One day I was at the market in my town in Kerala, picking up item after item from the long list my mother had given me in the morning. Haggling with the vendor over the price of fish, I did not notice the slight commotion in the area. After buying few good pieces of the pisces for a reasonable sum I was surprised to see vendors packing their wares and stalls closing.
I thought: “Oh, some important trader must have died. His friends must be closing their business to show their respect…” My thoughts were interrupted by the high-pitched squeal from a loudspeaker attached to the carrier of a car that was cruising along the adjacent main road.
“Total shutdown today… We request (read ‘better comply or be battered’) you to join us in expressing our solidarity against US led capitalists, whose puppets have executed our beloved hero of the Arab world – Saddam Hussein,” the announcer croaked.
“No. It can’t be. I heard it wrong,” I thought as I checked what I heard. The announcement is repeated, and this time there is no confusion. It is actually, Saddam, the butcher of Baghdad.
Welcome to God’s Own Country and its ‘global’ communists.
The red revolutionaries have come a long way from the days they bled and died in the hundreds against oppression, injustice and human rights violations. The tiny state owes them a lot for almost all things progressive that have made it comparable with developed countries in indicators such as human development index, maternal mortality, literacy and political participation.
When the state of Kerala was formed in 1957, they formed the government – the first democratically elected communist government in the world. However, some historical trends do not change, especially the effect of popularity and power.
The Communist Party of India and, later when the party split in 1964, the CPI-M began to show increasing intolerance to political rivals. The northern district of Kannur, a picturesque region, has seen hundreds of bloody clashes and dozens of political murders. There are several areas divided into ‘party villages’ by the CPI-M, Congress and the BJP; murders and revenge killings are part and parcel of life in this region which was the original communist heartland.
Over the years, people have come to reject the culture of violence and there has been calm for several years now. But looks like history is repeating itself with the recent murder of TP Chandrasekharan, who quit the party along with his supporters to float a rebel outfit. Even as CPI-M leaders were busy denying the party’s role in the murder, a district chief, while giving a passionate speech about loyalty, blurted out that the party brooks no betrayal and has been bumping off its political rivals.
For a party that boasts of (or pays lip service to) intra-party democracy, the CPI-M has a culture of intolerance towards dissent. The party expels its critics or demotes them.
Over the last couple of decades, the party has taken cue from its Chinese counterpart – and possibly from the military forces of Myanmar and Pakistan – by developing multi-billion investments and heavily entrenching itself as a state in itself. Naturally, all the vices and aberrations brought about by such ‘expansion and diversification’ has given rise in its ranks a breed of ruthless leaders who condone and facilitate corruption, violence and nepotism.
The party has been ravaged by factionalism. On one side is former CM and current Leader of the Opposition VS Achuthanadan and on the other, all-powerful party state chief Pinarayi Vijayan. The latter and his cronies have taken control of the party organisation and has been steadily purging the rival camp’s followers on one pretext or the other.
VS is immensely popular among Keralites for his relentless campaigns against corruption, crime syndicates, sex rackets and several evils that have been plaguing the state. However, the official faction ridicules him as a dinosaur that refuses to understand the ‘opportunities’ of capitalism and its ‘benefits’ for all.
The ideology is outdated and even today (despite decades of ridicule) party leaders invoke Lenin, Stalin, Mao Fidel Castro, and of late, Hugo Chavez, to tell people why their brand of authoritarianism and thuggery is the path to ‘enlightened’ progress.
While leadership qualities of these people are inspiring, the question is whether it was worth the suffering of the people of those countries. For example, more Russians were killed by Stalin’s purges than by World War II. Mao’s Cultural Revolution was no different.
India is a democracy that allows freedom to criticise. If the CPI-M thinks that this is not acceptable, they are free to go and join their red brethren on the other side of the Himalayas – both have a lot in common dealing with critics.
Wake up comrades, Stalin is dead; Cold War is over; Berlin Wall has fallen; dictators are being ousted and democracy is gaining in strength. It’s time for some serious introspection and path correction so that a movement that once inspired millions and changed lives for better doesn’t end up being a cartel to benefit a few.
The writer works for Postnoon.
About the Author (Author Profile)
My interests lie in current affairs, social issues and political analysis. A strong believer of independent thinking and healthy scepticism.