake name Santosh Pandit – he should be arrested and charged rightfully with murder.

23. Kamala publishes ‘My Story’ circa 1976
Because what would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? Because Malayalam’s greatest woman writer scandalized a nation with ‘My Story’ talking about her extramarital affairs and her teenage lesbian crushes. Because ‘My Story’ wasn’t even her second best work, and she continued to tear us apart with her truth telling over the years. Because Yesudas worshipping hindu gods is secularism, Kamala finding solace in Allah is plain lunacy. Because if a woman tells the truth about her life, the world would be split open.

24. Kudumbashree Movement
Because poverty eradication is not about transfer of funds, and Kudumbasree launched in 1998 by the LDF government created a climate of entrepreneurship which over the years has become a success story Kerala is proud of. Because when half the seats were reserved for women in local governments, a big majority of candidates were Kudumbasree members. Because microfinance at bank rates has very few precedents elsewhere in the world and Kerala’s journey to the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid may have a Kudumbasree route.

25. Nilackal controversy
Because when a society moves faster than ever in the direction of secularism, a forceful pull in the opposite direction is inevitable. Because Nilackal controversy saw the biggest hindu fundamentalist resurgence in a society known for it’s progressive, secular roots. Because when a Christian church found what it claims to be a cross left by ST. Thomas in the close vicinity of Sabarimala and demanded a church be built there, there was an unusually strong reaction from hindu groups across the state, and even years after the issue died down, pockets in Kerala’s saffronised neighborhoods tell tales of Kummanam Rajashekaran, and the RSS led resistance.

26. 30 years of Mammooty and Mohanlal
Because the two stars rose to mega-stardom in the golden age of malayalam cinema, defined movies, consumer tastes, and most importantly, the constant duality of the malayali male. Because the first thing any non-Keralite knows about malayalam cinema is two words. Because one keeps getting younger, and other keeps getting philosophical.

27. Delhicate Constitution
Because in the fall of 2006, this is how malayali presence in Delhi looked like – “defense minister, National Security Adviser, Foreign Secretary of India, Space agency Chairman , India’s candidate for the UN secretary bid , Prime Minister’s secretary, President’s secretary “. Because from the days of Mathai and Krishna Menon, Kerala always had a significant presence in Delhi’s power corridors, unlikely of a state that seems to be oblivious of Delhi.

28. O.Rajagopal and a BJP that refuses to bloom
Because O.Rajagopal may have been BJP’s best chance to win in arguably India’s most progressive state. Because despite charismatic leaders, and intensely communal campaigns in Hindu uppercaste strongholds, BJP has never had a single MLA or MP from Kerala. Because with the eroding vote percentage, the nationalist rightwingers are increasingly irrelevant. Because L.K.Advani’s new Rath Yatra is in the state today, and nobody knew.

29. Asianet and Indiavision

Because the day, the “Ray and Keshavan” designed blue and pink logo started transmission in 1993, Asianet replaced Doordarshan as our defacto communication channel. Because Indiavision proved that 24 hour news or activist journalism is not overkill in a state where people continue to read four newspapers. Because despite Rupert Murdoch buy-outs, and media syndicate allegations, the channels maintain their credibility, and focus their lens on some of the state’s most burning issues.

30. Babri Masjid is demolished
Because as India burned in the post-Masjid months, Kerala where the single largest community is Muslims, stayed sane. Because the political left gave voice to the outraged, and Kerala owes it to Muslim League for the thin line it tread in months following the Masjid demolition. Because like rest of India, even in Kerala, this was the start of home grown terrorism.

31. Cochin International Airport Limited
Because CIAL is a symbol on the ground of expatriate malayali’s daily contribution to the state’s economy, and one of a well-executed public-private partnership. Because Cochin International is now one of the top five busiest international terminals in India, and makes as much money every year, as it cost to build it.

32. Sabarimala Season
Because in the past fifty years, pilgrimage to Sabarimala has increased exponentially, and with close to 50 million pilgrims visiting the temple in just over 60 days, Sabarimala is the largest annual human gathering in the world. Because the state’s economy, especially the transport and retail sector have their best non-Onam sales during this period, and the temple continues to shine on Kerala’s secular ethos and Buddhist traditions.


