Saturday, December 10, 2011

People’s tribunal must go into Jayalalithaa’s allegation of land grab

The full-page advertisement under Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa’s signature, appearing in the national dailies today, makes a reference to the interests of land grabbers in Kerala in the Mullaperiyar dam controversy.

Following the concerns voiced by Kerala over the safety of the dam, the reservoir level has been kept at 136 feet for the last few years although the optimum level envisaged was 156 feet. After the Tamil Nadu government carried out certain repairs, which were recommended by the Central Water Commission, the Supreme Court had allowed it in 2006 to raise the level to 142 feet. The court said the level could be raised further after further works were carried out.

The Kerala government immediately got the Assembly to amend the Irrigation and Water Conservation Act to fix the maximum water level at 136 feet. The Tamil Nadu government questioned the validity of the law before the Supreme Court. Its petition is still pending before the court.

In the advertisement, Jayalalithaa states, “It is …reported that when the water level at Mullaperiyar Dam is 136 feet, the water spread area is 4678 acres and that if the water is stored to 155 feet, the water spread area will be 8591 acres. Since water has not been stored above 136 feet for a long time, the water spread area has been encroached upon by land grabbers in Kerala who have built resorts and other buildings on the lands leased to Tamil Nadu. If the water level is increased from 136 feet, these resorts will get submerged in water. This is also cited by some as the possible reason for the plea to decommission the Mullaperiyar Dam.”

We who know well about the activities of land grabbers and their political links cannot dismiss her statement as mere grist to Tamil Nadu’s propaganda mill.

Revenue Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan told the Kerala Assembly on Friday that rough estimates of the likely damage in the event of a dam break showed that 21,540 people would be directly in the danger zone where the time would be too short for rescue operations and 1,28,460 people more would be affected in the evacuation zone.

Quite obviously the figure of loss of three million to four million lives bandied about by he and his colleagues during the past few days was a gross exaggeration. Those who made such irresponsible statements must not only be kicked out of the government but also prosecuted for spreading rumours.

The ministers who have been most actively building up a scare by painting a doomsday scenario belong to a party which has always vehemently championed the cause of forest encroachers. As the aborted Munnar eviction campaign of the last few years has shown, land grabbers and their patrons are there in all the major parties.

In these circumstances, Jayalalithaa’s allegation needs to be examined. Considering the influence of land grabbers across the political spectrum there is no point in asking the government of Kerala to conduct an investigation and place the facts before the public. Civil society must set up an independent people’s tribunal to ascertain the facts.

One question that legitimately arises is why did Tamil Nadu allow the leased land in its possession to be grabbed by resort builders. The short answers is that those who bribe politicians and officials of Kerala can bribe those of Tamil Nadu as well.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Mullaperiyar: wasted opportunities

Kerala’s current agony stems from the fact that there is on its territory a dam which is under the control of the government of another state.

In 40 years the government of Kerala has not been able to convince the government of Tamil Nadu that the 116-year-old Mullaperiyar dam has outlived its life and that if it collapses the lives and livelihood of millions of people will be in jeopardy.

The Indian government has been in the picture all through. Tamil Nadu’s intransigence has frustrated its efforts to help resolve the issue through talks so far. Maybe it has also found Tamil Nadu’s argument that there is no threat to the dam more convincing than Kerala’s stand that it poses a threat.

For several years now, the Supreme Court too has been in the picture. Tamil Nadu has met with a measure of success in that forum. The apex court allowed TN to raise the water level of the reservoir, which had been lowered to 136 feet at Kerala’s request to reduce the risk of dam burst, after it had carried out some maintenance works proposed by the Central Water Commission. It also said TN could raise it further to the optimum level of 156 feet after taking further steps to strengthen the structure.

A series of earth tremors which rocked the Idukki district, where the dam is located, in the past few months has aggravated Kerala’s concerns about the safety of the dam. Responsible leaders and the media have played up the issue and spread fear. This has resulted in an emotional upsurge, which is very uncharacteristic of Kerala.

Whether the fear of dam burst is real, as the Kerala government insists, or it is artificially created, as the Tamil Nadu government maintains, there are some questions that need to be addressed squarely. Must the people of Kerala remain perpetually at the mercy of the government of another state? Must the government of Kerala, which has a constitutional obligation to protect the lives of its people, wait upon the goodwill of another state government to discharge its duty?

The Mullaperiyar dam stands on land leased by the Maharaja of the erstwhile Travancore state to the British government under an agreement signed in 1886. The Dewan of Travancore signed the agreement for the Maharaja and an official of the Madras Presidency for the Secretary of State for India, who was the British minister in charge of Indian affairs.

