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Is Kerala going the north way? 
By Arif Zain

Malappuram: Is Kerala, which was considered a haven of communal harmony and religious amity, falling into the grips of communal tensions? Is the sudden communal flare up in the state any indication in this direction? While the recent communal tensions that took place in the state have caused serious concern among the public as a whole and the intelligentsia in particular, the Sangh Parivar is in a festive mood for seeing the signs of getting a toehold for them in the state politics. The matter of concern is the fact that no serious initiative is being launched to arrest this fast developing schism in the society

The Government and the political parties appear to be having little appreciation of the impact if growing communal divide gets deeply entrenched in a State like Kerala which has a delicate pattern of close living of all communities. All the communities have more or less equal representation in the entire State apparatus including police and administration and the consequence of an irreversible hostility among them can be disastrous here.

What happened to Malayali? This is a million dollar question which needs special attention. A Malayali was proud of his religious tolerance and progressive outlook. He did not hide his contempt for those who fought each other in the name of religion and used it for political gain and vitiated peaceful atmosphere by whipping up communal passion. Malayalis were exemplary for their unity. Together they achieved great goals; they fought and won great battles (the struggle they led against Birla's cancer generating Gwalior Rayons factory was the latest instance of their solidarity for the cause of humanity; subsequently they won the battle). They spoke same language; men wore same dress and ate same food. They talked of foolishness of wide gulf between Hindus and Muslims in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere. They boasted about their brotherhood and Malayali identity. Thanks to the Gulf boom they (Hindus, Muslims and Christians) achieved prosperity.

Is this unity and amity vanishing?, ask many. Though there will be no sudden change in the communal situation here, there are clear signs visible in the sky that the communal politics will play major role in years to come. The Sangh Parivar in the State was desperately trying to make inroads into the Malayali society. But the special communal situation prevailing in the State stood in their way of achieving their long cherished goal. From day one of its presence in the State it has been issuing provocative statements and trying to sponsor riots but Malayalis did not walk into that trap.

In those days these attempts were unilateral; they did not get any support from the Hindu society; common Hindus did not feel the absence of a saviour for their religion. On the part of Muslims there was no counter statement or attack. So, the call of RSS remained unheard. But the post Babri Masjid demolition period witnessed a new trend in the Muslim society; a new hardcore extremist group emerged. The Youths in the Muslim society joined it en masse in some part of the State particularly in those areas where the traditional mainstream Muslim organisations were weak. With this new development the hope of Sangh Parivar of becoming a reckoning force and the sole representative of Hindus in the State brightened. Both the groups engaged in physical and verbal battles. Without delay the extremist Muslim group came in open under the name of National Development Front (NDF). 

And the BJP unit in Kerala which was trying to shed its anti-Muslim, anti-minority image, in the last couple of years, called for a State-wide hartal first time in the recent past predominantly on a plank targeted against this Muslim outfit.

There are reports that the last electoral defeat had accentuated the internal schism in the BJP State unit and the intelligence agencies say they cannot rule out the possibility of this factional feud in BJP having made a contribution to the current communal unrest in the State.

On the other side, events like the terrorist attacks in the U.S. and the subsequent war in Afghanistan have enabled the fundamentalist elements to make further inroads into the Muslim community in the State. The partisan actions of the Centre like the banning of the SIMI have aggravated this polarisation. The PDP activists are also reported to be restive because of the alleged ambivalent stand of the UDF Government on the release of their supremo, Abdul Nasser Ma'adani

The outfits like the NDF have naturally found this to be the ideal time to expand their base, and the gains they could make through their vague associations with some cadres of the mainstream organisations like the Muslim League in Nadapuram have emboldened them to repeat such experiments in other places.

Though the media and the society have granted Muslim League the position of moderate secular mainstream party which has the capacity of checking the growing threat, the party itself had vowed it would oppose the new trend tooth and nail. Its activists also are found among the NDF cadres. In fact in many places it is difficult to distinguish between the NDF and the Muslim League activists.

Another disturbing trend is the penetration of the communal ideology even into the police machinery. For instance the press release issued by the police about the preparations for the maintenance of the law and order on December 6 last entirely focussed on the hartal call by the PDP and some other Muslim outfits, and there was not even a mention of the call by the VHP to observe it as `Vijay divas'. According to The Hindu, ``some of the police officials also seem to have got carried away by the media-built `common sense' that the communal violence is mainly the handiwork of Muslim outfits,'' 

Even in the tense situation the people of Marad where the last violence took place set a model for the country. When they woke up from the after shocks of violence which claimed five precious human lives they sat together and decided to raise funds for the relief of the victims and decided to rebuild the houses which were reduced to ashes and repair the damaged properties.

Noted writer and leftist thinker KT Kunhikkannan opined that the Capitalism was the main culprit behind the recent violent incidents in the State. Certain quarters were trying to organise riots to divert attention from the growing unrest among the people against globalisation policies of the Central Government and global powers.

Recalling the delicate communal balance in the State, and the limited strength of the police machinery here, the intellectuals of the State said the issue of communal tension should not be addressed merely as a law and order problem, but as a social menace as well. There must be widespread efforts to create awareness among the public so that communalism becomes an unacceptable passion in the society. 

Only a joint initiative by the secular parties across the board and by charismatic figures in the socio-cultural fields will be able to extinguish the communal flames that have been ignited in the State, and the Government itself will have to take the first step for this, the intellectuals suggested.

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