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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

At Mannam Samadhi NSS says no more discussions with Congress

The 43rd Mannan Samadhi observations of Nair Service Society (NSS) held on February 25 turned out to be an occasion to reassert the stand of NSS towards Congress. NSS general secretary G Sukumaran Nair said the decision of NSS not to have any soft approach to Congress will continue and there won’t be anymore discussions.

The state unit of Congress has subverted the understanding between NSS and Congress High Command and therefore NSS would not have any pro-Congress approach, he said, reported Kerala media.

Currently NSS follows an equidistant policy towards different political parties in the state. However this does not prevent NSS from supporting or opposing any party on the basis of issues. NSS would intervene in issues based on merit. Sukumaran Nair said NSS has the strength to exist without the support of political parties. We have the inner strength to overcome the misinformation campaign being held against us. He said NSS-SNDP unity will be strengthened. More steps to this extent are being discussed.
Earlier Mannam Samadhi was observed at NSS headquarters. The programme began at 6 a.m. with floral tributes. Later a prayer session was held.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

No Party Can Rule Kerala Without the Support of Nair Service Society: Kodikkunnil

Union minister of state for labour Kodikkunnil Suresh has opined that no political front can rule Kerala without the help of Nair Service Society. Media reports say that Kodikkunnil categorically said at Kollam that no government can rule Kerala without taking into account the opinion of Nair Service Society

Kodikkunnil Suresh is a Lok Sabha member from Mavelikkara where Nairs constitute more than 25 per cent of voters. He is the latest Congress leader to come out with support to Nair Service Society in its fight with Congress Kerala leadership over the alleged failure of Congress to implement an understanding it had with Congress.. If Congress had an understanding with NSS it should be implemented, said Suresh, according to a Malayala Manorama report.

Suresh’s opinion which comes after the decision of CPM to woo constituents of Congress lead United Democratic Front is viewed by political pundits in Kerala as a sign of fear in Congress of a possible reversal of fortunes of the party in the coming Lok Sabha elections. Congress leaders seem to have realized that a Nair back lash following hostility with NSS combined with the  event of some coalition partner leaves UDF and Nair Service Society will result in total rout  of Congress in Kerala.

While Kerala Chief Minister Ommen Chandy, Congress spokesman and PC  Chacko have  denied any understanding with NSS, leaders like P.J Kurien and Vayalar Ravi have said that there was an exchange of ideas between NSS and Congress leadership and there seems to have  been an understanding.
Kodikunnil  said even the  first  prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru had discussed issues with NSS and took into consideration  its  opinion. None can come to power antagonizing NSS, he added.

Congress  leaders  in Kerala are likely to come out with support to NSS in the coming  days. Meanwhile if NSS is firm in its opinion not have any understanding with Congress in the  future it is likely to make things tough for the party in the coming days.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Nairs and social changes in Kerala; Communist movement and Nairs

The period just after Kerala state was formed was a turbulent phase in the history of Nair community in Kerala. Steps for social re-engineering implemented by different political parties and governments starting from first Communist Government lead by EMS Namboothiripad shook the basis of Nair community. 

Nairs faced attacks on many fronts; their economy, Hindu faith, social status and family values were all challenged by forces which wanted to re-engineer the society.

Of course, Nairs resisted by reforming themselves and fighting against ill effects of changes though it is doubtful whether their resistance was based on right understanding and an ideology. It was mostly an issue based resistance without any ideological support.

Attacks on Nair economy

Nairs who were military personnel, landlords and agriculturalists found themselves being denied of their livelihood. Earlier, mostly Nairs were recruited to Travancore Nair Brigade and armies of Kochi raja and Zamorin. When Travancore Nair Brigade was disbanded after independence, Nairs lost monopoly over military jobs. They had lost monopoly in military in Malabar much earlier, as it was being directly ruled by the British. Land reforms implemented after Kerala was formed mainly took away lands where food grain was cultivated which were owned by Nairs. Plantations mostly owned by Christians were out of the purview of land reforms.

Reservations in government jobs meant 50 per cent of total jobs was  unreachable for Nairs and for the rest they will have to fight along with others. Government welfare schemes never considered the plight of Nairs and hapless Nairs had none to support them. Many Nair families witnessed sudden end of their source of income. No jobs, no land, no help from government.

