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First Muslim woman in CPI-M State Committee
By Mukundan C Menon

Continued from

What helped Zainaba's present elevation to the State Committee is a resolution adopted by the State Conference which urged to take up issues concerning women and to strive for gender equality. She says : "Although the CPI-M stood for the weaker sections over the years, the issues raised by the women's organisations were not even being discussed in party forums examining all their aspects in the past State conferences. The party resolution this time, therefore, has come as timely".

Although women's empowerment and women's reservation to elected bodies have become pet topic for CPI-M women leaders like Brinda Karat at national level, the party's Kerala history speaks otherwise. Kerala has the foremost notable woman political leader in K. R. Gouriamma, the present UDF Minister. She was in communist movement right from the beginning, and the only MLA who got elected repeatedly since the formation of Kerala State in 1957. When the party split, she opposed her late husband T. V. Thomas' pro-CPI leanings and remained with CPI-M. Gouriamma also served as a Minister in the first two Communist/LDF Ministries led by E. M. S. Namboodiripad in 1957 and 1967 respectively. Later, when the CPI-M had the next chance to form a Ministry in Kerala in 1980, Gouriamma was the only CPI-M MLA fit to become Chief Minister with administrative experience in the previous two EMS-led Cabinets. Had the CPI-M leadership opted for Gouriamma, she would have become the first woman Chief Minister of South India in 1980. However, the post was given to E. K. Nayanar, with no Cabinet experience till then. Gouriamma was again avoided by the CPI-M leadership when the next chance came in 1987 when, too, Nayanar became the Chief Minister. And, before the next occasion in 1996, the CPI-M leadership expelled Gouriamma from the party in January 1995 which forced her to form the "Janathipathya Samrakshana Samithi" (JSS) and to align with the Congress-led UDF since then. The question is : How can women like Zainaba expect a different treatment from the same party leadership who repeatedly denied due position to a veteran Marxist leader like Gouriamma within the party or the Government?

It is also true that whenever it comes to selection of Chief Ministers, Kerala's communist parties always opted for upper-caste Hindus like Nairs and Brahmins. This despite the fact, that majority of those who sacrificed their lives for the communist party in Kerala happened to be Dalits, Backward Community and Minorities and who still form the major chunk of rank-and-file of both CPI and CPI-M even now. In India, Kerala has produced the largest number of Communist Chief Ministers of both CPI and CPI-M - EMS Namboodiripad (twice of CPI and CPI-M), C. Achutha Menon (twice of CPI), P. K. Vasudevan Nair (once of CPI) and E. K. Nayanar (thrice of CPI-M) - all of whom belonging to the upper-caste social segments.

Notably, apart from a woman, K. R. Gouriamma belongs to the Ezhava community, the dominant backward community in Travancore region. And, when Zainaba has become the first Muslim woman in CPI-M Kerala State Committee, the party's top decision making-body, the Polit Bureau, survives for long without a Muslim minority representative in it.
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