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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Nairs and intercaste marriages

What happens when Nairs make intercaste marriage?

Kerala society has undergone tremendous change in the last 25 years and inter caste and inter religious marriage are as much realities in current Kerala society as arranged marriages. Now it is foolish to think for Nairs to stop intercaste/interreligious marriages. But a strategy to cope up with the situation when your son/daughter is going to marriage his/her love from another caste/religion is very much essential.

It will help you to face the reality and if possible continue to maintain relationship with them. When a nair girl/boy marries from another religion or caste, especially lower caste, the nair partner of the couple slowly loses his/her identity completely. Thus when intercaste marriages increases, number of nairs is likely to decrease in future and nair tradition may eclipse.

In this case Nairs should definitely look at the example of how minorities face such situation. Normally, they agree to such marriages on one condition. The partner from other religion should convert to their religion. This way they ensures that their culture is preserved and their numbers are on the rise.

The foolish orthodox sections among Nair community goes by the example of how Namboothiri community in Kerala faced such situation in the past. Namboothiris ousted their grils who even touched males from other communities. Thus Namboothiri community declined. In fact, Nairs themselves benefitted from that practise earlier. Those children born to nair ladies from Namboothiri husbands became Nairs and this contriubted to increase in number of Nairs and spreading of Nair culture in the past.

Modern day orthodox Nairs would be amazed to know that Mannath Padmanabhan once thought of converting others to Nairs. In his autobiography he wrote once he announced it in a public meeting while wondering himself as who would be interested. But to his amazement a Namboothiri came forward and said he wanted to become a nair. Somehow or other conversion programme did not continue.

But present Nairs should demand that those who want to marry their sons/daughters take membership in NSS and declare themselves as Nairs. NSS should give membership to all those who are willing to be known as Nairs. I am sure converted Nairs should work for the interests of Nair community better than somebody is born as Nair and he is ashemed to declare his caste in public and thinks that his acts should be called progressive.

A community can grow only by accepting others to its fold. By others I mean those who approve the culture of Nair community and takes pride in it. What Nairs should do is to convince all those who are intelligent and cultured to convert themselves as Nairs. Thus the best people in the society should come to Nair fold. Thus Nair community would grow without violence or harming any others.

Instead of thinking locally Nairs should think globally. Cultured people from other countries should be made aware of the glorious history of Nairs who were always tolerant and industrious. Thus Nair community should grow beyond the boundarires of Kerala and India.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Changing Kerala politics; What will Nairs and Ezhavas do?

Kerala Politics, Nairs and fifth minister to Muslim League in Kerala

Despite the veil of secularism, Kerala's political fronts, have always been controlled by two prominent 'minority' groups of Christian Church and Indian Union Muslim League and to a lesser extent by major Hindu caste groups of Nairs and Ezhavas. While the Congress lead United Democratic Front has been open in their alliances with caste groups, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) lead Left Democratic Front (LDF) preferred secret understandings. Despite the influence of these communal forces in Kerala politics, there had always been a balance of communal interests and resultant peace in Kerala and mutual respect.

But the current developments in Kerala politics following so called minorities gaining upper hand in Kerala politics seems to have upset the social equilibrium in Kerala. These political changes have their root in the changing demography of Kerala, influx of foreign money especially from the Gulf and waning influence of politcal ideologies like socialism, communism and Gandhism among present day Kerala youth.

History of communal politics in Kerala

While the Congress lead front's support used to come from Christians, Nairs and Muslim population, Left front's support base was a group consisting of Ezhavas and scheduled castes. A section of economically backward Nairs and Christians also used to support Marxists. Muslim support to left groups has always been minimal generally. Though this is the basic truth, it should be forgotten that the leadership of CPI (M) and its parliamentary face was constituted by upper caste Hindus (Mostly Nairs) the policies of the party were pro-minority and backward community; a complex situation indeed.

Till 1990's Nairs constituted a major chunk of leadership both in Congress and CPI (M). In a way it had helped Nair community in the sense that Nair leaders often helped many individuals belonging to nair community. But they did not help community as a whole. It should also be noted that individuals of Nair community got help not because of any deliberate strategy of Nair leaders. The leaders helped their acquaintances and friends among whom naturally there were a lot of Nairs and indirectly Nairs have benefited

Impact on policies.