33. Communist Party of India splits in two
Because of the split, Keralites who identify themselves on the political left developed a constant habit of claiming their form of communism as the best.Because if you’ve grown up in Kerala and asked yourself why 32 comrades including EMS,VS,AKG,and Nayanar walked out of CPI’s National council to form CPM, your unofficial education in subjects like imperialism, comprador bourgeoisie, and internationalists would have started then. Because of the split, Keralites who identify themselves on the political left developed a constant habit of claiming their form of communism as the best, and even claiming themselves as individual republics. Because 3 years after the split, one firebrand youth leader got disillusioned and started a peasant uprising in a tiny village called Naxalbari.

34. DPEP and Curriculum Renewal
Because DPEP was one of the first steps in a decade long curriculum renewal program that changed primary and secondary school education in the state. Because all round development of students was not the purvey of elite private schools anymore, and examinations produced verifiable positive results on the ground. Because “critical pedagogy” and “Jeevan without Religion” set national television agendas. Because it gave us the confidence that if executed well, we don’t need to fear World Bank or ADB funding.

35. First democratically elected Communist government
Because this is a golden bullet point even in India’s history, and an end product of decades long, at times bloody, churn, that transformed one of India’s most caste ridden, feudal societies into one of its most secular, progressive ones. Because what the EMS government legislated then, still defines a lot of what we are today as a political economy, be it land reforms, decentralization of power, women’s rights, or the seemingly unending struggle for education reform. Because the Communist government proved that government can be a great equalizer amongst centuries of feudal privileges, and the idea of equality flourishes in our beautiful state.

36. First Gulf war
Because “the Berlin airlift was chicken feed.” compared to Air India’s massive airlift of over 100,000 Indians, mostly Keralites when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Because it exposed India’s and Indian Navy’s unpreparedness for a crisis in the Gulf, and Kerala’s vulnerabilities in accommodating it’s millions strong expatriates, and lessons learnt from Gulf war helped the LDF government plan it’s much commendable response to the 2008 global financial crisis which triggered another wave of returns.

37. Formation of DYFI & SFI
Because an organized strike force is at the center of progressive politics everywhere in the world. Because status quo sometimes needs a little prodding to change, and DYFI and SFI despite their youthful arrogance has provided just that. Because nothing good has come out in the world of middle aged men legislating in air conditioned rooms, without youth and students willing to spill their blood on the streets.

Because the 40-year history of SFI and DYFI has chronicled the scholar’s lasting struggle, and irrespective of whoever is in power, mostly written in blood and pain. Because the retirement age is still 55 in Kerala, and even today a farm laborer or an auto driver can confidently say his kids will be an engineer or a doctor. Because my annual college fees was less than my monthly school fee.

38. Founding of Kerala congress
Because since its inception in early 60s, Kerala Congress has consistently fought for the rights and privileges of cash crop farmers, and the emergence of rubber as Kerala’s white gold has sustained this political party. Because the alleged “rubber backbone” of Kerala Congress has brought many a government down, and proved that ‘real politik’ is much more fun and rewarding than long term governance. Because Kerala Congress has no pretensions, and it’s galaxy of leaders including Mani, Joseph, Jacob (RIP), and Pillai have been constantly pounded by corruption allegations.

39. Founding of Left Democratic Front and UDF
Because it is gentle reminder that in our state, we do things in our own happy pace. (Image Credits: beinnmhor@flickr)Because since late 70’s, and notably since EMS proposed not to align with communal parties in 1987, UDF and LDF are bedrocks of Kerala Politics. Because not one government was brought down by coalition partners, and despite big brother allegations, the two political formations in Kerala have literally created a highly democratic two party system. Because despite allegations of both formations being the same, the Kerala voter understands they are different, and goes off to show how advanced representative democracy in Kerala is.

40. Founding of Technopark in Trivandrum
Because Technopark may be the single largest employment location in Kerala, and may account for over 70% of state’s IT exports, but it still feels it’s just getting started with the ongoing expansions, and the upcoming IT corridor. Because when it was conceived and created by LDF government in 1990 and headed by legendary KPP Nambiar, India was just opening up, and hence it is a story of long term vision, and one of opportunties lost since then when every other state marched past us. Because it is gentle reminder that in our state, we do things in our own happy pace.

