By MR Lalu
For anyone who understands the dynamics of politics in Kerala, the decision taken by the Travancore Devaswom Board run by the state government is not a surprise. The board which administers hundreds of temples in the state has ordered not to allow mass drills or any other activities organized by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on their premises. The decision by the Board was not an unpredictable act. The government began its efforts in 2016 with strong allegations against the RSS being raised by its Devaswom minister. His accusation was about the RSS mass drill and its martial training in the temple campuses. To understand the depth and meaning and effect of this blanket ban, we should know the background of the rivalries between the RSS and the ruling CPI (M) in the state of Kerala. Two years to go for its centenary in 2025, the RSS must be planning huge events across the country and abroad. The outfit enjoys huge backing in Kerala though its organizational skills failed to translate its acceptance into electoral fortunes. The history of RSS is the history of its relentless struggle for survival in Kerala. Especially its entry into the Kannur district, an all time Communist stronghold in the state witnessed numerous factional fights between the two ideological opponents mostly leading to bloodshed. Hundreds of workers from both sides were ruthlessly butchered in the process of establishing their hegemony and many still struggle to survive with permanent disabilities. The decision of the Devaswom board to ban the RSS activities in temples might aggravate their animosity.
Unsurprisingly, both CPI (M) and RSS strongholds in the district of Kannur are identifiably demarcated while both groups earnestly maintain restraint before they break into the opponent’s area. An attempt of intrusion to the opponent’s village would cause unspeakable violence. Mostly, the violence between the two groups began in the mid 1960s turned the district into India’s political murder capital. The RSS, as it began to make inroads into the district of Kannur had to face serious opposition from the Left parties. The new entrant was seen as a potential threat to the party strongholds and the organizational skills of the saffron brigade began to shake the left fiefdom causing erosion in its cadre-base. Clashes and bloodbath became a routine affair with generations growing in fear and vengeance. Their enmity became a perfect example of ruthless ideological animosity and Kannur became the epicenter of political murders. RSS turned Kerala, especially the Kannur district, one of its aggressive laboratories where its existence was challenged by the omnipresence of the Communists. It fought not only for its survival but also for prominence. The CPI (M) with its firebrand leaders including the present Chief Minister coming from Kannur could not afford to lose its strength in the district and the battle went on.
It is necessary to know the impact of the ban. The RSS through its daily assemblies called Shakhas have spread its activities across the state. Mostly these daily assemblies take place in the premises of temples. It was occasionally opposed by different political parties, especially ever since comrades from the Left parties, shedding their atheistic credentials, began to administer private temples and temples under the boards. Why was this ban an inevitable affair for the left leaning Devaswom Board? The saffron block of the state might call it a systematic annihilation of its ideology. But the ruling CPI (M) is well aware of the organizational reach of the Sangh and keeping it away from the temples is almost like keeping it away from the spiritual and social activities through which the RSS mainly connects its cadre with the society. I cannot say if the Hindu hardliners will be affected in any manner by the ban. But, if the present ban creates a spillover effect and the other Boards under the government pressure decide to joyfully march in tune with the Travancore Devaswom Board, without access to the temple courtyards and corridors, the RSS will have to find perfect places for its ideological seminaries. By doing this, the Left government is excavating solid electoral fortunes from the minority. But these appeasement modules do not enjoy the support of the entire Christian community. Many Christian denominations in the state have disagreements with the government as its initiatives have almost been in the direction of comforting the Muslims. And to scribble a recent development here, it is seen that some among the Christian fraternity began to take a friendly approach on the RSS due to this Left-Islamic nexus gaining momentum.
But the question is would this already febrile mood between the two prominent organizations in the state be heightened by the blanket ban on the Shakhas? Looking back, while recalling the scary images of political rivalry; spine chilling waves of horror would make you frozen and frantic. K.T.Jayakrishnan was a teacher who was hacked to death in the classroom as he was conducting classes for students of class 6 in the Kannur district. Seven goons from the rival camp armed with swords and choppers hacked him multiple times. They continued to stab, inflicting 48 ante-mortem injuries all over his body with blood spattered on the walls of the tiny classroom. Children who witnessed this heart wrenching brutality had to undergo years of counseling to get back to their emotional stability. I decided not to reveal the identity of the butchers and the political baggage of the person who became the victim. There were many instances of inhuman political savagery for which both sides could be held accountable. In principle, a ban on the RSS by the state government is an attempt to stop people from joining the activities of the organization, which the government fears has credibly stretched its wings all over the state. The RSS is known for reinstating many ruined temples in the state and its efforts have naturally brought the divided Hindu community together in certain localities. This could be one of the reasons that the ruling Left has been ringing its alarm bells again and again. The state government is almost devoured by expectations that the more it locks horns with the right-wingers the more support would flow from the minority side. But for the BJP and RSS, the ban may be a blessing in disguise to wage an open ideological war against the CPI (M) calling the ban the latest example of the ruling party’s anti Hindu stand. The question is, if the ban on the right-wing is a clandestine checkmate by the ruling Left?
(Author is freelance journalist and social worker based in Kerala. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author.)