Decline of Nair Supremacy
The word Nair is believed to be evolved from a word meaning leader. And Nairs have been leaders in Kerala throughout the known history of the community which is about 1200 years. But are Nairs truly leaders in Kerala at present? To be frank, a good number of Nairs cannot claim that. How and why a section of Nairs deteriorated? We need to think?
Nairs were initially warriors, farmers and Landlords by virtue of which they became influential in society. It is to be noted that Nairs were liberal feudalists. Their feudalism was marked by strong compassion to other castes. While closing gates of Nair homes in central Travancore servants used to ask loudly if there were anybody who did not have supper.
But those Nairs who always cared for others could not face the onslaught of Christians, Muslims and other Hindu communities. Land belonging to Nair community has been lost because of multiple reasons and is now owned by others. Some of the reasons of decline are;
1 Nairs lost their near monopoly in Army even during 19th century when the British started recruiting others also. The British took away right of Nairs to wear arms.
2. Nairs used to cultivate mainly food grains (paddy and other grains) and coconut and land reforms were implemented on such lands. The lands where cash crops were cultivated known as plantations were exempted from land reforms and therefore minority communities who mostly owned them did not lose it.
3. Nairs considered trading as something not befitting them and minorities and Ezhava community who did trade profited out of that. During the rise of communism in Kerala the left parties mainly targeted land owners and not the rich traders. So it was mostly Nairs who suffered.
Kerala’s development from 19 th century mainly meant trading developed. Kerala does not have many industries. Since very few Nairs were traders and development of trade did not benefit Nairs much.
4 Though Nairs learned from the example of Christians the benefit and strength of Organisation forming Nair Service Society (NSS), they failed to implement careful planning in their operations and could not resist social changes which went against the community. Even the political power wielded by Nairs was soon lost. While NSS wound up its political arm NDP, Kerala Congress which represents Christians and Muslim League which represents Muslims have become more powerful.
5 Nairs took political ideologies to their heart and implemented it in their lives. But others embrace it for their betterment only. In fact a deliberate planning at the community level helped others to do so which Nairs did not have.
How to come out of this present situation?
Nairs need to become industrialists. This is a level playing field as almost all communities in Kerala are novices as manufacturers. Service industry is a sector where nairs can excel. It is a tribute to Nairs that present generation has come out of the shell and many are industrialists. Eg. Ravi Pillai, the Saudi based tycoon, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, owner of Jupiter capital and cashew exporters of Kollam who are mainly from the community.