The South Asia has been metamorphosing, transforming and transiting in desire and discourse, grace and guidance, purpose and practicality, pace and propensity, terrorism and transcendentalism, unity and ubiquity, and its regimental ruthlessness is mawkish with modernity, primordial with present and furtive with future that is devitalized to the proliferation of prognostications.
The propensity of the planet earth transcended its limits of growth, wealth of nations and industrialization of civility in an unprecedented fashion marked with producing rich out of rich, poor out of poor since the baseline of parochial peace inaugurated on October 24, 1945 as United Nations Organization whereunder human nature has become most conspicuous, covetous and cataclysmic in the present age needed by the ever-growing exemplary shift in its dialectics, dimensions, and delineation in terms of understanding, interpretation, and resolutions of human care and crises in its existentialism.
Idea of Human Rights
The idea of human right has had a long and diverse history that has given multiple meanings, hues and tones dependent on the context, condition and the objective of those conceptualizing this idea but, unfortunately, this idea has been predominantly understood in terms of intrinsic and extrinsic political priorities since time immemorial by the national and international jurisdictions at the level of nation-states and by the individuals, institutions and groups at the communitarian level. But to fit human right into any definition has not been met with intellectual and juridical consensus since the inception of the critters and creatures of reason who coddled human rights in a fashion acceptable to all but in vain. The concept of human rights, which was developed during the Enlightenment, re-emerged following the II-World War, and since then has repeatedly been utilized in the international and local realms. The hundreds of dedicated people around the globe have been working incessantly over the past 70 years to frame human rights protocols, covenants, and treaties, and in the process have produced an inspiring discourse.
Therefore, I have also attempted to clinch an understanding of human rights in the expositions henceforth that the human rights are natural rights whereto every man is the heir apparent without being deprived except according to the procedure, principles, and pursuits duly codified in law. Human rights are the perennial pursuits provided and protected by the state for the overall development of its citizens devoid of denial, deprivation and demonization owing to the grounds contrary to natural justice, the rule of law and good conscience. Human rights are the rights of human beings because of their status as human beings for sustenance and survival with human dignity wedded to state protection and societal sanctions deviant to geo-politico-cultural dichotomies. Human rights are the classical and contemporary civil liberties preserved, promoted and protected by the oriental and occidental societies alike within the confines of the law. Human rights are the human spirits emanating from a confluence of equality, fraternity, and liberty founded upon pluralism, secularism, and universalism guaranteed by the state and its laws. Human rights are pre-political and pre-social conditions blessed by nature upon human beings by virtue of their being human beings protected under the principles of natural law. Human rights are peremptory norms wherefrom no derogation or deviation or otherwise is contemplated, conceptualized and camouflaged contrary to dignity, decency and development of human personality under a just order founded upon democracy of judicial remedies, the majesty of the rule of law and supremacy of humanity. Human rights are conditions of peace, security and development of state and its citizens alike alien to avarice, corruption, deprivation, exploitation, fear, genocide, hate, inequality, jingoism, nepotism, oppression, persecution, repression, subjugation, totalitarianism, vengeance and xenophobia, etc.
What is South Asia
South Asia is the home to 22 percent of the world population and also a home of 43 percent poor people of the world. Despite the promising microeconomic growth, South Asia is the most impoverished region looked from human development indicators, such as health and education. The South Asian region inhabits 47 percent of the world’s illiterate population aged 15 years and above (up to 59 years). Over 71 percent of the South Asians live in rural areas mostly unemployed. Estimated 437 million people live below 1.25 US dollar a day and 237 million live at risk of dying before the age of 40 years. 867 million have no access to basic sanitation and more than 300 million undernourished. Therefore, South Asian discourse on human rights must take care of these people. The human rights discourse has transformed international and humanitarian laws, has helped reshape the relations between international organizations, governments and citizens and has become an active political and legal tool used by the politicians, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and social movements to advance their objectives. The human rights discourse is not some panacea for all social ills, and at times it can produce unanticipated detrimental results. The rights language can be and has been co-opted by people who promote oppressive policies. The leaders often cynically invoke rights discourse to enhance the realpolitik concerns and not because they care about the rights of individuals living in other countries or even the rights of their citizens. The once decreed as a norm or as a preferred goal, groups, and individuals can utilize this discourse to demand the enforcement and implementation of more ethical policies while marshaling internal forces and external support.
Human Rights Implementation
The implementation of human rights is in crisis worldwide. The annual reports of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations continue to reveal widespread gross violations of human rights in numerous countries the world over and South Asia region is not an exception. Democracy is non-existent or a sham in many countries in our part of the world. National resources are squandered by despotic rulers instead of being used to satisfy the basic economic and social needs of their people. Corruption is rife. The judiciary lacks the strength, the means, or the will to protect human rights in many places. The national human rights institutions are non-existent or non-performing in some cases in South Asia and elsewhere. In South Asia, many countries ratify human rights treaties without making the slightest attempt to give effect to them. The self-righteous representatives gather in the halls of the United Nations and use their majorities to insist that countries are grossly violating human rights be treated with kid gloves through dialogue and cooperation, instead of through forthright condemnation of atrocities. The UN Human Rights Council does little for the actual protection of human rights, and its Universal Periodic Reporting Process, for the time being, lacks teeth. The situation is dire.
The issue of human rights is frequently discussed in international and regional discourse, among the world leaders, and in the international media. There are international conferences and speeches on human rights, from Presidents, Prime Ministers and Popes alike about the importance of tolerance and respect for human rights, and media outlets broadcasting one program after another on the human miseries like poverty, ill-health and poor living conditions around the world. But what exactly is meant by human rights remains controversial and ambiguous, it is increasingly clear that there is some universal concept of human rights. In societies where citizens are free to participate in the political process and express opposition to their government, where they do not simply disappear in the blink of an eye and are free from starvation and poverty, human rights may never be a chief consideration or concern. But this only describes the condition of a minority of the global population.