Several Nairs started selling their land for a pittance. The false pride of the community prevented it from doing menial jobs. The situation was shocking. Demography of several Nair majority villages changed.

The economic plight of Nairs of Kuttanad who cultivated rice is portrayed in the novel ‘Kayar’ by Takazhi Shivasankara Pillai.

While Nairs started selling land, it was mostly brought by Christian community. Many Nairs migrated to Indian metros like Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi. Though some of them prospered, the community as a whole did not benefit much. Muslims started to establish themselves as traders whereas Nairs considered trading as below their status. Ezhava community prospered by their monopoly over country liquor business. While Muslims and Ezhavas and a significant percentage of Christians enjoyed reservation in jobs, Nairs had nothing.

It is amazing that a community even when denied its legitimate income sources failed to protest or respond. In fact Nairs were benumbed.

Attack on Hindu faith

Communists while trying to popularize their ideology in Kerala, attacked religion and were focused on attacking Hindu religion. Income generating major temples were brought under Devaswom Boards owned by government. Government took away the income of temples and started using it for purposes they deemed fit. Earlier, though Nambooothiri Brahmins owned temples, Nairs also had a stake in many aspects of administration. Land and Gold of temples were taken away. Land reforms were administrated on temple lands. But government did not dare to do the same with Church and Mosque lands.

Progressive parties at their meetings vehemently criticized aspects of faith to wean away youth from Hindu religious institutions and faith. Communists wanted Hindu youth to be loyal to their own ideology and no other theology. Though there was attack on Christian church they were more restrained and Chruch was well organized to thwart it.
Self proclaimed progressive leaders wrote literature and transformed art forms to suit their own ideology in which ‘Savarnas’ were portrayed as exploiters of lower castes. All efforts were made to create division in Hindu society and pit Ezhavas and scheduled castes against Nairs. But unlike the anti-Brahmin movement in Tamil Nadu they did not use the word Nair and used the word Savarna to denote exploiters. This may be because of the fact that Nairs constituted around 16 % of state’s population, a sizeable number indeed.

Progressive thinkers often misquoted texts like Bhagavad Gita and Puranas and Smrithis to prove that they were obscurantist. Temple committees were infiltrated and  religious education at temples were stopped by cunning 'progressive groups.

Up to 1980s so called progressive movements were able to convince a major section of Hindus other than Nairs that being religious is obscurantist and to get marked as a progressive one has to disown Hindu religion. But a national level Hindu consolidation after 1980 has reversed the situation.

However one should take note that this vehement progressive attacks on religion was confined to Hindu religion. Christianity received less attacks and in case of Islam the attack by progressive groups was almost nil. Progressive are in fact afraid of Muscle Power.

Attack on Social setup of Nairs

Forces of social re-engineering often encouraged strife in established Nair Tharawads. One strategy was to attract brilliant youth from erstwhile Landlord families and make them slaves of their ideology. The presence of such youth used to give political parties credibility in particular areas. These youth were influenced to stand up against elders and question their authority. The elders were thus disarmed as they often refused to fight their own children and accepted defeat in the fight with “Progressive Parties’ without resistance.

Love marriages were another weapon to disintegrate Nair families. Girls were often enticed and marriages often were used as weapon to lower prestige of families and destabilize them.

Social re-engineering forces worked at grass roots and created strife between nairs and other Hindus at temple festivals, social fairs and intervened and then exploited the situation. It was all intelligent planned acts but even Nair Service Society failed to see the planning.

The multifaceted attacks saw Nairs losing much of their prestige in the social set up of Kerala. In forty years extending from 1950 to 1990 the loss to Nair community has not been measured. It is doubtful whether Nair Service Society (NSS) had ever considered this. NSS had intervened in politics and had ensured places for a few leaders but community never gained much.