The agreement uses the term ‘lease indenture’. That term conclusively establishes its colonial character. Indenture makes it clear that the agreement was not between equals. The Maharaja of Travancore was a vassal of Britain, which had taken over the administration of India from the English East India Company in 1858.

The agreement set the period of the lease indenture at 999 years. The British presumably imagined India would be at their heels for all time. The Maharaja of Travancore certainly was reconciled to remaining a vassal for 1,000 years.

Under the lease agreement, Travancore made available 100 acres of land for the dam and 8,000 acres for the reservoir. The dam was built by British military engineers and it remained under the control of the Madras government.

The legal position is that the indenture ended when India became independent in 1947. Thereafter the government of Travancore and those of Travancore-Cochin and Kerala, made several unsuccessful attempts to sign a new agreement. The government of Madras and that of Tamil Nadu were determined to keep the advantage the colonial-era agreement gave them. Since the Travancore government and its successors scrupulously adhered to all terms of the lapsed agreement the authorities in Madras were in no hurry to go in for a new one.

The situation changed somewhat in 1970. Tamil Nadu wanted a new agreement as it wanted to use the waters of the Periyar for power generation also. The original agreement only provided for their use for irrigation.

The government of Kerala failed to use the opportunity to end the anomalous situation of another government controlling the dam located in its territory. The responsibility for the lapse lies at the door of the political parties which wielded power in the state at the relevant time. They fell in line with the wishes of their national leadership, which backed Tamil Nadu's demand. Ironically, the leaders of these very parties are now vying with one another to be recognized as the most vocal champions of the state’s interests.

Monday, November 7, 2011

People's Convention to demand moratorium on death peanlty

K. Girish Kumar, Convener, Organizing Committee, People’s convention Against Death Penalty, writes:

A people’s convention demanding moratorium on death penalty will be held on 28 November 2011 at VJT hall, Thiruvananthapuram. Various civil society groups, intellectuals and political activists will attend the convention.
Local level meetings and campaigns are also planned in different districts.

Following the Tamil Nadu legislative Assembly's adoption of a resolution demanding commutation of the death sentence awarded to the convicts in the Rajeev Gandhi assassination case, a resolution also came before the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly with a similar demand regarding the death sentence awarded to Afsal Guru in the Parliament attack case. This is quite an unprecedented development in the country.

The land of Kerala has the legacy of abolishing death penalty in 1940s. In continuity with this step, members from here had also voiced, in the Constituent Assembly the demand for enactment of a progressive law for the nationwide abolition of death penalty.

In 2005, the Vadhasiksha Virudha Samithi (Council Against Capital Punishment) submitted a mass representation, ‘human rights memorial’ before the central and state governments , urging them to abolish the death penalty and take legal and policy measures to protect the human rights of prisoners, including the right to life.

Though the demand that the Kerala Legislative Assembly adopt a resolution against death penalty is yet to materialize, campaigns and protests have succeeded in ensuring many rights of prisoners, like restoration of the precedence of releasing prisoners after serving a certain period of life imprisonment.

As mentioned above, a new scenario is evolving in the country. Political parties, legislative assemblies, states and people are joining the protest bloc created by human rights activists and civil rights activists against death penalty in connection with particular cases.

We request all political parties, social organizations, groups and individuals to take part in the convention

Mr Girish Kumar can be contacted at 09947787523

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


MOVE OVER, your lordships.

The stargazers have taken over. Speaking through them, Sree Padmanabhaswamy, the presiding deity of Thiruvananthapuram ( in picture), has made it known that he is not amused by the opening of the temple’s underground cellars which has revealed him as the nation’s richest god.

The decision to requisition the services of five astrologers to conduct Devaprasanam ( divine consultation), the traditional method of ascertaining the wishes of Hindu deities, was taken by Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma ( who controls the temple administration) in consultation with the Thanthri, the head priest who is the final authority on matters concerning temple rituals.

The sequence of events leaves room to suspect that the astrological findings are a command performance aimed at nullifying the SC’s directive to set up a trust to administer the temple, and thus perpetuate the erstwhile Travancore royal family’s control over it.

Marthanda Varma, who is the younger brother of Travancore’s last king, Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma and would have succeeded him if the state and kingship had survived, had taken over the temple administration after his brother’s death — assuming the title of Sree Padmanabha dasa ( servant of Padmanabha). The governments were apparently unaware that he was not entitled to do so.

He would have been able to keep the temple under his control without challenge but for certain remarks he made to a Malayalam daily, claiming the temple treasures were the property of the former royal family and revealed that arrangements had been made to photograph them.

Infuriated by the claim, some devotees moved civil courts seeking injunction against those in control of the temple.

