Communism and Land Reforms Movement in Kerala

via Ghatotkacha Nair - published on August 3, 2011

Land Reforms Bill was introduced in the Kerala Assembly in 1958 by the then EMS Namboodiripad-led Communist Government. This Bill with diabolical Communist-cunning deliberately left out industries and plantations out of its ambit. Large plantations were owned by the Church and Christian-owned companies. The plantations, where the Christians had an upper hand, after being bequeathed by the British, escaped confiscation while the Nairs and other land owning Hindus were squeezed out and impoverished. The lands that were seized from the land-owning Nairs, in the name of equitable distribution to the landless, eventually went into the possession of the non-Hindus, especially the Christians.

The spin that the Communists put out on the exemptions given to plantations was articulated by the CPI leader E. Chandrasekharan Nair who said, “the exemption from ceiling limits was originally granted to plantation crops based on the fact that plantations needed to be run as industries, with plantation workers being eligible for benefits that were unavailable to agricultural workers. The exemption was largely based on the interests of the plantation workers and also on the fact that the running of plantations required additional capital investment and technological inputs to increase production and productivity.” The fact of the matter is that the loud-mouthed Communists were incapable of taking on the powerful Church in Kerala.

Under the Land Reforms Act, cultivable lands had indeed been confiscated by the Communists and given to tenants. But this only helped in transforming the tenants into a new class of landlords.

If one studies a cross-section of farmers, most of the present-day large farmers come from large tenant backgrounds.[1]

Small farmers with little or no access to water bodies or kulams are often at the mercy of the monsoon. Crop failures drive them to the clutches of Christian money lenders and soon they become disposed of their small patches of land. The small tenant who was made owner of a small plot by the communists soon becomes a landless agriculture worker.

Land reform in Kerala did not really end capitalist landlordism or transfer agrarian power to agricultural labourers and poor peasants. As E.M.S. Namboodiripad famously remarked, the old janmi system was replaced by “landlordism of another type”, of landlords who get their lands cultivated through wage labour and those who live by lending money and dominated rural trade. [2]

The actual agricultural workers including Scheduled Castes continued to remain landless after 52 years of much tom-tommed “Land Revolution” by the Communists. Adivasis, the natural occupiers and keepers of forests, constitute only one per cent of the Kerala population but almost 65 per cent of them remain landless. Scheduled Castes form about 15 per cent of the Kerala population and almost half of them do not have lands for house or farming.

“How many Communist leaders are there in Kerala who do not have homes or lands?” fumes Satheesan of Mananthavadi, an activist of the Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha. [3]

A stock-taking of the land situation after 52 long years of the operation of the Land Reforms Movement proves that the entire process was a farce. After all these years, the statistics with the CPI(M)-led Government show that five percent of the 3.25-crore people of the State do not own even a square inch of land while individuals like Janata Dal (S) MLA MV Sreyamskumar, whom the CPI(M) had been protecting, are holding hundreds of acres of land in the name of plantations (Mr Sreyams himself admits that he owns 64 acres of land in own his name, excluding the lands of his relatives). [3]

Kerala’s Communists in general, and the CPI(M) in particular, have always claimed that foundation of the entire progress the State has achieved since its formation in 1956 is the land and education reforms movements initiated by their Communist Government way back in 1958. This is the incessant barrage of propaganda which they constantly din into the ears of their ??????? ???? semi-literate, feeble-minded, labour-class supporters.

Now, half a century later, the Marxists themselves are admitting through their current struggles for land for Adivasis and farm workers that the Land Reforms Movement had miserably failed in attaining its goal of confiscating surplus lands held by capitalists/feudalists and distributing them among landless farmers, Adivasis, Dalits and other downtrodden people.[3]

While the Islamic fanatic Tipu Sultan “the butcher from Mysore” destroyed two thousand temples in the Malabar region to establish the supremacy of Islam, it was the British rulers acting at the behest of Christian missionaries who dug the grave of the Kerala temples. The wily British accomplished this not by resorting to anything so crude and beastly as demolishing them: but by simply confiscating all of them “in the name of the state” of course along with all their landed properties and then making sure that the temples withered away from calculated and steady attrition. [4]

The British in 1810 made the then ruler of Travancore, Rani Lakshmi Bai, appoint the British Resident, Colonel John Munro, as Dewan of the Travancore Kingdom as well. Munro who was a committed Christian missionary as well as a ruthless colonialist, naturally considered it his pious duty to debilitate the Hindu religion and at the same time foster Christianity. He achieved both these aims by the simple expedient of taking over by a Government fiat nearly all the temples of Travancore and Cochin and also by seizing all their landed Temple properties without any compensation whatsoever. [4]

More than three hundred of the biggest temples of Travancore were appropriated by the Government under a Devaswom Board. At the same time, Munro issued hundreds of munificent land grants to the Christian Churches. Land was grabbed from Hindu Temples and gifted to Christian Churches.

The Resident-Dewan-missionary had seen to it that the records of the sequestered Temple lands and of lands were thoroughly intermixed; so much so that it had been made quite impossible to catalogue Temple lands separately from Government lands. [4]

Very soon after Independence the Congress Government enacted the Land Reforms Act which was so crafted that it effectively denuded the temples of what little bits of land that still remained with them but left unmolested the lands owned by the churches and mosques. The Central Government also did its “secular act” of destroying temples by confiscating by special legislation again with absolutely no compensation—the vast forest lands of the Malabar temples. These lands were promptly taken over by Christian and Muslim encroachers.

