Welcome to Kerala’s Haven of Ease and Vice — Chengara
Make no mistake — this is not my assessment. I’ve just borrowed it from our Chief Minister, the redoubtable V.S. Achuthananadan, the foremost of (official) revolutionaries in Kerala, whose memories of struggle stretch back right up to the workers’ uprising of the 1940s in south Kerala, the Punnapra-Vayalar, celebrated in communist myth and legend. In September this year it appeared as if the CPM was ready to negotiate with the protestors, but nothing has really moved. The latter have hung firm in their resolve, it requires a rather strange imagination to read that as evidence for ‘peace and prosperity’ at Chengara. The Congress has now emerged, after much slumber, with support for the struggle, and V.M. Sudheeran, one of the most popular and respected leaders of the Congress, has sharply condemned the CM’s statement (below).
In a debate on the earlier posts on kafila about Chengara, someone in Kerala called me a ‘somewhat irresponsible well-heeled revolutionary’. He was right, maybe. Maybe it takes a working-class hero to appreciate the pleasures of engaging in ‘revolutionary struggle’ in heavy thundershowers, without enough potable water or shelter, without any steady income, hedged in by the road blockade that the government of Kerala is powerless to remove. Perhaps the suspension of citizenship and the expanded version of illegal custody at Chengara are palatable and pleasurable to those who have been steeled by struggle, who know that citizenship and welfare are nothing but bourgeois charades. Yes, is there not a serious deficit of heroism among ‘well-heeled revolutionaries’, who do not realise that true pleasure, luxury, and vice are to be found precisely in suffering in struggle? Therefore well-heeled revolutionaries ought to take refuge in ashes and sackcloth.
Below is the translation of VS’ statement on the Chengara land struggle, which appeared in the Mathrubhumi a few days back, which has aroused considerable protest all over. VS has returned to his earlier position with a vengeance, hellbent on misrepresenting the demands of the protestors, actually pretending that all the negotiations that took place in between are non-existent.
Mathrubhumi, Thiruvananthapuram, 24 Oct 2008:
The chief minister V. S. Achuthanandan accused the protestors at Chengara of leading a life of gluttony and pleasure, stealing rubber worth 1 lakh rupees, which belongs to the owner of the plantation. The leader of the protestors, Laha Gopalan, has opened up the possibility of such living there. Therefore the government requires more time to evict those engaged in illegal agitation at the plantation, he said, replying to a question in the press meet following the ministerial meeting. It is not true that the government had initiated no steps to end the Chengara struggle. The CM had invited their representative Laha Gopalan to talks. The latter was told that the struggle was not right. The High Court has ordered that the protestors should be evicted. The government can implement the eviction only very carefully and peaceably, and on the basis of the Court’s judgement. This is stated in the text of the judgement. The government wishes that not a drop of blood is shed there. The police is also intervening very carefully there. When the police approach the area, the protestors fold two long towels and clamber up the trees, wrap one around their necks, and wind another around the tree. And then they have a gala time, feasting with the [money from] stolen rubber. Life is lavish. They’re asking for five acres and five lakh rupees. This can’t be allowed. But at the same time, the government had agreed to consider their applications too, at the time when government land will be distributed to the landless. The deserving will get not less than 10 cents of land. They were asked to put in applications in their respective districts. But the protestors did not heed these requests, the CM said.