One court, after hearing the plaintiffs, who included the Temple Employees Union, granted an injunction against opening of the treasure rooms.

Marthanda Varma and the temple’s executive officer approached the high court seeking legal sanction for his defacto control over the temple. In a judgment delivered in January this year, justices C. N. Ramachandran Nair and K. Surendra Mohan refused the plea.

The judges concluded that Marthanda Varma did not have the right to administer the temple since he was not the ruler of Travancore. They said Balarama Varma ( Marthanda’s brother) had never claimed that the temple was his property or that of his family. The temple did not figure in his will.

The SC upheld the high court’s findings and constituted a committee to open the cellars and catalogue the treasures.
As the committee was proceeding with its task, Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma,> a relative of Marthanda Varma, filed a petition objecting to the cataloguing of the treasures and seeking a Devaprasanam to ascertain the deity’s wishes.

The court didn’t say anything on this but deferred the opening of the last cellar.

The attempt to prevent the opening of the sixth cellar raises questions and curiosity about what valuable assets or secrets it may contain. The treasures revealed so far have been informally valued at ` 100,000 crore. -- Mail Today, New Delhi, August 16, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Does Thazhamon family have a better story than Cheerappanchira and Malayarayans?

Once upon a time there was a king ….

Long, long ago, there lived a ….

These are sound openings for fables.

“The Heredity (sic) rights of Sabarimala temple was (sic) and is (sic) with Tazhamon Family from time immemorial for millenniums”. This statement can also be placed in the category if fables.

Ask the Thazhamon spokesman when and how the family acquired its hereditary rights in Sabarimala, and the answer is that there is a “lack of record”. Then comes the explanation that this is the case with all the temples, families etc. You also get a counter-question: can you tell the name of your great-grandfather of 30 generations ago?

Many royal families of old, in India as well as other countries like Japan, used to claim descent from the Sun or the Moon. This was done to establish not only antiquity but also Divine sanction for their hereditary title. Out of feudal loyalty, the people tacitly accepted the claim.

The solar and lunar dynasties of India have all disappeared. Japan’s imperial family, with a claimed history of 2,500 years, is still there but now it does not talk of descent from the Sun. This is because it does not need the fib of divine origin any more, the country having graduated from empire to constitutional monarchy.

The only ones who still hold on to fictional accounts that originated in the tribal or feudal past are those connected with various religions. Many people who accept current scientific theories about the origin of Earth and Man and reject the myths about them still believe in God and religion. This shows that a religion does not really need fables for survival. But there are people who live by the religion and feel the need to perpetuate the fables for their own survival.

The Sankara Mutts have in their possession records which list all those who headed the institutions, from Adi Sankara down to the present incumbents. The lists go back to about 500 BCE, although it is now widely accepted that Sankaracharya, who founded the institutions, lived from 788 to 820 AD. The lists cover 2,500 years because they were created when the Vedic establishment was trying to push back Sankara’s period to the Buddha’s. Some people still want to do that. (Please see my blog post at

Other religions, too, contain such fabrications. The Bible, for instance, lists the names of Adam’s successors down to Noah and on to Solomon and beyond. However, few consider it a historical record.

True, no one will be able to name his/her forebear of 30 generations ago. But, then, it is not necessary either – so long as he/she does not enjoy or demand any special right or privilege on the basis of descent from that person.

When a controversy arose over the purification ceremony conducted at the Guruvayur temple following alleged desecration by members of Vayalar Ravi’s family, the late K. P. C. Anujan Bhattathiripad, a widely acclaimed authority on rituals and author of "Kshethraachaarangalum Vrathaanushtthaanangalum", said in a magazine article that the Chennas family has been associated with that temple as Thanthris for 6,000 years! In a letter to the editor of the periodical which published the article, I pointed out that the Chennas family’s own claim was that it obtained its rights at this temple from the Zamorin (Samoothiri) of Calicut and that 6,000 years ago neither the temple nor the Samoothiri existed. Anujan Bhattathiripad made no attempt to defend his statement. Evidently he was ready to respect facts.


At the time of Independence, the Maharajas of Cochin and Travancore controlled the major temples in their states. It was Munro, a British Resident who also served as Dewan of Travancore, who brought the state’s temples under the government. Though the creation of a white officer, the department scrupulously followed the caste rules, and reserved all jobs for members of the so-called upper castes. Even though these rules are no longer in force, these castes, which constitute a minority of the Hindu population, still hold a lion’s share of the jobs.

The Maharajas of Travancore and Cochin as also the Zamorin of Calicut (the British allowed him to retain the title even after his kingdom was taken over) came to have a say in the affairs of temples in their respective areas by virtue of the political control they had over the regions. The case of Jammu and Kashmir illustrates how political power leads to control over temples.

