THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With the passing away of K E Mammen, the country has lost one of the few remaining freedom fighters who had a passionate longing for keeping Gandhian values alive. Irrespective of the fact that his breed of idealism was an anachronism these days, Mammen continued to fight for what he felt was just and genuine. His one man army crusades always caught the interest of the media, though not totally without the cynical criticism that his efforts were meant for keeping him alive in the media.
A person of rare qualities, Mammen tried to prove if truth is with you, then you are the real majority even when you are outnumbered by opponents. Prominent persons who knew Mammen closely remember him as an idealist.
‘Symbol of sacrifice’
Poet Sugathakumari said Mammen was one of the very few freedom fighters remaining in the country who still carried Mahatma Gandhi in his heart. “Holding the picture of Gandhiji close to his bosom he stood in front of the Secretariat under the scorching sun like a ‘one man army’ to fight the powers that be. He was always a symbol of patriotism and sacrifice. In several struggles - against liquor, political violence or road blockades - the veteran freedom fighter joined forces with the agitators. And if there was no one to protest, he would initiate the fight. “The India they had dreampt of is no more,” said Sugathakumari. “Leaders like Mammen have no place in this ‘developing’ India. There is space now only for corporates who have scant regard for Gandhian ideals.” She thanked NIMS Hospital Neeyattinkara and its MD Faizal Khan for providing shelter and treatment to Mammen for the past four years. “The great service they provided is one that the country owed to Mammen,” she said.
Columnist, author and former additional chief secretary D Babu Paul said Mammen was the rare human being who had sacrificed his life on the altar of idealism. He always had the guts to go after the truth. “At a condolence meeting for former leader P T Chacko at VJT hall, Chief Minister R Sankar was delivering a speech when a youth from the audience stood up and thrice told the Chief Minister he had done an injustice to Chacko,” said Babu Paul. “After saying this, he sat there saying his name is K E Mammen. Police took him into custody for shouting against the chief minister.” The former additional chief secretary said when he met the freedom fighter at the hospital last year, he was still discussing matters of public interest, such as church dispute and corruption, rather than about the difficulties and ailments of old age.
Historian M G Sasibhooshan said Mammen was a fearless one man army. Irrespective of the fact that he belonged to the Manorama business family, Mammen never minced words. Sasibhooshan said till the very end of his life, Mammen stayed true to Gandhian values the old world had been cherishing. “Mammen is noted for always upholding of the Gandhian values of fearlessness and mainly a selfless nature in his fights,” he said. He said Mammen was the last of the great and rare social voices of conscience that included K Kelappan, M P Manmadhan and G Kumara Pillai.
Veteran journalist Malayinkeezhu Gopalakrishnan remembers Mammen as someone immersed in idealism. Known for his fearlessness, Mammen once questioned Congress workers in front of the Secretariat for the road block they had created. As some of the workers seized the photo of Mahatma Gandhi he was holding close to his chest and pushed him down, he declared that he would not have any more connection with the Congress party. Later, the Congress leadership apologised to him. He also recollects the political and administrative leadership, including the police, had a tough time dealing with Mammen.