Global Grimes and Crimes
Thus, identification and acceptance of human rights as an international issue by the world community has led to the establishment of a vast system of laws, treaties, and international organizations. Most states today recognize some limits to their sovereignty and, at least ostensibly, acquiesce to agreements and covenants designed to protect those rights. Before World War II, such a concept would have been deemed untenable, as state sovereignty remained the norm of international relations. The states were the final arbiter in the treatment of their citizens, and other countries should refrain from intervening in their affairs. The Holocaust and atrocities associated with the Nazi regime catalyzed the human rights movement, propelling the issue into the international arena. While South Asian discourse on the importance of human rights has incessantly swelled since the end of World War II, many states continue to violate a broad range of human rights. In fact, some of the worst human rights violations have occurred in modern times: the atrocities committed and perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, the slaughter in Rwanda, the genocide in the Darfur region of United Sudan, persecution of Minorities in South Asia. The food insecurity, lack of clean water, and lack of primary health care continue to be everyday realities in many parts of the world including South Asia. Whereas slavery is on the rise today: in Eastern Europe and South Asia women trafficking as sex slaves; in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), children are being forced to fight in wars; and in most of the SAARC region particularly in India and Nepal, children are being compelled to work as child labour or in sweat-shops for subsistence wages instead of attending school. For many people, the lack of human rights is a daily reality, and this suggests that while citizens in parts of the South Asia have been experiencing greater respect for human rights, the majority have yet to realize and enjoy the full spectrum of human rights. The disjuncture between the South Asian discourse in human rights and the attainment of human rights is one of the pivotal paradoxes of the human life.
Therefore, the quest for sustainability of democratic values and institutions is unceasing in South Asia and all members of SAARC have constitutionally endorsed the liberal democracy, the rule of law and human rights. All the SAARC members have written constitutions based on the constitutionalism of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The principle of independence of the judiciary and its activist role to ensure implementation of pro-people and pro-democratic policies is manifestly higher in South Asia. The most top courts in the region have played crucial roles in shaping the people’s human rights. The recognition of the Justiciability of the economic, social and cultural rights in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh is spectacular. The grammar of modern South Asia determines the structure and limits of essential components of contemporary human rights discourse. The idea of South Asia constitutes an important part of our human rights discourse and imagination that determines what questions we ask about our law, polities and policy as well as the range of possible answers to these issues.
The idea of Human Rights Discourse in South Asia comprises of a synthesis of rules and principles about the suitable use of concepts like people, self-government, citizen, rights, equality, autonomy, nation and popular sovereignty. That quest about the normative relationship between nation-states and the cultural diversity as the criteria that should be employed to determine the legitimacy of the State, the individuals that can be regarded partners of the polity, the distinctions and limits between the private and the public spheres, and the dichotomies between autonomous and heteronomous political communities makes sense to us because they emerge from the rules and principles of human rights discourse. Different traditions of interpretation in human rights discourse in South Asia—constitutionalism, liberalism, communitarianism, and nationalism, among others–compete to control the way these concepts are understood and put into practice. However, it was difficult to deny that South Asian constitutionalism and western legal traditions in human rights have exerted a strong influence on most of the South Asian legal systems.
South Asian Legal Systems
Hence, this influence has been constrained or structured by many factors, with particular influences explaining the actual impact of eastern legal traditions on the various Asian legal systems. Each particular South Asian legal system remains unique in many ways, the result being a mixture or a “blend” of these numerous factors. However, it is worth attempting to classify the major South Asian legal systems in the light of these many different influences. That history, religion, culture and political regime constitute the major criteria that can be used to differentiate the various South Asian legal systems and better measure the influence exerted on them by South Asian constitutionalism and Western traditions of human rights. Though every South Asian state has consistently espoused the constitutional values and principles of human rights and no government, no matter how authoritarian, claims to be anything other than a constitutional government. But, of late, vibrant constitutional democracies have taken hold in the South Asian soil. However, scant attention has been placed upon the ways that human rights have been brought into being and developed into distinctive forms in South Asia. By studying the South Asian jurisdictions together, some standard features communicated by the constitutional advancements in them, which include contributory democratic state-building, textual and institutional continuity, reactive judicial review and a wide range of human rights in tune with social and political progress, have emerged.
Human Rights Desiderata
However, there are desiderata like what is a right in South Asia? What are human rights in South Asia? Why do we have them or should we have them? Who is counted as a human and on what grounds? Is Dignity the Foundation of Human Rights? Are human rights truly universal, global or regional in South Asia? Does the disagreement about the meaning of human rights undermine it as a political project in South Asia? What kinds of human rights problems do the South Asia and the world face today? What role do South Asian judicial institutions play in addressing the human rights issues? Do the South Asian governments care about human rights? How did a South Asian discourse on human rights come to shape the regional consciousness imperatives in post-1985? What do human rights treaties require South Asian states to do? Why do countries sign up to human rights treaties? Do they ever respect human rights obligations and commitments? How do citizens and NGO’s exert pressure on states? Is human rights politics just ‘Selectivism’ in South Asia? Why does the US promote human rights and refuse to sign on to major human rights treaties? Are human rights just window-dressing for national interests in South Asia? What is the political economy of human rights discourse in South Asia? To attend and appreciate the contours of human rights discourse in South Asia and obligations and options available to the region with South Asian values, approaches to human rights, human rights of minorities in South Asia, place of gender in South Asia and how to go about exploring the feasibility of South Asian Charter of Human Rights
Deviant to the causes whatsoever of human displacement regarding normativity, performativity, and empiricism, there are many nemeses, but two are important and coterminous in their cascading impact, i.e., human displacement and consumerism. The biggest agony in life is a situation of being displaced from his/her country of the homeland in a fashion that is fallible, fallacious and fatal? To uproot anybody from his land of habitual residence amounts to deny and deprive him of his/her right to perpetual live, right to immemorial neighbourhood, right to historical culture, right to classic climate, right to perennial socialization, right to geopolitical predilections, right to socio-economic development, right to be consulted in economic modules, right to take part in community development, right to good governance, right to rule of law, and right to leave and return. Thus, these are not only rights but go beyond the systems of rights known as basic bonds, fundamental freedoms, inalienable entitlements, natural claims, and rudimental human rights. Whereas consumerism has become a catalyst likey to be employed as the last resort of elitism and propelling the priorities of political, social and cultural dispensations in every geo-strategic entity. Consumerism has been cribbed, crabbed and cabined in an envelope of gory globalization wherefrom no escape is possible for the men ordinaire and it is taking its toll to the hilt in a knowledge society which, unfortunately, does not have any knowledge about the society wedded with consumerism. Consumerism of contemporary class has smothered the colossal canvas of human bonds wherefrom oozes emotions, care, concerns and camaraderie well-founded upon the human spirit of co-existence, respect for diversity and civilizational dialogue.
