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Thursday, August 9, 2012


Muslim League, Nair-Ezhava Unity and secularism

Ever since Nairs and Ezhavas, the two biggest and most influential Hindu communities in Kerala started talking about close cooperation between them, criticisms and sarcastic comments about the unity have started appearing.

Certain organized groups in Kerala society seem to be uneasy about the impact of Nair-Ezhava unity on the social scenario in Kerala. Some vested interest groups had reaped benefits in the past by making Ezhavas fight Nairs in the name of job reservation and ‘wrongs committed in the past’. Meanwhile these groups silently cornered benefits from government like job reservation by getting themselves wrongly included in the category of backward communities eligible for reservation.

Most vehement criticism about Nair-Ezhava unity came from organizations like Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Popular Front of India and  Jama at Council. The other main criticism came from Mahila Congress. The critics have targeted NSS mainly, which represent Nairs. An analysis of the reasons for their opposition leads to the conclusion that they fear that the benefits they wrongly took away may be lost in the emerging situation. Even if it does not happen they won’t be able to get undue benefits anymore. Actually Nair-Ezhava unity will restore the true secular character of Kerala society which is under threat r currently. Let us analyse how Nair-Ezhava unity will benefit secularism.

 History of unity moves

Since the state of Kerala was formed in 1956, merging the erstwhile kingdoms of Travancore in the south, Kochi in the middle and Malabar (Calicut) in north, power was shared by an elite group of four dominant communities; Nairs, Christians, Ezhavas and Muslims. These communities often formed alliances among themselves whenever they wanted to gain an upper hand or when they found that one in the group was getting upper hand.

 Ezhavas and Nairs, the biggest Hindu castes in Kerala first formed an alliance in 1950s to counter the caste inequilibrium in Indian National Congress’ state leadership which was then dominated by Christian leaders but Nair masses were a major vote bank of Congress. But the unity did not last long. There had been allegations that fissures in the Nair-Ezhava were brought about by those who felt threatened by the emerging new force. Of course, the criticism was aimed at Christian leaders of Congress.

 Though Muslim League was a significant force in Kerala politics even during 1950s, then they did not control power in Kerala and their agenda was limited. So they did not vehemently oppose Nair Ezhava unity then. Slowly by 1970’s, stake of IUML in Kerala politics grew and population of Muslims in Kerala also grew rapidly.

 Muslim-Backward unity against Nairs

 The first intelligent move of IUML aimed at gaining more social influence and power in Kerala was floating of the idea unity of backward castes and Muslims in Kerala which clearly aimed to reduce influence of NSS representing Nairs in Kerala politics. Media and academicians were also used to spread the idea that forward castes, especially Nairs in the past had exploited backward communities. This is actually a travesty of truth as influential sections among major castes and religions in Kerala had exploited backward communities.

 Using backward communities as a shield to fight Nairs, certain religious groups got reservation for jobs in Kerala. Remember reservation based on religion is not approved by constitution of India. Till a few decades back reservation benefits were given to only backward sections in Muslim religion in Kerala. Now almost everybody in that religion gets it by getting themselves branded as backwards.

 Changed social scenario and new emerging equations

 Because of the changed demography of Kerala, parties like Muslim League do not need the support of organizations of backward communities or scheduled castes now. Kerala Media has pointed out that Muslim population as a percentage of total population  in Kerala in 1960s was around 18 per cent currently it is around 25 per cent. It is now difficult to defeat Muslim League candidates in many of their constituencies. While NSS or SNDP may have influence in certain regions in Kerala organizations like Muslim League or Sunni Yuvajana Sanghom have international influence. NSS and SNDP are simply no match to them. The demographical change, increased representation in ministries and the social  progress gained by minority communities in Kerala have made the idea of Minority-Backward coalition meaningless. Minority groups in Kerala have now rejected the idea as they have new aims.

 Though Nair community is branded as forward a major section of the community is now economically backward.  Now backward communities and Nairs have realized that both of them have lost by their needless rivalry. When they fought jackals were waiting to lick their blood first and eat their flesh when they lose their strength. Nair-Ezhava unity is a symbiotic relationship and both communities are likely to benefit. Moreover, it will restore social equilibrium in Kerala which had been facing threat due to change in demography and socio-economic conditions. Thus it will benefit the whole society and reduce communal tensions there by giving rise to a true secular society.