At the ripe age of 102, Gouri Amma had left the scene. She lived a full life. Right from her childhood days, she had a very special experience of having the saint Sree Narayana Guru as her family guest. Her father K Raman, a rich peasant of that time, has had a close relationship with Sree Narayana Guru, Kumaran Asan and other founders of the SNDP.
Her father Raman initiated all his children into the modern education system. Gouri's oldest sister was one of the first women who rote motorbike imported from England. K R Gouri was the product of the high thinking of her progressive father who was mentored by none other than Sree Narayana Guru Devan. The northern Travancore was passing through a revolutionary churn during her student days. Naturally, at Trivandrum, as a student of the law college, she became of the pioneers of a radical student movement.
In 1946, the coir workers and the rural poor organised themselves as an army to fight against the Travancore government, which did not concede their political demand for a government responsible to the people, rejecting the idea of 'American model' independent state after the proposed transfer of power in 1947. But the uprising was violently crushed down at Punnapra and Vayalar by killing hundreds of volunteers, who had no lethal weapons, compatible with the Travancore military.
It was in this historic juncture the young advocate K R Gouri with her insuppressible fervour for the emancipation of the downtrodden coming into the political scene of Aleppey. Most of the leading Communist party leaders were either jailed or had to go underground. Her own brother, a local leader of the Communist party as well as the state Congress, absconded from the village and never came back.
Her family, despite their wealth and social clout, had to face too many hardships in the post-Punnapra uprising period. Here we see the new K R Gouri emerging as a leader to fill the vacuum of leadership for the working class who were facing day-to-day harassment from the police and the military officers. K R Gouri was literally baptized by fire as the new communist icon and received the Communist party membership from P Krishnapillai, the founder of the party. Right from 1951 onwards, K R Gouri who had been called Gouri Amma, started contesting elections first to the Travancore Assembly, later to the Travancore-Kochi Assembly and then to the Kerala Assembly. With her death, all the leaders who had served these assemblies have left the political scene. In 1957, she became the iconic minister piloting the historic land reforms. With this, she ushered in a new era of the politics of land reforms in Kerala, which has not yet been completed according to her vision.
She was the lone MLA voted against the bill which appropriated the salient features of the scheduled tribe land protection proposal, in the late 1990s as the lone member of her party Janadhipathya Samrakshana Samithi (JSS). In January 1994, Gouri Amma was expelled from CPM by the Alappuzha district committee of the party. The clever leader EMS Namboothiripad had demoted her from the state committee to the Alappuzha DC, where she could be axed down easily and having the clear majority in the state committee, the expulsion was ratified by the state committee as the statutory requirement.
But Gouri Amma fought like a wounded tigress against the onslaught of the infamous apparatus of the Communist Party and formed a party in her own leadership. She never claimed it was a Communist party as M V Raghavan did after his expulsion in 1986 though he played a pivotal role in emboldening Gouri Amma to fight against the party apparatus. Since Raghavan was the minister for cooperation and ports in the K Karunakaran ministry, he had big leverage in supporting Gouri Amma to form a new party. The duo travelled across the state, addressed thousands of people and often discussed merging the two parties into a single outfit. (I too had on several occasions participated in their joint political efforts, as an office-bearer of the Communist Marxist Party (CMP)).
Gouri Amma had her own vision about the revolution that had to have happened. She never got mystified by any high voltage campaign of the Communist Party, either in India or abroad. She wanted to feel the change by touching it, both in the class and caste emancipation. The way she was moulded at the lap of Sree Narayana Guru always gave her the courage and clarity to view both the class and caste oppression in the society. She thought class struggle, per se, is necessary but not sufficient to emancipate mankind suffering from the socio-political constructs of its own. She stood like a rock for protecting the rights of the underprivileged class for achieving the goal of social justice. Unfortunately, the communist parties both CPM and CPI, have diluted their positions on the reservations for the backward communities by supporting the Hundred and Third Amendment of the Constitution (10% reservation for the economically weaker sections) proposed by the Narendra Modi Government.
In the last phase of her political life, after becoming the minister for agriculture in the AK Antony ministry, Gouri Amma did not win the elections she fought. And later, she left the UDF and supported the LDF without much political impact, but the fundamental issues raised by Gouri Amma have been looming large over Kerala's political horizon. She is leaving us as the founder of JSS, but it seems like she has been inducted into the CPM while laying in-state bearing the red flag of the Communist Party like Liu Shaoqi, one of the founders and great teachers of the communists across the world, as the author of the revolutionary best-seller 'How to become a good communist' got inducted into the Chinese Communist Party posthumously.
The history of the Indian communist movement cannot be complete without the warring life and revolutionary work of Gouri Amma. Comrade Gouri amma, the epitome of political integrity, we miss you!
(The author is the general secretary of Communist Marxist Party)