Jammu and Kashmir did not exist as a state until after the Anglo-Sikh War. The British, who defeated the Sikh ruler of Punjab, were not keen to take over the territory. They demanded Rs 15 million as war reparations. Punjab could not come up with the money. Gulab Singh, who was commander in charge of the Jammu and Kashmir area, which was part of the Sikh empire, offered to pay the money. The British took the money and made him Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir.

On becoming the Maharaja in 1846, Gulab Singh created the Dharmarth Trust with himself as sole trustee. Subsequently his successors became the sole trustees. Karan Singh, who was Yuvaraj at the time of Independence, did not become Maharaja on the death of his father Hari Singh but he became the sole trustee of the Dharmarth Trust. In that capacity, he receives one-third of the revenue of the major temples including the Vaishnodevi temple in Jammu and the Amarnath cave temple nestling in the Himalayas. The Thakur families, which controlled the Vaishnodevi temple before the Maharaja’s entry, get another one-third and the Brahmin priests the remaining one-third. In the case of the Amarnath temple, too, the trustee and the priests each get one-third, the remaining one-third going to a Muslim Bakharwal (shepherd) family, whose ancestor had helped trace the cave after it had remained inaccessible for a few centuries.

The J and K Assembly was informed recently that 171 temples in the state were destroyed or damaged during the past decades of militancy. The state BJP has demanded enactment of a law to protect the temples. This once again illustrates the connection between political power and temple administration.


Until a few decades ago the Cheerappanchira family of Cherthala enjoyed the right to conduct ‘vedi vazhipadu’ at Sabarimala. The Devaswom Board abolished it and started auctioning the right in order to raise the revenue. The family challenged the decision in court, where it produced a copper plate on which was inscribed a royal decree granting it the right. The court ruled that the board had the power to make alternative arrangements.

The judiciary cannot be faulted for refusing to honour the decree of a ruler who no longer exists. Its decision was in conformity with the new political realities. But the fact that this family had in its possession a document to support its claim of hereditary rights deserves to be noted.

How did the Ezhava family of Cheerappanchira acquire hereditary rights at Sabarimala through a royal decree?

According to the family’s tradition, its chief had imparted training in martial arts to Ayyappa, adopted son of the Pandalam king, who was preparing to challenge the tribesmen from Tamil Nadu who had seized the Sabarimala shrine. The chief’s daughter, Poonkodi, fell in love with Ayyappa. The chief and Vavar, a Muslim, along with their men, actively participated in Ayyappa’s successful campaign against the tribesmen. Since Ayyappa did not return from the mountains, Poonkodi, accompanied by relatives, went to Sabarimala looking for him. Ayyappa, who had turned an ascetic, advised her also to lead an ascetic life.

Ayyappa’s association with the Cheerappanchira family is mentioned in Kottarathil Sankunni’s Aithihyamala, which is a collection of legends which, for the most part, reinforces casteist theories. CPI State Secretary C.K. Chandrappan and the late CPI-M leader Suseela Gopalan are among the Cheerappanchira family members of our time.

The Pandalam family claims descent from the Pandyans who had ruled from Madurai. To escape harassment by tribesmen they moved into Kerala. They were initially based at Ranni. They did not reach Pandalam until around 1000 AD. P.R. Rama Varma of the Pandalam family, in his “Ayyappan Charithram”, avers that Ayyappa was born in 1006.

This story makes it clear that the shrine was in existence before the time of Ayyappa, the adopted son of the Pandalam family. Going by the tales propagated by the Vedic and royal establishments, there was already a temple at Sabarimala before the king of Pandalam picked up Hariharaputra whom Siva and Vishnu had abandoned in the forest. Whose shrine was it?


In an affidavit filed in response to a Kerala High Court directive, the Travancore Devaswom Board recently confirmed something that was already known to and accepted by all but the incorrigibly superstitious. It said the Makara Vilakku, which flashes thrice on Ponnambalamedu on the last day of the Sabarimala festival, is lit by humans, and not of divine origin. It stated that the practice was started by tribesmen living in the area as an offering.

The court decided not to open the can of worms. It steered clear of questions like how, why and when the Police, Electricity and Forest departments of the secular government of Kerala took over the ritual from the tribal population. It allowed the Devaswom Board to take over the job from the government departments.

A few months earlier, former Devaswom Commissioner P.V. Nalinakshan Nair had said, in a letter to Justice (retired) R. Bhaskaran, the Court-appointed Ombudsman for the Travancore and Cochin Devaswom Boards, that in 2008 he, along with a few Devaswom officials, had visited Ponnambalamedu where the Makarajyothi was being lit.