41. Pinarayi Vijayan & VS expelled from CPM politburo
Because despite running one of the best governments in Kerala from 2006-11, internal squabbles within the CPM unlike other times got more air time than anything else. (Image Credits: CPIM Kerala)Because partisan disputes and clash of big egos is nothing new to CPM, but expulsion of VS and Vijayan (sitting Chief Minister and the state party secretary) from the CPM polit was unprecedented, and was arguably a fitting climax to a long and drawn out war VS has waged within the party since the Palakkad conference. Because howsoever the party blames the “media syndicate”, VS versus rest of the party has been playing out for over a decade now, to the extent that VS refused to take sides with some of his cabinet colleagues, collective responsibility notwithstanding. Because despite running one of the best governments in Kerala from 2006-11, internal squabbles within the CPM unlike other times got more air time than anything else. Because as the CPM nears another state conference, there isn’t a slow drumbeat of another war, but a party like CPM should ideally be in a constant war with itself.

42. India’s Space Program launches in Trivandrum
Because when Homi Bhaba and Vikram Sarabhai setup India’s first spaceport in Thumba, and engineers including APJ Abdul Kalam worked out of a cattle shed, we never knew a capsule developed in that village would one day put India’s first man on the moon (we are not sure even now, but most surely we will). Because Sarabhai’s namesake Space Center in Trivandrum is the largest of Indian space facilities and fully responsible for programs like Nike Apache, SLV, ASLV, PSLV, GSLV, and space recovery capsule – abbreviations written in golden letters in the history of Indian science and technology history.

43. Jawaharlal Nehru – 1928 – 1959
Because the 1928 peoples conference in the state which first raised the demand for a democratic unified state for malayalam speaking people was presided over by the young leader of the socialist faction of INC, one year before he rose to prominence as Congress party president. Because the pragmatist in Nehru dismissed the first democratically elected government in the state 31 years later. Because Article 356, which founding fathers envisioned for the rarest of rare cases, was since 1959 misused by every central government to crush state’s rights. Because it took a malayali statesman, KR Narayanan in Rashtrapathi Bhavan, and SR Bommai Vs Union of India to set the republic straight.

44. Payyoli Express
Because P.T.Usha was a legend when she was 18, she is one as she nears 50. Because Usha is one of the greatest sportspersons India ever produced, she was the first Indian woman to reach the final of an Olympics event, and what happened at that event is now a folk tale. Because Usha reminds us when she is not given the respect she deserves, and with the school of athletics she started, Usha can rightfully claim some.

45. Kanayi completes ‘Yakshi’ in Malampuzha
Because neurotically conservative Kerala grudgingly lives with the “Yakshi” in Malampuzha and the fifty feet long, fully nude mermaid in Trivandrum. Because across the state starting from tourist village in Veli, Kanhayi’s impressions challenge the status quo. Because Kanhayi’s dream for Kochi – a hundred feet tall woman, entering the sea of Arabs (Queen of the Arabian Sea) may just be our lady liberty.

46. Mimicry as popular art
Because mimicry provided our best social satire over the past two decades and our best entertainers. Because of this endless list – Cochin Haneefa, Fazil, Siddiue, Lal, Jayaram, Dileep, Mani, Ashokan, Nazeer, Aby,…. Nadirshah. Because in every single other movie industry in India stardom needs to be inherited.

47. Palmolein, Idamalayar, and SNC Lavalin cases
Because even though cronyism and blatant corruption is not new in India, K.Karunakaran’s style of governance (like Indira’s) made it endemic, with many of these scams playing out for decades now. Because Balakrishna Pillai went to jail, a CVC had to resign, K.Karunakaran was defendant until death, T.M.Jacob and Mani were constantly inundated, and these scandals have hogged constant media and public attention. Because Chief Minister Ommen Chandy, the number two man in the cabinet, CPM State Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, and Speaker of the house are now under investigation in different cases.