NSS needs to review the changes in Kerala and its impact on Nairs. We need to form a strategy and fight within the existing system to protect their interests. This is the legal right of every caste. We need to make use of it.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lessons for Nair businessmen; Learning from Rajan Pillai and Dr KTB Menon

Nairs are known as leaders, warriors, administrators, politicians and feudal lords but rarely as great businessmen. It needs to be analysed why Nairs failed to establish their supremacy as businessmen in India where professional skills alone won’t ensure success. In this context it would be pertinent to analyse the rise and fall of two Nair business tycoons late Rajan Pillai and KTB Menon, harbingers of entrepreneurship as far as Nairs are concerned.

This write up attempts to look into the professional growth of Pillai and Menon in foreign lands and difficulties they experienced in India from the perspective of the need of social support for business success in present day India. In India businessmen needs to satisfy money hungry politicians and officials who if antagonized are powerful to ruin their lives. Here comes the relevance of caste organizations. If a businessman has social support (ie support of his caste or religion) no politician would turn down his request for help in times of need. Even politicians in Kerala take support of their caste organizations to win elections and tide over crisis in life.

KTB Menon: Philanthropist and businessman

Let us start with the story of rise of KTB Menon who was the elder of the two. While KTB started career with British Army, he eventually became one of the richest businessmen in Kuwait. Menon was known for his generosity and it had been reported that during the time of Iraq invasion of Kuwait, Menon had offered to bear expenses of all Indians who want to return to home. Menon reportedly shared business interests with big South Indian businessmen like M.A.M. Ramaswamy and Viay Mallya.

Menon’s story in Arab lands began before India got independence and Nairs have a lot to learn from his spirit of entrepreneurship. While in British army he was injured in Basra in Iraq and then moved to Kuwait in 1948. He joined the family business of Al Gharabally family. Abdullah Al Gharabally and Menon established Ash Al Gharabally Co in 1958. An enterprising businessman Menon, realized the growing need for electricity and water in Kuwait and quickly brought in Japanese giants like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries there to build the infrastructure. He developed great influence in Kuwait and was awarded several contracts to build power plants and water desalination plants. By the mid 1960’s he was one of the most prominent foreign businessmen in Kuwait. Menon helped several people to find employment opportunities gave them loans, capital etc. and also took lead to found Kuwait Indian School. In 1978, he was awarded a doctorate in humane letters in the USA for his outstanding contributions to society.

However Menon when he returned to India allegedly met with umpteen challenges from the Indian administration and some of his big businessmen Indian friends ditched him. Menon had helped many big Indian businessmen during their period of crisis. Several reports had been published point that death of Menon occurred under dubious circumstances. However none dared to investigate further. Some reports said Menon had given huge loans to one spirited hi-fi  businessman who did not return it. Perhaps a magnanimous person like Menon who worked with in foreign lands during his prime time failed to realize the complex realities in India where businessmen needs powerful lobbies to protect them and allow them to grow.

He did not get any help here and none pressurized the government to give him justice. Had an organization like Nair Service Society intervened on his behalf he would have got justice. But it is not known whether NSS knew him or he knew NSS.

Rajan Pillai, the biscuit king

Rajan Pillia came from a business family based at Kollam. His father K. Janardhanan Pillai was one of the richest Keralites and biggest cashew exporter in India at one point. He owned five ships and was perhaps the first Keralite to own modern ships.
Rajan grew to an international businessman in his own capacity in his 30s itself. When he became the chairman of Britannia Industries, it was symbolical. Britannia, a colonial prestige symbol passed into the hands of an Indian, a native of one of Britain’s former colonies. But everything came to a naught with the trial Rajan faced in Singapore following a case filed by his former associate and CEO of RJR Nabisco Ross Johnson. 

Rajan Pillai was accused of being a fraud but Rajan managed to escape from Singapore and reach India. However his own homeland let him down and he died as a prisoner. It had been reported that he had been attacked inside Tihar jail and his friends turned down his pleas for help. Even a judge turned down his plea for medical help. His wife in an interview to a Malayalam magazine had pointed out that she ran from pillar to post in Delhi only to return dejected. Rajan’s death was horrific indeed.

Relevance of community’s support

Here comes the relevance of support from his own community. It might not have helped him to win the case which is for the judiciary to decide. But it would have helped him to get justice. If a criminal had attacked him in Tihar, it was because the jail authorities turned a blind eye towards it. If Rajan had the strong support of his own community jail authorities could not have dared allow criminals who took money from his business rival to attack him. If Rajan had done anything wrong he should be punished, but only according to the laws of the country. Popular support from a community like Nairs who have a significant vote bank can ensure that justice will be implemented.