South Asia Ahead
Therefore, the denuded downslide and pejorative permutations in the societal structures across the South Asia are nothing but offshoots of consumerism casting poverty, ecological degradation, environmental hazards, lopsided development, tectonic technologies, hexicological imbalances, deconstruction of a priori norms of normative sciences in research and development, etc. Thus, vicious vicissitudes of global change have presented a scene of development that is murky, mawkish and maneuvered by the political powers that are around the chess board of common heritage of gene-kind in and around national and supranational jurisdictions whereat humanity is at war within the humanity. Consequently, there is an supercilious ambience of peace, progress and prosperity that is exclusive, elite and alienated with a tinge of aggression, arrogance and attitude of above the board while not learning the lessons from economic melt-downs and fiscal drubbings in USA and Eurozone and elsewhere which has made the humanity to move, move and move in addition to the humanitarian crises and climate-induced displacement.
In this conspectus, I envision a concept of South Asian Government (SAG) or Regional Government well-founded upon a duly agreed South Asian Constitution (SAC) wedded with the Constitutionalization of South Asian Constitutionalism, South Asian Rule of Law (SAROL), Borderless South Asian Sovereignty (SAS), South Asian Common Natural Resources (SACONAR), South Asian Ethno-Cultural Synthesization (SAECS), South Asian Accountability Regime (SAAR), and South Asian Constitutional Law (SACOL) based on the regional institutionalization of equitable demography, federalization of humanity, bicameralization of governance, Parliamentarization of Regional Accountability as Parliament of Gene kind consisting of House of Nations (Upper House) and House of People (Lower House) whereunder South Asian Nations have been contemplated as units.
These features developed in the South Asian discourse on human rights do not merely mirror western standard nor are under the shadow of South Asian Values or merely in tandem with transitional understandings of rights jurisprudence. The full blossom of South Asian discourse on human rights will shed a new light and move from periphery to the center of regional engagement. The South Asian nations have had some difficulty in maintaining their independence of constitutional human rights and fundamental freedoms. The human rights discourse in South Asia has swept the world by the end of the last twentieth century. More than two-thirds of global populations observe to a certain extent human rights protection and the rule of law. The human rights discourse in South Asia has moved beyond traditional nation-state borders and developed into regional constitutionalism on rights. The efforts at making South Asian discourse in Human Rights the evolutionary process by which traditional South Asian states have moved closer to one another in a human rights sense illustrates this trend well. At the same time, North American countries including Canada, the United States, and Mexico have gradually been becoming a human rights block by sharing common regulatory powers in a constitutional sense.
Revolutionary Russia and the Formation of Political Consciousness in Modern Kerala
20th century marks an important epoch in the history of mankind. The century saw multiple revolutions, two devastating world wars, economic depression and economic boom simultaneously, decolonisation, globalisation and technological inventions changing lives of millions of people. Russian revolution was one among the most momentous incident which created tremors all across the world. Popular protests against the authoritarian Tsarist regime resulted in the overthrow of monarchy and formation of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The new political entity inspired political activists to fight against both autocrats and colonising powers alike. Many activists across the nations wanted to replicate the model adopted by Bolsheviks and Red army in USSR. The dissolution of Soviet Union in 1991 was widely regarded as the end of world communism but still the communist spirit of USSR is resonated in the southernmost state of India i.e. Kerala.
Politically as well as culturally the influence of USSR is still predominant in Kerala. Communist Parties became marginal players in their once strongholds like West Bengal and Tripura where they uninterruptedly ruled for several decades. But in Kerala they had to concede defeat to Indian National Congress led United Democratic Front, even after that Communist Parties are successful at organisational and political levels. The building up of Communist Party of India (CPI) in Kerala was started from 1940s and was aided by left leaning writers and artists which resembled the Agitprop (department of Agitation and Propaganda) of the Soviet Union era. Agitprop was tasked by the leadership to tour all across the Soviet territory to spread communist propaganda and to glorify the ruling icons (Mally, 2003). The publishing house of CPI started to produce Malayalam translations of Russian literature and it found a large audience in Kerala. Magazines published from USSR also reached Kerala. Since these magazines and books were heavily subsidised by USSR the youth could have easy access to those.
Social condition of Kerala in the first half of 20th century was earmarked by complex caste equations and discrimination faced by lower caste people from the landlord communities. There was only a minimal presence of industries and a larger population was dependent on agriculture. The stories of successful revolution and establishment of a ‘proletariat state’ captured the imagination of common people. CPI formed the first government of United Kerala in 1957 and later implemented ‘land redistribution’ which was highly beneficial to the common people hence solidifying their political presence.
