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Friday, January 7, 2011

Nairs and Keralam

Nairs are inseparably connected to the history and politics of Kerala and its progress but it is doubtful whether the community has got its due from different governments that ruled the state.

Though considered upper caste, the community does not have any upper hand in any sector in Kerala. Majority of Nairs have cooperated with the progressive movements in Kerala though in fact Nairs themselves have to bear the brunt of progressive movements, many a times.

Chattambi Swami, who spearheaded a spiritual revolution in the community criticised Brahmin supremacy existed among Hindus and established that all Hindus have the right to learn sacred Vedas. He encouraged all progressive steps taken by Sree Narayana Guru towards ending caste based discrimination among Hindus including untouchability.

Mannath Padmanabhan founder of Nair Service Society, the major social organisation for the upliftment of Nairs, always sided with efforts and agitations to end cast discrimination. It is to be remembered that he stopped using his own title in his efforts to establish a united Hindu community in Kerala.

If one looks at the leaders of all progressive movements in Kerala, it could be found that a major percentage of them are Nairs. The founder of communist movement P Krishna Pillai, the founding leaders of Indian National Congress and State Congress including Sir C Sankaran Nair, K Madhavan Nair, K P Keasava Menon, Pattom Thanu Pillai were all nairs.

NSS stood against the attempt of Dewan Sir C P Ramaswamy Iyer to create an independent Travancore. It was always for nationalism and always puts greater good of society in the forefront even while arguing for rights of Nairs. That the NSS has failed as an organisation currently is another issue. Its leaders have taken the greater common good to the extreme to the extent of forefeiting the rights of Nairs.

But despite all their progressive approach Nair community in Kerala failed get anything in return from Government is a fact. A large number of community members lost their land when the government implemented Kerala Land Reforms Act in 1970s. While similar upper castes among minorities protected their land under the benefit of exemption offered to cash crop estates while implementing land reforms act, Nairs who mostly cultivated food grains lost their land.

The reservations to OBCs and SC and STs made it tough for Nair youth to fight for government jobs also. The better organised minority communities grabbed government land and got it legalised by political pressure. Fertility rates among Nairs also feel leading to decrease in Nair population. While minority population increased Hindu population generally and Nair population in Kerala in particular decreased leading to lesser say in elections.

The opportunities offered by migrating to GCC and Europe and USA to Muslim and Christian communities is limited to Nairs. While migration strengthened the economic conditions of minorities in Kerala, Nairs went further down.

Being a law abiding community, Nairs are most adversely impacted by social changes in Kerala. Unfortunately NSS has failed to realise the current reality and formulate a strategy to uplift Nairs. Despite individual brilliance shown by Nairs in different fields the community is continuing to disintegrate and losing its bargaining power. Those Nairs who rise in their fields often fail to come to the help of community.