He revealed that Makarajyothi had a history of only 45 years. He wrote, “The lighting of the Makarajyothi had originally been done by a few families of the Malayaraya tribe. Officers attached to the Kerala State Electricity Board continued the practice when the forest-dwellers were evicted in connection with the Sabarigiri hydro-electric project. The TDB and the Police Department took over the duty when the KSEB officials too left the place at a later time.''

After the court verdict of the subject, the Malayarayan community, whose members live in the area, came forward to re-claim their right to conduct the Makara Vilakku ritual on the hill.

Unlike the Devaswom Board and the Thazhamon family, the Malayarayans are not endowed with the kind of resources needed to secure justice through the Indian legal system. Even if they approach the courts, they are unlikely to succeed. When the Cheerappanchira family’s copper plate was of no avail, what chance is there for a tribal community which cannot produce written evidence of any kind?


The Thazhamon family has evaded a pointed question about how and when it acquired its hereditary rights. The only authority its spokesman has cited so far in support of its claim of antiquity is the work of two British army officers engaged in survey work in Travancore in late 19th century.

We can disentangle ourselves from the fables and arrive at reasonable, plausible conclusions about Sabarimala’s past by raising some pertinent questions.

Who are the Malayarayans?

Several websites including a governmental one provide the following information about this community: “Among the scheduled tribes, Malayarayans outclass all the other factions in socio-economical and educational aspects. Renegades and traditional Hindus following the hereditary regulations and customs are included in this group. When an evaluation in the educational and employment prospect is taken, it will be found that almost all the Government Servants and other employees are coming from this faction of scheduled tribes. Their dwelling places and surroundings are showing the bright prospect of development and they have always been showing the tendency to dissolve with the then prevailing socio-developmental programs.”

The use of the tern ‘renegades’ to refer to those who are not ‘traditional Hindus’ is significant. It recognizes the presence of persons outside the Hindu fold in the community. It is not clear whether the term is used to refer to those who converted to some other religion in recent times or to those who still adhere to pre-Hindu beliefs. It may be noted that followers of the Vedic tradition have used terms like ‘renegade’ and ‘apostate’ to refer to the Buddha and his followers. In Aurobindo’s writings, the Buddha is referred to as apostate.

Why should a tribal community living in a nearby hill make an offering to the Sabarimala deity?

A plausible answer is that the shrine originally belonged to the tribe, that after intruders ousted them and took over the temple, they started making offerings from the adjoining hill where they took refuge. The Electricity Department took over the hill and drove them out from there too. Its employees continued the Makara Vilakku ritual either to placate the tribe or to satisfy their own religious sentiments.

It is doubtful if the Thazhamon family has a better, more credible Sabarimala story than those of the Cheerappanchira family and the Malayarayans. If it has, it must come out with it.

Meanwhile let us ponder over the observations of two learned men on the Dharma Sastha of Sabarimala.

Former Kerala University Dr. A. Ayyappan, who was a well known social anthropologist, said the Sastha image was that of Samantabhadra Bodhisatva, the Buddha who protects the faithful, especially those preaching the Dharma.

Kesari A. Balakrishna Pillai said people of Kerala had given the name Sastha to Avalokiteswara Bodhisatva.

Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang, who visited India in the seventh century, wrote that he had worshipped the statue of Avalokiteswara at a vihara in the Western Ghats. Pilgrims visited the hill shrine after fasting for a week or two, he added.

(Facebook Note dated May 18, 2011)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Information Department curries new CM’s favour at taxpayers’ expense

A half-page advertisement of the Government of Kerala appearing in the English and Malayalam newspapers today proclaims:

Development on Fast track

Days of Caring ahead …

UDF Government under the leadership of Shri. Oommen Chandy swearing-in today at Raj Bhavan, 2 p.m.

The advertisement is not a simple announcement of assumption of office by a new government after the Assembly elections. It bears a political imprint. The slogans “Development on Fast track” and “Days of Caring ahead…” contain an implied suggestion that the outgoing government was slack in the areas of Development and Caring.

The Information and Public Relations Department placed these advertisements before the new government was installed.

In other words, the advertisement was placed when the LDF government was continuing as a caretaker administration. I doubt if it was issued with the knowledge and approval of Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, who was his own Information Minister.

Since the UDF government had not taken charge when the advertisement was placed, it cannot be accused of doing political propaganda using taxpayers’ money.

The responsibility for the advertisement, including the politically loaded copy, rests solely with the official machinery, specifically the Director of Information and Public Relations. Someone needs to tell him that he acted improperly. I don’t expect the newspapers to do this as they have derived material benefit from his act.