Even though ideological crack happened within CPI in 1964 on Sino-Soviet split and Communist Party of India (Marxist) was formed as a breakaway faction (Supporting Chinese communism). This situation is paradoxical since communist parties still draw its ideology from the Russian model and organisational hierarchy from the Chinese model. It is a fact that the Russian novels and short stories had a major role to play in developing Malayalam literate. At the same time, books of some of the popular Malayalam writers were also translated to Russian. One of the less spoken dimension of this influence is the ‘Political killings’ and violence where the tendency to terminate political opponent cuts across the party lines. Another aspect is the politicization of security forces (read police) which is exceptionally high in Kerala police. This paper aims at analysing the role USSR had in creating a public sphere in Kerala leaning towards the left, including its positives and negatives.
SOCIAL CONDITION OF KERALA
Before its unification in 1956, Kerala was three different administrative units. Travancore and Cochin were princely states while Malabar was part of the Madras presidency, hence directly under British rule. Kerala had a very complex caste system where upper castes including Namboothiri Brahmins and Nairs (there was no chaturvarnya system as such in Kerala. Later Kshatriyas were self elevated Nairs) (Nair P. R., 1987). Evil caste practices like untouchability, unseeability and unaproachability were practised within the Hindu fold, Lower caste people belonging to Pulaya, Thiyya, Ezhava communities were not even allowed to travel through roads adjacent to temples. They were only allowed to travel through the other ways when there was no individual from higher caste using the road. These illogical customs forced Swami Vivekananda to call Kerala a ‘Lunatic Asylum’ (Nandatmajananda, 2017). Upper caste (read Nairs) also followed irrational customs including Marumakkathayam and Sambandham. Nairs were the most power caste in Kerala after Namboothiris. Nairs’ marital alliances with Namboothiris called Sambandhams solidified their position in the society. In this system, Namboothiris had sexual union with Nair women and the children born from this had no legal right on their father’s property. Nairs followed a matrilineal system and inheritance to property was traced through women (Arunima, Writing culture: Of modernity and the Malayalam novel, 1997).
By the end of 19th century there was reform movements against multiple aspects including inter – intra caste issues and poor representation of the natives of Kerala in the government administration which was dominated by Tamil Brahmins. Malayali memorial was submitted to the Maharaja of Travancore on 1st January 1891 requesting for more jobs earmarked for Malayalees and Ezhava memorial was submitted on 3rd September 1896 pleading for extension of civil right and employment opportunities for Ezhavas (Nair T. S., 1979). Religious reformation movements were pioneered by Chattambi Swamikal, Sree Narayana Guru, Ayyankali and Mannath Pathmanadhan. Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP) was founded in 1903 by Narayana Guru to mobilise Ezhava community while Nair Service Society (NSS), founded by Mannath Padmanabhan in 1914 questioned Marumakkathayam system and Brahaminical dominance. Ayyankali was an influential Pulaya leader who worked for Pulaya community in the princely state of Travancore (Kurup, 1994). These movements had hence started to develop a strong undercurrent against the current establishment and the social system in general.
Five years before the October revolution, in 1912 a young Malayalee journalist Ramakrishna Pilla had published the Malayalam translation of a biography of Karl Marx even at a time when his ideas were not popular in India. He published strong and eloquent articles against the Maharaja of Travancore and his Prime Minister P. Rajagopalachari in newspaper Swadeshabhimani which was later sealed by the government and Ramakrishna Pilla was send on exile (Jeffrey, What the Statues Tell: The Politics of Choosing Symbols in Trivandrum, 1980). In 1921 Mappilah Rebellion happened in Malabar (Northern Kerala) against the Janmi system and the colonial rule. The news of this rebellion even reached Lenin through one of the founders of Indian Communist Party Abani Mukherji and later a report was published in the Communist Review magazine which was the mouthpiece of the British Communist Party (Ramachandran, 2019). By this time Congress started to get involved in social issues following Gandhi’s call to fight against untouchability and discrimination. The famous Vaikom Satyagraha in 1924-25 saw unification of both Savarna and Avarna castes against the draconian practice of not allowing lower castes to walk through the lanes adjacent to Vaikom Mahadeva Temple. Leader of upper caste Nairs Mannath Padmanabhan carried out ‘Savarna Jatha’ in support of the ongoing agitation. Mahatma Gandhi and Periyar Ramaswami also came to the protesting venue and actively took part in the struggle (Jeffrey, Temple-Entry Movement in Travancore, 1860-1940, 1976). This period also marked beginning of small industries in Kerala and migration of many agricultural labourers to the industrial sites.
LABOUR UNIONS AND POLITICAL DYNAMICS
Distress within labours started to come out. They were under paid, exploited and didn’t have any safety at work place. Attempts were made in coir mat and mattress industry to mobilise workers in 1920s itself. There was a steady decline in the demand of coir goods and many
factories were shut down creating massive unemployment and reduced mages of existing workers. Under these circumstances Travancore Labour Association (TLA) was formed. The first meeting of TLA took place on 31st March 1922. It also became the first labour union to get registration under Travancore Union Act of 1937 and was later renamed as Travancore Coir Factory Workers Union (Nair R. , 1973). The union first carried out general strike in 1938 against Moopan Kashu. Moopans were the supervisors in these factories who had the power to punish workers making mistakes and even to fire them from job. Moopans also collected money from the labourers and the money was known as Moopan Kashu. The government took initiative to abolish Moopan Kashu (Dev, 1977).