48. Kerala Science Literature Movement
KSSP is closely entwined with many of the things Keralites are publicly proud of.Because in March 1986, the General Council of the KSSP took a decision to make Kerala totally literate in five years, which meant educating 170,000 people in Ernakulam district alone. Because taking two hundred years of scientific thought to the people is one thing, but speaking their language, engaging with them, and building arguably India’s largest volunteer movement to use science for social revolution is another. Because ranging from rural forums to mass literacy campaigns to democratic decentralization to science publications that reduced the knowledge gap between the haves and have nots, KSSP is closely entwined with many of the things Keralites are publicly proud of.

49. Kerala state youth festival – Yuvajanotsavam
Because many a movie star, and a celestial singer launched into stardom from the state youth festival, one of the largest student festivals in Asia. Because from 400 odd students in 1956 to over 10,000 competitors, and hundreds of thousands of spectators, the event now sits at the cultural activities in the state, both in terms of quality and participation. Because, like the Kerala entrance results, the winners tell the story of emerging districts. Trivandrum won overall championship ten times in a row since 1980; not once since.

50. Kerala’s extremist movements PDP to NDF
Because homegrown terror is a constant threat we sleep with, and as no one is born a terrorist, extremist groups based on whacky religious discourses more often than not play a significant role in creating home grown terrorists. Because NDF, SIMI, and PDP have grown, sustained, and propagated through the vitriol of vengeance since the demolition of the mosque, and the genocide in Gujarat. Because many a terrorist attack in India has had elements from Kerala involved, and the arab umbilical cord of hawala runs right through the state.

51. Free Software Movement & FOSS
Because Jayalalitha’s government in TN will supply 7 million laptops over the next 5 years to students at a total cost of over 10,000 crore, all loaded with Microsoft’s proprietary software, and experts across the country call it a millstone around students’ neck. Because that is the difference between a government with vision, and another with a lot of money to spare. Because Free and Open Source Software adopted by the LDF government in 2007, with VS as its lead proponent, was another success story of ours in proving that another world is possible. Because e-literacy in Kerala is driven on the free software platform, and IT fixed costs across government departments are highly reduced because of FOSS adoption. Because this was led by a Chief Minister who didn’t complete high school education.

52. AKG leads “Michabhoomi Samaram”
Because despite the best efforts of the Communist party to legislate land reforms, successful campaigns toppled the governments and derailed the land reforms agenda. Because revolution through parliamentary democracy can be plan A, but it is always good to have a plan B up your sleeves, and forceful occupation of excess land was the Plan B. Because 28 people lost their lives across the state in “Michabhoomi Samaram” fighting for the land which was legally theirs, proving that political power and people’s movements can go hand in hand.

53. Rubber as a cash crop
Because rubber prices significantly contribute to trends in state domestic product, and Kerala produces more than 90% of all natural rubber produced in the country. Because Kerala is in one weird sort of way, a state which benefits when international crude oil prices go up (since price of synthetic rubber increases). Because ASEAN and WTO agreements can break the backbone of the rubber and coconut oil economy, which explains why popular struggles again free trade are indeed popular in the state.

54. Cochin Ship Yard
Because India’s first indigenous Aircraft carrier will hit the waters of Vembanad lake in a few months time, another feather in the cap of India’s largest ship building yard. Because more than the money and the jobs it brings to the state, shipyard will become increasingly critical as India plans to raise its stake for control over the Indian Ocean.

55. KTDC coins ‘Gods Own Country’
Because Amitabh Kant may have moved on from driving brand “God’s Own country” to brand “Incredible India”, but the Europeans keep coming in chartered flights, and in the hundreds of thousands. Because may be Kovalam, Allapuzha, and Munnar are genuine compared to the formulaic Sea-Sand-Surf-Sex concotions of Cancuns and Pattayas. Because it is a classic, though subtle, unorganised entrepreneurial triumph, and no one would believe Kerala had just 30,000 foreign visitors in 1980.

httpv://youtu.be/oc8oOksJHZk

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One Response to Kerala History: Glimpses from 1956 to 2011

  1. Thommy May 23, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    Brilliant Summary

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