Kerala Left’s ire over Dalit-baiting ‘hypocritical’

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi - Daily Pioneer published on November 5, 2011

Kerala’s CPI(M)-led Opposition LDF is presently on an agitation against the alleged insult hurled out at its leader AK Balan, a Dalit, by the Chief Whip of the Congress-led UDF Government with casteist remarks but records show that the Marxists themselves have liberally used such insulting remarks against Dalits when it suited them.

The Left stalled the proceedings in the Assembly the other day over the insult Chief Whip PC George, known for making acerbic remarks in speeches in the House and outside, showered on October 28 on Balan, former minister and State CPI(M) secretariat member, with his statement “I am not saying much as he belongs to Scheduled Caste.”

Despite intense Leftist protests since October 28 inside the Assembly and outside and severe criticisms from several leaders in the Congress and other coalition constituents, George, vice-chairman of the Kerala Congress (M), a constituent of the UDF, has stubbornly refused to apologize for his derogatory references to Balan.

The Opposition has announced boycott of George in the Assembly and outside. They will also not participate in TV talk shows if George participates in such programmes. Balan himself has lodged complaints with the Chief Minister and the DGP requesting action against George under Prevention of Atrocities against SC Act, IPC and provisions of the Police Act.

However, Dalit activists point out that the CPI(M)’s protests in the name of Dalits and their rights are nothing but hypocritical drama because the Marxists themselves have allegedly used derogatory remarks against Dalit whenever that suited them. “Now, when one of them has suffered a blow, they feel the pain,” said Suresh Kumar, an Adivasi in Aralam, Kannur.

Dalit rights workers recall the infamous reference to Congress’s former Dalit minister MA Kuttappan by former Marxist chief minister late EK Nayanar, an upper caste Hindu. Nayanar had then referred to Kuttappan as “That Harijan Kuttappan” but “Kerala has not heard an apology coming from him,” said Suresh. 

The Nationalist People’s Forum recalled how M Vijayakumar, a former Marxist Minister and ex-Speaker, had insulted BR Ambedkar, the social section he belonged to and a poor people’s slum in Thiruvananthapuram with his statement that the most suitable place for an Ambedkar statue was the Chenkalchoola slum in the capital.

The forum took a direct dig at Balan himself saying that he had not included even a single Dalit in his personal staff when he was power minister in the 2006-11 LDF government. It also alleged that those who wanted action against George for a “normal” reference as “SC man” had been eager to deny quota benefits to Dalits.

Kochi-based sociologist BS Panicker points out that the Kerala Marxists have consistently refused to listen to the grievances of Dalits. “When about 10,000 Dalits agitated at Chengara in Pathanamthitta for land to live and cultivate, the former LDF government threatened them saying they would have to face police with tooth and claw,” he said.

“Then chief minister VS Achuthanandan had termed the leader of that Dalit stir as a rubber thief. The LDF had described the agitating Dalits as agents of the LTTE and Maoists,” Panicker said. The Marxists had even taken a theoretical position that identity politics was not acceptable as part of a clever move to break the non-political unity among Adivasis and Dalits unity, he added.

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