It was in the beginning of 1930s that USSR was started to be seen as a messiah for the global working class by labourers and peasants in Kerala. E.V Ramaswamy Naicker after attending May day celebrations in Russia had given a speech in Alappuzha in 1933 where he elaborated to the public the benefits enjoyed by workers in USSR, their progress and development of the nation (Kerala Charithram, 1974). Political wrings of K Kesava Dev and K Ayyappan on USSR found followers in Kerala by that time hence a new political consciousness started to emerge. In 1934 those people who were inspired by the Russian revolution formed Congress Socialist Party within the frame of Indian National Congress. EMS Namboodiripad elaborated the incident as:
“Our understanding about socialist idea was incomplete and hazy. But we tried to spread what we knew among the people using the propaganda machinery then available. No substantial knowledge was there about basic tenets of socialism. But we knew that Soviet Union was a living symbol of all that. For, it was a time that a big and all pervading economic crisis was raging in the capitalist world. At the same time Soviet Union was successfully implementing its first five year plan. Their economic progress was taking place at a pace not achieved by any other country so far. Is there anything more needed to have a good impression of socialism and the bad impression of capitalism? To us who did not have any opportunity so far to make a theoretical study of the fundamental tenets of socialism, it was a fact which was helpful to develop one’s own opinion favouring socialism and to convey it to the people.” (Namboothiripad, 1986).
While Congress Socialist party was being transformed to Communist Party EMS wrote:
“When preparations were being made to convert Congress Socialist Party as a whole into Communist Party, during the weeks just after the beginning of the war, a syllabus on Marxist theory was implemented. During the two and half years of underground work this activity was continued. Leading cadres of the Party were taught authoritative works like Socialism, Utopian and scientific by Engels, ‘What’s to be Done’ by Lenin and Fundamental principles of Leninism by Stalin. Translation of these and many other books was initiated. Some of these were published for the education of the cadre. The work CPSU (B) History by Stalin was translated in toto and chapters were printed one by one. There was urging from all quarters
to learn theory. But only after the party came out of the underground could that process be continued and taken to a higher level” (Nambootiripad, 2015).
Kerala witness many peasant rebellions in 1940s but those were ruthlessly defeated by the police forces. In 1941, peasants revolted in Talasherry and Kayyur. 2 people were shot dead by the police at Talasherry. In Kayyur a police constable was killed during action and 4 of the peasants accused of the incident were hanged on 1943, hence becoming the first martyrs’ of peasant rebellion in Kerala. Initially Travancore princely state was hesitant to join the Indian Union and wanted to be an independent country. Sir C P Ramaswami Ayyar, the Prime Minister of the state wanted to develop and govern Travancore on “American model’. Massive revolts happened in Punnappra and Vayalar in October 1946. Even though the death toll hasn’t been impartially verified, it is said that around 300 people lost their lives and many were injured (Pillai M. , 1988). The impressive role played by Communist Party in organising peasants and labourers for freedom struggle eventually paid political dividend when they won the first state assembly elections of Kerala in 1957 (Kerala was formed on linguistic basis on 1st November 1956).
SOVIET INFLUENCE THROUGH LITERATURE AND ART
Even though agitations lead by CPI and left leaning peasant associations/labour unions consolidated the presence of communism politically, the ideology was further cemented though propaganda materials including novels, stories and translated Soviet works. The literary works which emerged in 1930s were absolute breakaway from the past. More politically conscious authors entered the fray and brought egalitarian values into their novels and short stories. A novel written by O Chandu Menon named Indulekha is regarded as the first complete novel in Malayalam (published in the 1886). The novel investigated the degrading situation of Nairs and Namboothiris. Through the medium of novel the novelist also questioned Sambandham and Marumakkathayam traditions (Arunima, Glimpses from a Writer’s World: O. Chandu Menon, His Contemporaries, and Their Times, 2004). Poem of Kumaranashan and Vallathol Narayana Menon questioned social evils and denounced caste practices. Thakazhi Shivashanka wrote extensively about the feudal framework and the ill treatment of lower castes. Most of his stories were plotted in Kuttanad which was essentially an agricultural region and especially Alappuzha where there were coir factories. Decline of the powerful Tharavadus (Nair joint family) could also be traced in these stories and novels (Verghese, 1970).
Other important story tellers were Vaikom Muhammad Basher, P Kesavadev, Ponkunnam Varkey, S K Pottekatt and Uroob P C Kuttykrishnan. They were highly inspired by the leftist thoughts and brought literature to the doorstep of common people. P Kesavadev was also a
trade union leader and his autobiography is rich with communist thoughts (Mohmed, 1993). Another noted writer, freedom fighter, social reformer and dramatist was V T Bhattathirippad who is better known for his drama Adukkalayil ninnu arangatheykk (From Kitchen to Centre stage) written against Orthdox Brahmins who didn’t allow Namboothiri women to join the public sphere. Namboothiri women were called Andarjanams (people residing inside home). His memoir titled kannerum kinavum gives an excellent account of the Namboothiri rituals and feudalism which he found suffocating (Kumari, 1997) . He was also a member of Communist Party.
This was also the period in which Malayalam writers became inclined toward western literature. The trend started with the translation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables (paavangal).
A. Balakrishna Pilla translated Russian, French, German and English works to Malayalam and published in his periodical Kesari. He wrote essays about the emerging literary trends in the western world and he compared Malayalam literary works with their western counterparts which enriched Kerala’s literary sphere. Writers of International repute Gorky, Chekhov and Maupassant became familiar to the public through his Balakrishna Pilla’s book reviews (Pillai A. B., 1935). By the end of 1940s all major Russian writer’s including Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Mayakovksy, Turgenev and Pushkin were translated to Malayalam.
