THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Writer Zachariah’s comment that master wordsmith O V Vijayan had toed a soft Hindutva line has courted controversy and invited flak from the literary word. But there is one particular incident in Vijayan’s life that could deflate Zachariah’s view about the political musings of the great writer, who rode to immortality on the wings of his magnum opus Khasakkinte Itihasam.
Not many knew that Vijayan had inaugurated a seminar organised by the now outlawed Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) at Kozhikode in 1985-86.
The seminar was held in connection with the organisation’s campaign titled ‘Indiayude Mochanam Islamiloode’ (India’s liberation through Islam) which had stirred up a hornet’s nest and, arguably, was one reason that led to ban of the group years later.
Mohammed Fasalullah, who was the then state president of SIMI, said Vijayan was never a Hindutva bedfellow. Now in his early 60s, it was Fasalullah who had gone to Delhi to invite the writer for the function. When Vijayan said he did not have much idea about Islam, Fasalullah presented him with a book whose title he couldn’t recollect now. Scholar and activist Ashraf Kadakkal said Fasalullah had gifted him with Islam in Focus, a well-known book by Egyptian author Hammudah Abd Al-Ati, to Vijayan.
Though Fasalullah couldn’t recollect the text of the speech — it has been more than 30 years since it happened — he remembered Vijayan later writing about his experience of speaking in a seminar organised by an organisation that was deemed fundamentalist.
Having spent his childhood at Areekode from where Fasalullah also hailed, the gifted writer could easily strike a chord with him though their ideologies and world ran in parallel and never converged.
“He was very receptive and was enthusiastic in listening to differing notes,” Fasalullah reminisced.
Vijayan spent three days at Areekode with Fasalullah and even accompanied the latter to the mosque when he went for prayer.
“He would simply sit inside the mosque when we lined up for prayers. Though he was advised not to participate in the seminar, he was of the view that one should be talking to those who have different perspective. His view was that ‘if they are wrong then we should engage with them to rectify their wrongs’.
Dr Ausaf Ahsan, a former SIMI state leader who now runs a publishing house Other Books, said the allegation against Vijayan was baseless.
“I have read all his works and I couldn’t identify a single strand of communal thought in his books. I am his fan and my fandom doesn’t negate my political position. His position vis-a-vis Israel was startling to me, but other than that his works never espoused communalism of any hues,” Ahsan said.
However, Zachariah said his criticism of Vijayan was not a new one and he had conveyed his apprehension about the writer receiving an award from a right-wing Hindutva organisation 12 years ago.
“I had criticised him in his presence,” Zachariah told Express. However, he said Vijayan turning up at a SIMI function and his ‘soft Hindutva’ stand were two different things.