Debates rage over Kumaran Asan's poem on Malabar Rebellion

It added that Kurukshetra released the first edition at a time when many of the publishers were reluctant to publish the work in the face of threats by religious fundamentalists.

Published: 25th August 2021 06:33 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th August 2021 06:33 AM   |  A+A-

The cover of ‘Duravastha’ 2nd edition published by Kurukshetra Prakashan

Express News Service

KOZHIKODE: ‘Duravastha’, the long poem written by Kumaran Asan in the backdrop on the Malabar Rebellion of 1921, has become a major point of discussion in the ongoing deliberations on the 100th anniversary of the revolt.

The Sangh Parivar has reprinted the poem this year and portions of the work are being recited at the conferences organised by its outfits in various parts of Kerala.

“The poem is the true depiction of the ordeals the Hindus had to undergo during the riots. I asked many saints as to why Sree Narayana Guru didn’t react to the riots which happened in his lifetime. I am told that what Asan wrote in ‘Duravastha’ was a reflection of what Guru had in his mind about the incident,” said RV Babu, state secretary of Hindu Aikya Vedi.

“At the same time, the work also talks about the oppressive social system prevailing at that time that prompted religious conversions. But that is not a justification for the massacre,” he said. But there are others who feel that Asan had agreed to bring changes in the text after Muslim groups resented some narrations in the poem. 

“There were mass protests against the poem from the Muslim community after it was published in 1922. Important figures such as Vakkom Moulavi objected to some of the references in the poem and Asan had agreed to correct them in the next edition. But unfortunately, he died before he could do the corrections,” said literary critic KEN Kunahammad. He added that references to Asan’s decision to correct can be found in books such as ‘Malabar Samaram: M P Narayana Menonum Sahapravarthakarum’ by K P S Menon, ‘Kerala Muslim Charithram’ by PA Syed Muhammad and ‘Asan Silpasala Niroopanam’ by N Sathyaprakasam.

But Babu says that Asan had refused to make any changes in the text. “This assertion is made amply clear in the reply he gave to a Muslim organisation that wanted changes in the poem. He said in the letter that the poem was not meant to malign the entire Muslim community but whatever he said in it was his conviction,” Babu said.

Kunahammad said Asan didn’t have any first-hand knowledge of the incidents. “He wrote the poem on the basis of the exaggerated reports appeared in the newspapers. Gandhiji and B R Ambeskar were also misled by such reports,” he said.

According to the editor of Kurukshetra Prakashan, the publisher of the second edition, the work was reprinted after “some Muslim organisations decided to observe the 100th anniversary of the Mapplia Revolt in a manner that is provocative for other communities”. 

It added that Kurukshetra released the first edition at a time when many of the publishers were reluctant to publish the work in the face of threats by religious fundamentalists. It also published a study of ‘Duravastha’ with annotations and interpretations by Kavalam Jayakrishnan.


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