1950s witnessed a literary revolution in Kerala with stories of different genres being produced, More Russian books translated to Malayalam, Malayalam books translated to Russian and popularisation of communist ideas through theatre. Even though theatre was used by CPI for propagating ideas through Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) its Malayalam form Kerala Peoples’ Art Club (KPAC) was founded in 1951 – showing excessive similarity to Agitprop drama troops. Soviet agitprop theatre touched upon multiple aspects of life, the messages were simple – Work hard, learn factory rules, give up the church and donate money to the state (Mally, 2003). The first political drama in Malayalam was Pattabakki (The landlord’s Dues) written by K Damodaran in 1940s. KPAC’s first staged drama was Ente Makananu Sheri (My son is right) and their second drama was Ningalenne Communistakki (You made me a Communist). One of the songs of the drama ponnarivalambiliyil kanneriyunnole (The girl looking at sickle moon) became immensely popular with the common folks. The drama was written by renowned writer and Communist ideologue Thoppil Bhasi. The play was staged 600 times across Kerala and played a vital role in CPI’s electoral success in 1957 (Richmond, 1973).
By this time famous Malayalam poems, short stories and novels were translated into Russian. Vallathol Narayana Menon was the first author to be translated. His poems India weeps, The Lenin’s Mausoleum and Seventh November were translated and Published in USSR. By 1960s Russian Indologists developed a curiosity towards Malayalam language. Thakazhi’s novels Chemeen (Shrimps) and Randidangazhi (Two Measures) were translated to Russian
and were widely read. By 1970s the works of all major short story writers in Malayalam were translated to Russian and this included M.T Vasudevan Nair, P.C Kuttykrishnan, Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, Kesava Dev and Karur Neelakanda Pilla. The influence of Gorky in the framework of Takazhi’s stories drew attention of Russian critics (George, 1972). Like Gorky Malayalam novelists had also portrayed the decaying elite class and the new generation within their family setup questioning the existing customs and asking for a change.
Prabhat Books, established in 1952 was the publishing house of CPI published translated versions of many Russian novels and propaganda materials. Their translations of Maxim Gorky’s ‘Mother’ and Tolstoy’s stories were sold out in several editions (Kiran, 2012). Soviet Union magazines like Misha, Soviet land and Sputnik were available at cheaper prices and the beautiful illustrations attracted a lot of young people to read these magazines. Most of the books in the early period were translated by Edappally Karunakaran Menon while many of the books from 1960s were translated by Omana and Moscow Gopalakrishnan (Kamalakalam, 2018). Another Malayalam novel Oru Sangeerthanam Pole written by Perumbadavam Sreedharan based on the life of Fyodor Dostoevsky crossed more than 100 editions and around 2.5 lakh copies were sold out (kamalakaran, 2019). This rather shows the affection of an entire generation towards the Russian authors and literature.
Malayalam movies in 1970s became extremely vocal of the left ideology. There were movies like Mooladhanam (1969, Das Capital), Punnapra Vayalar (1968), Vimochana Samaram (1971, Liberation war), Raktasakhi (1981, Red Star), Kabani Nadhi Chuvannappol (1975, When river Kabani turned red), Sakhavu (1986, Comrade). Poets and lyricists like Vayalar Ramavarma, P Bhaskaran and ONV Kurup composed revolutionary songs which topped the charts in the second half of 20th century Kerala. Commemorating the death of his fellow comrades at Punnapra – Vayalar Vayalar wrote in his poem Oru thulli raktham (One drop blood), “They ran towards those guns shamelessly spitting fire, laughingly they took all those bullets. I came out of my home hearing loud voices, this is life’s revolution my greetings to you comrade” (Ramavarma, 2013). Powerful orators like Sukumar Azheekod and MN Vijayan stood as firm walls for the intellectual defence of Communism which couldn’t be breached by their political opponents. Even today propaganda movies are released in Kerala with comrade as a protagonist and saviour of society. Movies which are part of a popular culture are still factors for the popularity of Communist Party among the youth in Kerala.
POLITICAL VIOLENCE IN KERALA
Even though Kerala is the most literate state in entire region and its human Development Index can be compared with the levels of European countries, the state is notorious for the level of political violence and murders committed irrespective of Party lines which is way ahead of the national average. In a period from 2000-2017, 172 political killings happened in
Kerala- 85 from CPI (M), 65 RSS/BJP, 11 Congress and 11 Muslim League (Desk, 2017). Cultural reasons for these political murders are explained by political analysts, but appropriation of icons like Stalin has undoubtedly added more seriousness to politics. Communist Party offices in Kerala still bear photos of Stalin while his statues were pulled down in Georgia (his birthplace) after the disintegration of Soviet Union (Osborn, 2010). Due to the restrictions on the flow of information and rapid propaganda, people had no real idea of what was happening inside USSR. What they knew what they were only supposed to know. Stalinism involved termination of political opponents, propagandas, strict punishments (Gulags) and subjugation of alternative views. These criterions fixes perfectly into the Kerala model. Almost all academic centres in Kerala are captured by left wing organisations and liberty to express views is confined their close corporation only. ‘In the early years CPI tried to be an exemplary expression of the “goodwill” and an agent of “people’s democracy” through insurgent “extra parliamentary” methods. As its insurgency methods failed in the late 1940s, the Communist Party embraced the parliamentary form’ notes Ruchi Chaturvedi (Chaturvedi, 2012). So the old revolutionary thought is very much there in their genus which explodes resulting in bloodshed and violence. There have next to nil violence between workers of BJP, IUML or Congress but they are all in constant conflict with CPI (M).