This war of attrition waged on the Hindu Temples of Kerala for over two centuries picked up momentum after the formation of Kerala State in 1956. The double-dealing and double-crossing politicians led by the arch-traitor EMS Namboodiripad, wearing the mask of anti-Hindu secularism, were only too glad to betray the Hindu voters by heaping further blows on the temples.

This convenient excuse that “it was no longer possible to distinguish Temple lands from state lands” which made shameless use of outright brigandage, was to be used in the future times without number by the Government and double-dealing and double-crossing  fork-tongued Communist and non-Hindu politicians not only to hang on to the Hindu Temple properties but also to foil the feeble attempts made by spiritual-minded and patriotic Hindus from time to time to claim compensation for the illegally seized Temple lands.[4]

While this sequestration and annexation of Temple lands had been going on for the last two hundred years, no Government of Kerala past or present, had ever dared to take over the vast land holdings of a single church or mosque. Moreover, to get Muslim goodwill all the immense wakf properties in Kerala (and in the whole of the rest of India, as this is a Central Government Act) have also been exempted from the Buildings and Rent Control Act, which is now strangling the remaining few buildings of temples and ashrams.

Repeated frantic requests for a few acres of forest land for the provision of some basic amenities for the millions of pilgrims converging on the forest Temple at the Sabarimala Sri Sasta Temple have been flatly turned down on the ground that forest land cannot be alienated without the permission of the Centre. At the same time ten hectares of forest land were granted in a jiffy to build a church” proclaimed by the bishops as a rival pilgrim centre “close to the Sabarimala temple. And the successive Governments of Kerala in the last fifteen years have been falling over each other to provide free titles to the well-organised, Church-backed Christian encroachers to huge areas of forest land, running into more than a million acres. [4]

In Kerala, Government control has rendered innumerable Temples dysfunctional. Besides, under the Kerala Land Reforms Act, over 12,000 acres of Guruvayoor temple’s land has been reduced to a mere few hundred acres.  Now most of those lands are owned by the Muslims. In Sabarimala, 2,500 acres of Temple land has been sold by the Government’s Devaswom Board. Although the church is the largest real-estate owner in the country, no church land has ever been confiscated or otherwise alienated by the Government. [5]

The LDF Communist Kerala Government completed procedures in 2009 to allot free land to private schools and colleges run by Christian and Moslem religious institutions in the State. Some of these are already housed in government land that has been technically leased to them. The lease amounts have not been paid by these institutions for decades and the arrears come to hundreds of crores of Rupees. No Government dares to recover the dues out of fear of minority community protests. KP Rajendran, Kerala Revenue Minister, who is from the CPM, said that St.Thomas College, St.Mary’s College, Christ College, St.Albert’s College, Ponnani Moslem Education Service College would be the initial beneficiaries. Other institutions will be accommodated as soon as they submit applications. 10 to 25 acres are expected to be thus allotted to each institution. An acre of land [an acre is 100 cents] in the vicinity of these colleges is valued at a minimum of 10 to 15 crores of Rupees. In return for the land, the minority communities would support LDF candidates from the minority communities at the Parliamentary elections. [6]

For the Communists total destruction of Hinduism and conversion of Hindus to atheism and later on to Islam or Christianity is the ultimate goal. Naturally the greatest beneficiaries of the Communist Land Reforms Movement in Kerala were Christians and Muslims, and the greatest losers were the Hindu temples and Hindu people.

Harrisons Malayalam Ltd owns 20000 hectares of land in Kerala according to their corporate website. Why don’t the Communists eye these lands owned by the arch capitalists? The CPM sees the stated enemies, the arch-capitalists as financiers and business partners and not class-enemies. This is the new and modern “pragmatic” Communism of Pinarai Vijayan and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan!

The Communists see the small Hindu subsistence farmer as “class enemy”. They have raised the farm wages to such un-economical levels and placed every possible structural obstacle in the path of paddy production that Hindu farmers are abandoning paddy cultivation in large numbers. This wanton destruction of paddy cultivation is a deliberate Communist stratagem to make the lives of the common agrarian Hindu farmers including Dalits, miserable. The farm lands, where paddy was cultivated, are either remaining barren or have been converted for other purposes.

Due to Communist depredation, the native crops have been given the short shrift and replaced with monoculture crops like rubber. These crops do not require labour, as in paddy, displacing millions of land dependent labourers and reducing them to penury.

Significantly, land reform did not increase agricultural production or rural employment in the State. In fact, one of the most visible results of the land reform legislation was the extreme fragmentation of land, the oft-cited reason for making agriculture a low-profit venture in the State. [2]

The highest per-capita rate of suicide in agrarian areas is in Kerala. Of these suicides vast majority of deaths are of Hindus. All these suicides can be counted among the blessings and benedictions of the Land Reforms Movement of the Communists.


[1] “Rich farmers retain water rights in Kerala” By Jyothi Krishnan,

[2]”Reversing Land Reforms” by R. Krishnakumar, Frontline, Volume 21 – Issue 04, February 14 – 27, 2004.

[3] “Land reforms fall flat in Kerala” by VR Jayaraj, The Daily Pioneer [OPED | Thursday, February 18, 2010]
[4]”Temple Looting in Kerala-Then and Now” by Leela Thampi
[5] “Government control of temples weakening Hinduism” by J G Arora, Organiser, March 08, 2009

[6] ] “Communist Land Dole to Minority Educational Institutions” by R.Sajan 01/02/2009 report in

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