Kerala palestine protest is appeasement politics
The ruling CPM supported by the IUML refuses to be left behind in the raging rhetoric against Israel.
Countless centuries ago, the sage Parasurama is believed to have flung his battle axe into the Arabian Sea. The Sage’s Own Country emerged from the waters, symbolising the ultimate power of Hinduism. The myth of its birth has been overtaken by the new reality of local-for-global communalism, nourished by Kerala’s two pre-eminent parties—the Congress and the Communists. The distance of 4,780 km between Gaza and Kozhikode isn’t a deterrent for sowing hatred. Ignited by religious fanaticism and fuelled by identity politics, the people of Kozhikode roared in anger last week against Israel’s lethal attacks on the Gaza Strip after the October 7 massacre.
Similar anti-semitic protests and vandalism in immigrant-dense countries are being powered by secular illiberals in the name of woke liberation. But the outrage in Kozhikode was communally toxic, endorsing Hamas terrorists. Organised by a Muslim youth outfit, it was the biggest Palestine solidarity march in India with full backing from all Islamic political and religious groups. The dirtiest stain on the Malayali keffiyeh was the live virtual address by Hamas leader Khaled Mashal to an over 100,000-strong crowd. It was a privilege no Hamas terrorist has got in any other country. Mashal’s 7-minute video showed off the slogan, “Uproot bulldozer Hindutva and apartheid Zionism.” Local sponsors are exploiting the Gaza war to spew venom and place radical Islamism on steroids in the state, which had been driven underground by the NSA’s sweeping arrests of PFI leaders.
While in the rest of India pseudo secularists and illiberal elites confined their disapproval to purple prose in public statements and drawing room distress, Kerala’s pro-Hamas demonstration raised serious questions over national security and threat to communal harmony in the state. With the BJP trying to retain its marginal political space in Kerala, the narrative is dominated by the Congress and CPM. The Communists especially depend on Kerala for their relevance after the BJP ousted it from its Tripura bastion. Of the 52 Lok Sabha seats the Congress won in 2019, 15 are from Kerala, including Rahul Gandhi’s. While the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has two MPs, the CPM has just one. The BJP nil.
But the blame didn’t lie at the doorstep of any Muslim organisation alone. Kerala is possessed by the djinn of dangerously divisive competitive exhibitionism favouring minority appeasement in the name of Palestine solidarity. The ruling CPM supported by the IUML refuses to be left behind in the raging rhetoric against Israel. The Red rampagers organised a massive rally to mark the 19th death anniversary of terrorist-turned-peace hustler Yasser Arafat, who led the Palestine Liberation Organisation and was Indira Gandhi’s favourite. In Kozhikode, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan targeted the Narendra Modi government more than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He thundered, “India is the biggest consumer of weapons manufactured in Israel. Indian taxpayers’ money should not be given to kill innocent Palestinian children. So India should scrap all military deals with Israel and sever diplomatic ties with it,” and that “Israel is one of the biggest terrorist countries. The ‘Zionist’ bias of the current rulers of India was not a surprise at all”. As expected, BJP state president K Surendran snapped back, “Only bearded moulavis (Muslim preachers) were present on the dais at the CPM rally. This has raised doubts among people that the left-wing party has changed its name to the Communist Party of Moulavis.”
If the CPM has succumbed to pressure from hardcore Muslim groups, can the Congress be far behind? It belatedly promised to beat its Communist adversaries with a bigger rally on November 23 on Kozhikode beach. The Congress-led United Democratic Front is the only alternative to the CPM-led Left Democratic Front. When local police denied permission, Congress state president K Sudhakaran retaliated, “Either the rally will take place or a war with the police will, if they create trouble.” Both parties are playing politics over the corpses of dead Palestinians for electoral advantage. Neither party can get a majority without the active support of the Muslims who constitute almost 35 percent of the state population—double the national average. However, the Congress has distilled the pro-Palestine agitation into a local affair since the national leadership’s response is ambivalent. No prominent leader such as Mallikarjun Kharge or the Gandhis is attending the rally, which will be addressed by Congress general secretary K C Venugopal, who hails from the state.
Gaza apologists deny that the events in Kerala have nothing to do with Hamas and are being unjustifiably painted green. Perhaps the affinity of Malabar-based Muslims with the Palestine cause lies in the genetics of history. Muslims from West Asia entered the Malabar region during the 7th century and became landlords by ejecting the Hindus. According to historians, the flourishing Arab trade through the Persian Sea earned Kozhikode the moniker, City of Spices. These merchants were given liberal permission to set up businesses and marry local girls. They settled in large numbers and became big farmers and traders, thanks to help from local authorities. They were called ‘Moplahs’ (sons in law). Kozhikode became their favoured habitat. For a couple of centuries until the British arrived, Moplahs ruled the roost. By the end of the 18th century, land ownership was substantially restored to the original Hindu Jammis (zamindars). The Moplahs couldn’t digest the change.
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They revolted against Hindu landlords in 1921 alleging that higher taxes on tilling their land were unfair. Though billed as an anti-British revolt, the retaliatory riots were anti-Hindu in nature. Even liberal leaders like B R Ambedkar and Annie Besant have written that the Moplah rebellion was not an agrarian revolt but was meant to eliminate Keralas’ Hindus. Besant claimed, “They established the Khilafat Raj, crowned a king, murdered and plundered abundantly, and killed or drove away all Hindus who would not apostatise.” Ambedkar was more aggressive: “As a rebellion against the British government, it was quite understandable. But what baffled most was the treatment accorded by the Moplahs to the Hindus of Malabar,” and added, “This was not a Hindu-Muslim riot… The number of Hindus who were killed, wounded or converted, is not known. But the number must have been enormous.”
More than hundred years later, the sparks of ancient hatred dominate public discourse. The RSS, which has been leading from the front, has lost hundreds of workers to murderous fundamentalists and responds with an ‘eye for an eye’ policy. But its struggle to change the colours and contours of the one-sided polarisation of Kerala's social landscape is failing. While India as a whole has taken the middle path on the Israel-Arab conflict, a large section of Kerala is on the path to communal and cultural perdition. It may be good politics for the state’s parties, but represents a partial, ugly face of a New South India.