Politicisation of security personnel was an essential part of USSR administration. The Russian revolution was made possible by the red army who were the official affiliates of the Bolsheviks. Even Stalin was always seen in his Semi-Militaristic tunic (Fedorova, 2014). In Kerala politicisation of Police is an important dimension of political process. Whether it is in West Bengal or Kerala CPIM has always been accused of ‘cell-rule’ where party functionaries interfere in the day to day activities of police. P Govinda Menon who was the chief minister of Travancore-Kochi that preceded the Kerala state: “If the Communists violated laws, they would not be arrested; if they were arrested. They would not be prosecuted; if they were prosecuted, the cases would be withdrawn; and if the cases ended in conviction, the sentences would be remitted” (Kumar, 2018). Communist Party has successfully infiltrated their cadres to the police forces which show the still prevailing Soviet era thought of controlling forces by any means. There have been instances of CPI (M) cadres faking police selection examinations and topping the exams (WebDesk, 2019).
Influence of Russia has been a mix bag for Kerala. Tremendous deal of progress was achieved in the literary sphere while the political dynamics of the state turned more violent. Russia was seen a true model state and heaven for the common people where there was no discrimination. Thanks to the excessive control over media and literature that the real USSR didn’t come out to the world. Hence CPI grew in Kerala by showcasing Soviet Union as an example and propagating myths of an ‘egalitarian state’. The ‘success’ of USSR revived the hope of a world revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat throughout the world. 1st
generation communists of Kerala were highly impressed with the 5 year plans and wanted to develop Kerala on the lines of Russia. CPI which called World War 2 as an ‘imperialist war’ changed its stand once USSR joined the Allied forces. There was a letdown after Nikita Khrushchev’s secret speech went public. The propaganda machinery of USSR was entirely replicated in Kerala with the establishment of communist friendly drama troops, writers, singers and journalists. Following the split in CPI and creation of CPI (M), the feud was settled and the communist parties allied themselves to form a common Left Front.
Influence of leftist ideology has reached at a point where all political parties (including parties with pan-Indian presence) adopting a leftist stand in many of the local issues. Political thinking in Kerala has been very different from the rest of the nation. In the general elections after the end of Emergency in 1977 Congress lost every state in North while the party won all the seats from Kerala. In 2019, when Congress was decimated in all the states Kerala gave 19 out of 20 seats to the Congress, again going against the trend. Stalinism or silencing of opposition is a serious concern which has its roots firmly in the glorification of the cult of a dictator who is still popular among the cadres of communist parties. After the fall of USSR many believed that the communist empire had died. What we see today in China, Cuba, Laos, Vietnam and North Korea as distorted versions of the doctrine without an ideology in itself. Communism in Kerala still echoes the Communism which prevailed in USSR guided by a strong ideology and commitment towards it. Generations of communist leaders’ and workers’ strategy of linking an entire society divided by religion, caste, economic status to a common ideology, influencing their though process, still yields result for the party.
Human Development Index 2021–22 and India
The goal of the HDI is to provide a comprehensive assessment of a country’s development based on the individuals and their capabilities. The Human Development Index is a statistical measure that shows the average achievement in various key dimensions of human development. These include a long and healthy life, a good standard of living, and being knowledgeable. The three main dimensions of the HDI are health, education, and standard of living. The health dimension is based on the life expectancy at birth. The education dimension is calculated by the years of schooling that are expected for children entering school. The standard of living is computed by taking into account the country’s gross national income. The scores for these three dimensions are then computed and aggregated using a geometric mean.
The HDI can be used to analyze the various policy choices that governments make regarding human development. It can also help stimulate debate about the priorities of the government. Although the HDI provides a comprehensive view of human development, it does not take into account various factors such as poverty, human security, and inequality. The other composite indices that are used to measure human development, such as the Human Development Report, provide a more accurate and broader perspective.
India in HDI
The rapid growth of income, education, and life expectancy has become a major challenge for India. According to the Human Development Report 2021, which was released by the UNDP, the country’s global rankings have dropped from 130 in 2020 to 132 in 2021. This is not surprising since the growth in India’s Human Development Index has slowed down faster than that of the global index. In 2020, India’s HDI values had remained flat, but they fell significantly in 2021. This marked a sharp deterioration from the previous year, and it is expected to have a negative impact on the country’s medium and South Asian HDI economies. At the global level, the fall in the index was slightly less than in 2020, but it was still more than in the previous year.
The decline in the Human Development Index values in 2021 was mainly due to India’s poor performance. However, other regions such as East Asia and the Pacific and Europe and Central Asia showed some marginal growth. While the HDI values in Arab countries remained stable, they continued to fall in the Caribbean and Latin America.
India and its Trends in HDI
The positive trends in the HDI values were seen in different HDI groups in 2021. For instance, in very high and high human development countries, the trends improved significantly. However, in low human development countries, the trends remained negative. This was mainly due to the sharp decline in the growth of India’s HDI values.
Although the pandemic has resulted in a sharp decline in India’s HDI values, it is also worrying that the country’s global rankings have dropped significantly. In 2015, the previous government of the National Democratic Alliance assumed office, and the country’s ranking decreased by one rung. During this period, the HDI rankings for China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the United Arab Emirates improved significantly. However, India’s efforts to improve its human development indicators are still lagging behind. This is because the country’s rapid growth has been overshadowed by other countries’ achievements.
A closer look at the data shows that the decline in India’s Human Development Index (HDI) growth has been continuous for more than a decade. From an annual average rate of 1.2% during the 1990s to 1.6% during the 2000s, the country’s growth rate has slowed down to 0.9% during the 2010–21 period. Its neighbors, such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, and China, did better than India. During the period under review, the HDI values of these countries improved by 1.64%, 1.25%, and 0.97%, respectively. The continuous decline in the growth of India’s Human Development Index can be considered as a destabilising factor. For instance, the country’s life expectancy rate, which had been at an annual rate of 0.7% during the 1990s to the 2000s, has remained flat since 2010.