The Information and Public Relations Department customarily issues advertisements with political import when a ministry marks its anniversary. This year, ahead of the Assembly elections, it issued a series of advertisements about the achievements of the LDF government. Those advertisements were political propaganda carried out at the taxpayers’ expense before the poll schedule was announced and the model code of conduct came into force.

Did the Director of Information and Public Relations issue the latest advertisement to make amends for his role in that instance of misuse of public money? Since an elected government was in place when the earlier advertisements were placed, the responsibility for them rests on the political bosses of the time. In the absence of an elected government, responsibility for the new advertisement and the misuse of public money involved in it rests on the Director. He is guilty of currying the new CM's favour at the taxpayers’ expense.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sabarimala and Kerala’s Buddhist Tradition


The 1931 Census Report of Travancore states: “The famous Sastha temples now existing in Sabarimala, Thakkala and other places in Travancore were originally none other than temples dedicated to (the) Buddha. Besides these temples, several remains of Buddhist viharas and chaityas are still seen in different parts of this country. These are indications of Buddhism having been once the common religion in Travancore”. (Thakkala is now in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu).

The Census Report of Travancore was not written by a British official or Marxist historian. The Census, though part of the operations conducted by the British rulers throughout the continent, was conducted by the government of Travancore. The state was ruled by a family which had accepted Vedic servitude unreservedly. Most of the Dewans who presided over the administration were followers of the Vedic tradition. The senior members of the bureaucracy also belonged to that tradition. The Dewan at the time of the 1931 census was V. S. Subramanya Iyer, whose name itself certifies his Vedic connection.

A report dated June 5, 1881, submitted by the Peishkar (head of the district administration) of Trivandrum, V. Nagam Aiya, to Maharaja Visakham Thirunal, pointed out that the temple at Chitaral in Vilavancode taluk (this place too is now in TN) was a Buddhist place of worship. The Maharaja recorded this comment on it: “Your description is correct. The Brahmins have appropriated and adapted this Buddhist temple as they have done with many others. What you call muni is nothing but the figure of Buddha Gautama”. (Nagam Aiya, well-known as the author of the Travancore Gazetteer, belonged to a Telugu Brahmin family living in the Thirunelveli area of TN)

The Sabarimala deity was given a Hindu identity by the Vedic community by fabricating the fib about the Raja of Pandalam finding the abandoned son of Vishnu and Siva in the forest. The Raja’s family, a remnant of the Pandyans of Madurai, did not reach Pandalam until the 11th century. Sabarimala’s history goes back farther than that.

The Vedic community could not even fabricate a credible lie for the origin of the temple it took over. It didn’t need a good story because there was a slavish population ready to swallow any lie it dished out.

The quotations above are taken from the book “A Social History of India” by Dr. S. N. Sadasivan, a distinguish academic who taught at the Indian Institute of Public Administration , New Delhi, and the National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie.

The book appeared in 2000. Dr. Sadasivan (1926-2006) was with us for six years after its publication. The book is priced Rs 2,000. For our present purposes, it is only necessary to look into the chapter titled “Buddhism in Kerala”, which can be accessed on the Net at

It appears the intellectual honesty that Visakham Thirunal, Nagam Aiya and V. S. Subramanya Iyer displayed is lacking in the followers and apologists of the Vedic tradition today. Instead of repeating fabricated stories and shouting slogans, let them come out with facts and counter Dr. Sadasivan’s account.

Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma, in an interview to Kalakaumudi a few weeks ago said the Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple had a collection of about 300,000 documents. A reader, in a letter the weekly published subsequently, suggested that the public should be given access to these documents. Another reader stated that the documents had been transferred to the State Archives. A history of the Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple, written by a member of the former royal family, who had access to temple documents, contains references to past connections of some of the non-Vedic communities to the temple. Let other scholars, belonging to other traditions, also study the documents and come out with significant facts they can find in them.

The Thazhaman family and the former Pandalam raja’s family may have in their possession documents which can throw light on the history of the Sabarimala temple. If so, let them throw them open to scholars to study.

A newspaper feature of the period when poet Vishnunarayanan Namboothiri performed priestly functions at the Thiruvalla temple said that temple also had a collection of ancient documents. Let all documents kept under lock and key in temples by the Vedic community be accessed and studied by scholars with different backgrounds so that a truthful account of the past can be reconstructed.

(Facebook note dated 22 April 2011)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Remembering K. M. Bahauddin

K. M. Bahauddin, former Aligarh Muslim University Pro-Vice-Chancellor, has passed away. Heartfelt condolences to the family.

Bahauddin and I were classmates at the Kottapuram High School at Paravur more than 70 years ago.