But the policies of governments that ruled Kerala from the time of formation till now harmed interests of Nairs in particular and Hindus in general.  Nairs never gained the benefits of job reservation as they are considered upper castes. Nairs lost their land where they cultivated food grains following land reforms. Minorities who owned large tracts of land where they cultivated cash crops named them as plantations and escaped from land reforms. Sections of minorities who were traders were not at all affected by land reforms or socialist reforms. Even trade unions which showed militancy in areas where Hindu traders flourished were meek at minority dominated markets.

Further, Muslims in Kerala never faced any discrimination on the basis of their religion got the tag of backward community and gained reservation benefits. It was a mockery of all norms that Muslims in Kerala were tagged as backward. The fact that normally Muslims in Kerala were called 'Muthalali' (meaning the one who handled wealth) in central Kerala and Sahib in southern Kerala shows they had much social respect and were socially forward. The development of Gulf countries and migration of Muslim community members to the GCC brought them enormous wealth and currently they are economically much better off than poor Hindus.

While the communists branded Nairs as bourgeois based on the fact that they owned considerable tracts of land before 1950s, and unleashed propaganda that they were responsible for all social ills, Leftists dare not brand minorities who own major chunk of wealth in Kerala as Capitalists. They are afraid of it.

By their unity, minorities always managed to safeguard their interests in Kerala and politics was a tool in their hands for the purpose. Hindus took ideology to their heart and lived for it but other communities don't allow ideologies to influence their personal or religious life. Earlier, minority groups in Kerala cleverly managed to make Nair leaders lead them and do all favors for them. Many Nair leaders did not recognise the intention of minorities and fell into their trap. Policy decisions of Kerala government always favored minorities while there was no opposition from Hindus.

Fifth minister to IUML and resultant controversy

Now if that is the situation why is the current grudge of NSS and SNDP over granting a fifth minister to Indian Union Muslim League in Kerala?

Here is the complex answer. Till 1990s minorities allowed Nair leaders (also read Hindu leaders) steer Kerala's political parties and state administration and do things for them. The Hindu leadership was satisfied with the leftovers thrown at them by organised minorities and the Nair and Ezhava masses were blissfully ignorant.

By 1990's situation changed. A cleverly organised coup saw K. Karunakaran falling from the grace of Congress High Command and the unquestioned rise of minority leaders in the Congress. It seems that certain organised minority groups decided that there is no need for a Hindu face to get things done and now we can do things which we need. Thereafter chief ministers of Kerala from Congress have been A.K. Antony and Oommen Chandy.

Present problem in Kerala is the result of changing demography. Currently in Kerala Hindus have become minority. The number of Muslim majority assembly seats have increased and so naturally the respresentation of that group in Kerala assembly is high. Therefore they demanded more ministers and got it. In the next 20 years Kerala's demography will undergo more changes and Muslim League is likely to demand the post of chief minister in a UDF rule. In the left front rule also representation of minorities in the leadership will have to be increased.

Christian leadership in Kerala which had allied with Nairs in the past may not do that in future. It would be better for them to tie up with IUML and share the benefits. When the Hindu community is divided NSS and SNDP leadership cannot get much.

Now those leaders are in real panic. They are likely to lose their influence almost completely in the next two decades. They have already started feeling the heat. Nair massess have already lost the race. Ezhava leadership was earlier wooed by IUML for political reasons. Now changing demography means IUML does not need their support also. So SNDP leadership is also likely to lose.

Alarm bells have already rung at Changanassery and Kanichukulamgara. The NSS and SNDP leadership have woken up. But it seems to be seen whether they can do anything now. They are already behind in numbers and money power. The need of the hour is far sighted policies. This can help them to survive at least. But regaining past glory seems almost impossible. Anyway NSS and SNDP needs to analyse the social and political situation of Kerala immediately and chalk out a strategy to face adverse social changes and ensure social justice. Or else their all out defeat will come quicker than they expect.