In the first two years following the outbreak of the pandemic, life expectancy in India fell by 1.1% and 4.2%. However, in neighboring Bangladesh, life expectancy started to recover and reached 0.6% in the second year. The decline in the average annual growth of schooling in the country has also been continuous for more than a decade. From 0.4% in the 1990s to 0.5% in the 2000s, the annual average growth of schooling in India has dropped to 0.4%. Despite the improvement in the mean years of schooling that occurred during the past couple of decades, the growth in this area has stagnated during the pandemic. This is a negative factor for the country’s long-term growth.
The decline in the growth rates of the per capita national income and gender development index has also been disappointing. After reaching an annual average of 3.6% during the 1990s, the growth rate of India’s per capita gross national income has slowed down to 4.3% during the 2010–21 period, which is considered a contributing factor to the country’s current economic slowdown. Even after the various factors that have affected the country’s long-term growth, the per capita income of Bangladesh has maintained its steady increase during the past couple of years. It has also been able to prevent the decline in the gender development index from happening much faster than India. This demonstrates Bangladesh’s ability to sustain its rapid growth. The continuous decline in the growth of India’s Human Development Index and the steady decline in its ranking are two important indicators that should be taken into account. It is clear that the country’s economic growth can no longer be sustainable if it does not include higher human development. This is because a critical level of development is required for sustainable growth.
It is no surprise that the decline in India’s HDI values has been linked to the country’s economic slowdown. As a result, it is important that the government of India takes immediate action to boost the country’s Human Development Index and accelerate its growth. This can be done through the establishment of innovative policies and the establishment of a virtuous cycle of accelerated human development.
Although it is not always accurate to compare the rankings of different countries, it is still important to note that the data collected from the Human Development Index can provide more accurate and timely reports. In terms of its human development, India has declined on three different parameters. One of these is its life expectancy, which has decreased from 69.7 to 67.2 years. On the other hand, the country’s education system has shown an increase in the number of years that students are expected to complete schooling, though the school closure caused a drop in the expected years of education. Finally, the standard of living has also gone down. Around 90 percent of the countries in the world are currently experiencing this decline due to various crises, such as the pandemic, climate change, and the war. Although the pandemic is a contributing factor to the decline in human development, it is also important to note that other factors such as the displacement of people due to climate change are affecting the country. The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia has shown that the world is constantly experiencing a crisis that is unprecedented. Because of this, it is not possible for humans to effectively resolve these crises. Despite the progress that has been made in narrowing the gender gap, there are still many challenges that remain. One of these is the low number of women participating in the labor force. Although the government has already launched various initiatives aimed at addressing these issues, more needs to be done to improve the situation of women. One of the most important factors that can be considered when it comes to addressing the issue of inequality is the strengthening of the social protection schemes. This will allow the country to include more vulnerable groups in its development. Besides this, other factors such as the availability of healthy populations are also important to improve the country’s human development.
The South Asian Triangle
Indian External Affairs Minister (EAM) Jaishankar has been a particularly busy man for the last few days. Even by his own standards, the last few days have proved intense and hectic.
A passing glance at his schedule gives us a snapshot of the scope of India’s contemporary foreign policy. Tackling a whole host of multilateral, regional, trilateral and bilateral relationships in a span of ten days, he has signaled India’s dexterity to engage in diverse relationships and juggle multiple balls at the same time.
The key takeaways of the last few days have been reformed multilateralism at the UN, South-South cooperation within the CELAC, CARICOM and IBSA forum, rebalancing in the Indo-Pacific through the QUAD and regional trilaterals like the India-UAE-France, India-France-Australia and India-Australia-Indonesia.
Seen by some as an ineffective talk shop, the minister also didn’t shy away from the BRICS foreign ministers meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA and demonstrated New Delhi’s willingness to balance ostensible contradictions with a straight face.
The minister’s visit also allowed India to undertake an honest stocktaking of its bilateral partnership with Washington. The press conference with Secretary of State Blinken captures the plethora of domains which have witnessed vigorous cooperation between the two partners over the last few years.
However, like mature states covering for their own interests, some disagreements naturally surfaced between them. Primary disagreements were over New Delhi’s oil imports from Russia and Washington’s sustenance of F-16s to Pakistan for supposed counter-terrorism purposes.
At a community gathering, Minister Jaishankar, referring to restarting of the maintenance of the F-16S for counter-terrorism, nippily quipped that the US was “not fooling anybody by saying these things” and questioned the merits of the US-Pakistan relationship. When the Americans were asked about it, the US tried to give New Delhi a taste of its own medicine.
Experts believe that if New Delhi wishes to demonstrate “strategic autonomy” by engaging multiple sides and maintain friends in all camps by engaging the QUAD, SCO and Russia at the same time, others might also seek to do the same. After all, whether one likes it or not, interests trump values.
It is no coincidence that Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto also happens to be visiting Washington at the same time as his Indian counterpart. An urgent change in US-Pakistan ties is an important prospect from Rawalpindi’s point of view. In the short-medium term, Pakistan urgently seeks western assistance for rehabilitation due to the havoc caused by the recent floods. It also seeks to mend its crumbling economy when usual creditors like Beijing seem wary of lending.
Washington, perhaps, still feels that Pakistan’s geography doesn’t allow it to remain immaterial in its own strategic calculus. Pakistan shares close geographical proximity, and land borders in some cases, with Afghanistan, Iran, China and India. Washington also thinks that Pakistan could provide help in stabilizing Afghanistan while it remains preoccupied with Ukraine and China.
Coming back to US-India relations, some analysts believe that the bilateral relationship, despite all its progress over the last two decades, was witnessing signs of stress. They see minister Jaishankar’s visit as primarily aimed for damage control and corrective dialogue.
All said and done, the India-US partnership still remains one of the most consequential relationships of the century and holds immense potential in ensuring stability at a time when the global order is under a tumultuous flux.
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