He was Principal of the Regional Engineering College, Kozhikode, during the Emergency and had testified before the court in the Rajan case.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kerala remiss in implementing Forest Rights Act: a letter to Brinda Karat

Mr T.Madhava Menon, former IAS officer who headed the Tribal Mission of Kerala and is an ardent supporter of the Adivasis’ struggles for justice, has asked Communist Party of India (Marxist) Politburo member Brinda Karat to examine “independently and sympathetically” how her party’s government is implementing the Tribal Rights Act in Kerala.

Madhava Menon, who is a Senior Fellow of the International School of Dravidian Linguistics, Thiruvananthapuram, made the suggestion in a letter he wrote to Ms Karat on Tuesday in response to a statement by her.

The following is the text of the letter:


I have been concerned with the condition of Scheduled Tribes people, especially those living in the Forests of Kerala. I was therefore heartened to read the report in The Hindu, Thiruvananthapuram Edition, 15 Feb 2011, in which you had condemned the Central Government circular proclaiming the Forest Department’s unrestrained powers to declare any forest as a “critical wild life habitat” without first observing the spirit of the “Forest Rights Act”.

You complimented the State Govt. of Tripura, as the only one that had implemented the Act in true spirit. On the other hand, you found Congress- and BJP-ruled States as being especially at fault. I am afraid you will have to add the State Govt. of Kerala, ruled under a Communist Party of India (Marxist) leadership, as equally, if not more remiss.

Recently, a renowned NGO conducted a case study of some Kanikkar settlements deep in the Thiruvananthapuram Forest division as a sample. The study was conducted among the forest dwelling Kanikkar in the Fourth and the Fifth wards of the Kuttichal Panchayat, and found the members of the Panchayat, the members of the Forest Rights Committee that has been constituted there, the ST Promoters, and the field level officers of the Forest Department not very knowledgeable about the provisions of the Act. No serious efforts had been taken to educate the concerned persons about these provisions.

Within the jurisdiction of the Forest Rights Committee (FRC) at Kottoor, there are 192 families living in 16 settlements. The members are 5 ladies and 5 men, with the ST Promoter as the secretary; he has received training from KIRTADS about the Act. He has conducted some meetings of the Ooru koottam-s where he has tried to transmit some awareness, by no means adequate. The FRC recieived 68 claim petitions. Significantly, 110 members from 8 settlements declared that they do not require any land allotment under this Act. The FRC recommended grant of lands in 43 petitions received by it, and has forwarded them to the regional (ITDP) and from it, to the District level.

The Survey team constituted by Government commenced to measure the land under actual possession of the applicant families, according to the records of a survey conducted in 1980 (for the purposes of implementation of the Forest Conservation Act). This was (rightly) opposed by the tribal people, because it obviously restricted their holdings under the compulsions of the Forest Department. They further (rightly) argued that they are entitled to the lands they traditionally used to enjoy before the Department encroached on their holdings. This fact, that the survey would limit the areas they would ultimately get to the areas allowed by the Forest Department, and not what they were entitled to under the Act, was one of the reasons why so few were interested in filing applications. According to the perceptions of the study team, the Kanikkar had always suffered from deprivation of even the basic requirements of good living, and health facilities, and had lost all faith in Government and its officials. They found that the benefits conveyed through the agencies of government are not according to their entitlements, nor aimed at their sustainable development.

In Mannarkat Forest Division, the DFO “vetoed” the recommendations of the Forest Rights Committee, on the ground that the tribal people were entitled only to such extents of land as had been “allotted” to them by the Forest Department according to a unilateral survey that had been conducted a few years back (before the enactment of the Forest Rights Act). This seems to be the accepted view of the Department and the Government. As you know, this is violently in conflict with the provisions of the Act, under which a tribal person has to establish his rights under a variety of evidences, including documents, descriptions, and testimony of earlier reports by anthropologists. His rights are certainly not limited to what the Department, during the course of “Historical Injustice”, compounded by the barbarism of the Forest Conservation Act 1980, deigns to “allot” to them.

The net result has been that the tribal persons are being offered only the lands within the “jundas” (boundary marks) erected by the Department after a survey, intended mainly for the strict implementation of the Forest Conservation Act. The result is that the State of Kerala, under the governance of your Party, leads all the rest in oppressing and denying the ST people their legitimate rights.
It is with considerable pain that I write this letter of condemnation of your Party’s government in Kerala. I had always felt that your Party was sincere in its posture of equity and social justice. Your Party, and especially yourself, were instrumental in the enactment of this Act, which is indeed a magna carta for the tribal forest dwellers. But your Party’s government in Kerala has made a travesty of it.

