THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Communalism is proving to be an important factor in Kerala politics today, Marxist idealogue and thinker P.Govinda Pillai has said.
He was speaking here at an International seminar on Kerala history organised by the Kerala Council for Historical Research in the city on Friday.
Mr. Govinda Pillai, who spoke on `caste, class and religion in Kerala politics,’ was of the view that there has been a revival of casteism in the State. "We were one of the first State’s to abolish caste system in the country. But now it is reviving," he said. According to him casteism is the result of political manoeuvring by upper class and the elites.
Recent history of the State is marred by a revival of caste loyalties, communal politics and even terrorist threats and sectarian violence, he said. "Though all these are still marginal in extent, in a politically polarised society like Kerala they have an unusual nuisance value with decisive minority votes to tip the balance this way or that in the elections," Mr. Pillai said.
According to the Marxist ideologue, reformers and social leaders like Narayana Guru, Vaikunta Swamy, Ayyankali and Poykayil Youhannan have played a great role in reforming the decadent and oppressive social structure of their castes and contributed a great deal for general reform and modernisation of the society as a whole. "Reservation of jobs and legislature seats for SC and OBC were introduced in Kerala long before the dawn of freedom," he said. Kerala renaissance was a movement born at the grass root and grew up to the top echelons of society.
In most other States the course was the opposite way, he added.
R. Champalakshmi, educationist, traced the evolution of temples as integrative institutions in South India, with their economic outreach and socio-political activities. However this integratory role has been marked by variations in different historical contexts of individual kingdoms such as the Chola, Pandya and Pallava.
Noted historian Romila Thapar, who chaired the session, explained how religious institutions reflect the prevailing socio-political complexities of the Indian sub-continent. Ms Thapar added that religion often kept aloof from the communalisation wave, although the State and society succumbed to it.