The moral for businessmen is that when you build your Empire take care to ensure popular support of your community.  As the saying goes “Charity begins at home”. Give something to your community which gave you identity. Give them something back.

Many religious groups in India now have separate organizations of their caste or religion among government employees; for example dalit organizations, Muslim organizations etc. They can give valuable inputs to any community member in trouble. Nairs should have a network spreading to politics, administration, media etc. If it is based on community the unity will be cemented. I am not advocating this to do wrong things to others. Just to ensure that you got justice. When all others have intelligent networks it is suicidal to believe are things are done on the basis of merit only. We need to protect ourselves using our system intelligently.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

NSS ends pact with Congress

Putting an end to its special relation to Congress, a leadership meeting of Nair Service Society held at its headquarters Perunna decided to end its soft pro-Congress policy. NSS general secretary G Sukumaran Nair said Congress has ditched NSS and subsequently the organisation has decided to withdraw from the pact with Congress.
Nair said NSS would not enter into any discussion with any Congress leader including Sonia Gandhi hereafter. This decision is likely to have huge impact on prospects of different political parties in the next Lok Sabha elections in Kerala

Recently Sukumaran Nair had revealed NSS had entered into a confidential agreement with Congress high command before the last elections to Kerala assembly. But KPCC had denied knowledge of such a pact. However some Congress leaders including Deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha P.J Kurien, Kerala power minister Aryadan Muhammad and INTUC leader Chandrasekharan opined that NSS leadership’s statement about the pact seems to be true. Union minister Vayalar Ravi said leaderships of NSS and Congress had met before elections. However he added that he did not know about a pact.

Nair at Thiruvananthapuram taluk NSS meeting had said that NSS leadership would send a delegation to Delhi if needed to discuss with Congress high command about violation of the pact. It seems that at the NSS leadership meet on Saturday at Perunna, top leaders of Nair community have developed a feeling that the denial of the pact by Congress Kerala leadership was with the tacit support of Congress high command which backed out from the pact unilaterally.

At NSS leadership meeting, Nair said Congress leadership in Kerala had subverted the pact reached between NSS and Congress High Command. KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala and chief minister Oommen Chandy have ditched NSS. If there was no such agreement, Congress president Sonia Gandhi should publicly deny it, Nair added. NSS general secretary said from now onwards NSS’ stand towards Congress will be the same as its stand towards other political parties including the CPI (M). NSS would support political parties based on issues only, he said.

Nair said by unilaterally backing out of the pact which was aimed at ensuring communal balance and social justice in Kerala, Congress has defamed Nair Service Society. He said Congress leaders should remember that Congress had ruled Kerala only when NSS supported it. Those Congress leaders like P.C Chacko, or PP Thankachan are not competent to comment on NSS-Congress high command pact, Nair said.

Nair  community has a strong presence in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Alappuzha, and Kannur (6/14)districts in Kerala. It has considerable influence in other two districts of Thrissur and Palakkad. Nair community members are present in all other districts. If NSS sincerely takes a strong anti-Congress stand Congress is unlikely to win coming Lok Sabha elections in Kerala.
Nair Service Society had traditionally taken a pro-Congress stand from 1960 onwards. Its founder leader Mannath Padmanabhan lead the liberation struggle in Kerala against the first elected government in Kerala which was incidentally lead by EMS Namboothiripad of CPM.

NSS had floated a political party NDP in 1980s. It was a coalition partner of Congress lead United Democratic Front. However by the end of 1990 NDP was disbanded by NSS. Though it publicly declared an equidistant policy called Samadoora Sidhantham, From hereafter NSS leadership directly made agreements with Congress and openly supported a few Congress leaders acting like their God father. Some of the Congress leaders who received open support of NSS include Ramesh Chennithala and K.C Veugopal.

If NSS firmly continues its anti-Congress stand it would change the power equations in Congress and in Kerala. There is also a possibility that a good numberof pro Congress NSS workers may vote for BJP and BJP could benefit out of Congress-NSS rift.