I hope that your Party will consider the issue sufficiently important to examine, independently and sympathetically, how your Party’s Government is implementing the Act in Kerala.

Thanking you,

Yours faithfully,

T. Madhava Menon.

Mr Madhava Menon can be contacted at

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The return of a sex scandal


With the Left Democratic Front’s term drawing to a close, Kerala is in election mode. The first sign of the poll season was a foundation laying spree. Then came a surer sign: a sex scandal. Many of the projects for which foundation stones are laid are not new. The sex scandal, too, is not new.

For three decades, the LDF, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and the United Democratic Front, led by the Congress, have been voted to office in the state in alternate elections. As such, it is now the UDF’s turn. Having done well in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and, rather unexpectedly, in last year’s panchayat poll too, the UDF was brimming with confidence. Having been drubbed in two successive elections and having lost two allies, the Janata Dal (S) and the Kerala Congress (Joseph), the CPI (M) was seeking to refurbish its image damaged by the differing signals sent out by Chief Minister and state party secretary throughout the life of this government.

Suddenly, a sex scandal that refuses to die darkened the political landscape, casting gloom over the entire UDF camp. The ice cream parlour case, as it is known, was one of half a dozen sex scandals that broke in the 1990s, in which the names of several VIPs cropped up. Its central character is P. K. Kunhalikutty, general secretary of the Indian Union Muslim League, the second largest constituent of the UDF. He was not among the accused in the case but he had to bow out of the last UDF government as one of the victims named him in a television interview.

Getting wind of another television bomb being readied by his detractors, Kunhalikutty announced at a news conference that K.A. Rauf, husband of his wife’s younger sister, was preparing a video to blackmail him and posing a threat to his life. When he was Industry Minister, Rauf had figured in media reports as a fixer. He admitted having shown him favours and vowed not to yield to blackmail again. Rauf appeared before television cameras immediately and confessed to his role in bribing girls to keep Kunhalikutty’s name out of their testimony. Malayalam news channel Indiavision aired a report which, it said, it had been working on for four months, based on information provided by Rauf. It included secretly filmed sequences in which a former government prosecutor refers to bribing of two judges who had handled issues relating the parlour case in the high court. The ex-prosecutor disowned the statement and the ex-judges denied the allegation.

The LDF quickly moved in to cash in on the fallout. The police registered cases on the basis of the media reports, the government explored the possibility of reopening of the parlour case in the light of the new revelations, and party leaders made it the main talking point.

The UDF was in disarray. It was Indiavision, which had first telecast the interview which cost Kunhalikutty his ministership in 2004. Its chairman, M. K. Muneer, who too is an IUML leader and former minister, distanced himself from the reports damaging to his senior colleague saying he does not interfere in the freedom of the editorial department and was unaware of what it was doing. Some elements in the UDF may not be unhappy over the developments as they can be used to rein in the IUML. Muslims in the northern parts having been slow in taking to family planning, the community’s population had registered considerable growth, leading to an increase in the number of Assembly seats from the region. As the dominant party of the region, IUML has a strong claim to the additional seats.

Sex scandals have been talked about at every election in the past 15 years. However, they have not impeded the swing of pendulum so far. Also, which front is in power and which front the VIP suspects belong to have made little difference to the handling of the cases.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Candlelight Vigil in solidarity with K. K. Shahina

The KK Shahina Solidarity Forum has planned a candlelight vigil at Thiruvananthapuram on Friday, January 15, 2011.

The Forum says in a communication:

KK Shahina, Kerala correspondent of Tehelka was framed by the Karnataka police under Section 506 (2) of the Indian Penal Code allegedly for trying to influence witnesses in the Bangluru bom case in which Abdul Naser Mahdani is an accused. Later She was later charged also under section 22 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, a draconian law designed to silence voices of dissent and bury political freedom. The lower courts in Karnataka have denied her anticipatory bail.

Shahina is being punished for carrying out independent investigation into the charges slapped on Madani and for writing about a fragile and unfair legal system working against minorities. She is a journalist of considerable experience. We see her framing as part of arrests, illegal detentions, incarcerations and disappearances of human rights activists and political activists in the country in the recent past. None of the political parties in power in various states – the BJP, the Congress or the CPI(M) -- have been an exception in carrying out such violent acts. The case of Dr. Binayak Sen confirms our worst fears -- that nobody who exercises the right of free speech to expose the violent state will be spared.

On 14th January we will walk wearing black gags and holding lighted candles in support of Shahina demanding immediate withdrawal of charges against her. The procession will start at 5.30 from Statue Junction and end at Swadesabhimani Square near the Martyr’s Column. Prominent artists, journalists and social activists will speak

Please join.

For more information, please contact Kuryachan TD 9447713466