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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Creamy layer issue not a concern for Nairs; We want reservation benefits to those who are not getting it now: NSS Gen Secretary

Nair Service Society general secretary G. Sukumaran Nair has said that the issue of fixing creamy layer for other backward communities in India for job reservation is an internal issue of OBCs and NSS does not want to comment on it. Nair added that what NSS is not against giving reservation to backward caste Hindus but also want job reservation to those forward castes who are not getting it.

Sukumaran Nair was responding to questions of Media at NSS headquarters, Kottayam on Saturday, March 16 in the wake of a decision of a sub committee of union cabinet fixing an income level of Rs six lakh per annum as the income limit for OBCs to get job reservation. This means those of OBCs who have an income level exceeding Rs 6 lakh per annum won't be able to get the benefits of reservation.

NSS-SNDP sort out differences on job reservation

Sukumaran Nair's stand on reservation marks a new attitude of the NSS. This comes in the wake of Hindu unity moves in Kerala. The issue of job reservation for Hindu OBCs was the stumbling block against unity of forward caste Nair community and backward caste Ezhava community in Kerala. Nairs and Ezhavas together constitute around 80 per cent of Hindu population in Kerala. Hindus constitute around 55 per cent of total population in Kerala

Earlier NSS had opposed raising income limit of OBCs for getting reservation. NSS had filed a case in the Supreme Court against raising the income limit. But following NSS-SNDP unity move NSS withdrew the case. In return SNDP had declared that it was not against giving certain percentage of reservation for the poor among forward communities.

Sukumaran Nair's stand seems to be logical otherwise also as Creamy layer is a yardstick for ensuring that all members of OBCs get the benefit of reservation and not the rich OBCs only. The court implemented creamy layer as it found that reservation benefits are normally cornered by the rich in OBCs who have the money and power to give good education to their children. The poor who cannot afford it normally fail to qualify.

But according to Creamy layer concept, if no eligible candidate is found the seat should remain vacant till an eligible candidate from OBC is found. That means the post won't go to general candidate even if no eligible candidate is found. 

In this context why Nairs bother about it. It is not the responsibility of Nairs to ensure that income limit fixed for getting reservation is not very high. What is our concern whether a rich or a poor OBC gets reservation benefits. It is not the duty of NSS to ensure equality among OBCs. Let them settle it among themselves. 

What Nairs need is reservation for poor Nairs. Such benefits should be accorded to poor among those communities which are not getting reservation benefits now. This is NSS stand, says Nair.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bhagavata recital and Bhagavata Saptahams at Nair homes; A vanishing tradition


Day long recitation of Srimad Bhagavata used to mark all important occasions in Nair families in Central and South Kerala, especially Onattukara in Central Kerala till the early 1990’s. Be it a birthday celebration or festivals at family’s Kavus (sacred forest) or any other special occasion, Bhagavata recital was a must. The Bhagavata which was used in the region was Bhagavata Purana Kilippattu (Malayalam version) written by Tunchath Ramanujan Ezhuthassan (father of Malayalam language)
(Onattukara comprises of areas extending from Haripad, Kayamkulam and Mavelikkara in Alappuzha district, Karunagappaly in Kollam district upto Pandalam in Pathanamthitta district).

Wealthy Nair homes employed professionals for recitation of Bhagavata during birthday celebrations. All Hindus of neighbourhood irrespective of caste differences used to come there and sit to hear it .Cake Cutting and “Happy Birthday To You” English Songs were absent. There would be sumptuous vegetarian feasts at noon along with Payasam (a sweet meat made mostly of jiggery, rice, coconut etc). Poor people in the neighbourhood used to demand that it be made and the whole neighbourhood celebrated.  Bhavata would be placed on a specially made stand before the Lord Krishna’s photo or idol and singers would sit cross legged on the floor and read. Some used to explain also.

Even when somebody is critically ill or dies it was a practice to read Bhagavata at home. It was believed that listening to the Lord’s life will make the soul’s journey to the other world effortless. Normally on such occasions only parts of Bhagavata would be recited. Moreover, it used to provide peace to people who are otherwise worried because of illness or death of their beloved.

Wealthy Nair families used to conduct Bhagavata Saptaham at their homes. This involved recitation of Bhagavata by three or four people. The recitation would be completed in seven days and thus the name Saptaha. There were specialized singers for Saptaha, many of whom were proficient in language as well as Carnatic music. Special Panadals (Shamiana) would be erected and there would be many listeners. Important parts of Bhagavata like “Rukmini Swayamvaram” (Marriage of the Lord with Rukmini) would be specially celebrated. Girls dressed up as Rukmini would garland the Lord when that part is recited.

Saptahams used to feature religious discourses in the evening when the recital ends. Even if it was held at a house, the whole neighbourhood used be immersed in the joy of devotion to Lord those days. Neighbours would join to help the family make food, clean the place and make arrangements for pooja. People would come at night also and spiritual discussions would be a feature of gatherings. Instead of Ritualistic Tantric customs, Bhagavata Saptahams provided a fresh experience of Hindu religion to the laymen. Learned men would explain philosophy in simple terms which would give meaning of real Hinduism to listeners. In this context, the name of Karuvatta Swami who popularized saptahams needs to be remembered.

Saptahams used to end with Avabhrita Snanams as it was believed that the singers and listeners were performing ceremonies after the Lord returned to Vaikunta from earth ending his human Avatar.

Many poor people used to find a livelihood in Onattukara reading Bhagavata. It used to give society a sense of unity. It used to transport common man to a spiritual realm. Unlike festivals of “Kalakettu” or Kuthirakettu where village groups fought with each other at temple ground in the name of rituals, Saptahams were a quiet spiritual affair provoking thought and inculcating spirituality among Hindus. It did not involve show off of wealth or show of caste supremacy. Everybody was welcome to hear the Lord’s story and brought peace to the minds of listeners.
Poor old people used to travel from one family to another on occasion of Saptahams. This would help them to get food for their physical and spiritual needs. I personally know an Old communist worker who during the fag end of life becoming an expert singer of Bhavata to survive.

Unfortunately the custom of Bhagavata recital is slowly dying in Onattukara. Saptahams are being held at temples only and not at homes. Some swamis across Kerala are doing it at their ashrams or auditoriums but holding it at homes used to give it a popular character which has been lost. Birthday celebrations now mean cake cutting and happy birthday songs and there is no Bhagavata recital. Earlier there were open compounds and neighours were welcome to one’s home at any time. Now it is difficult to get help of people to organize a Saptaha and perhaps it is this that prevents people from organizing it at homes.

The custom of reading Bhagavata when people die is also slowly vanishing. It would be wise if organizations like Nair Service Society could revive the practice. Or social organizations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) could also do something to revive such pious practices.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Pathanamthitta Nair Meet: NSS not to allow political leaders to ride piggyback


Pathanmthitta Nair Maha Sammelanam (Nair meeting) of NSS held on March 3 declared that NSS won’t allow political leaders with vested interests to misuse organization for their political growth. In an veiled attack on Congress leaders in Kerala, NSS General secretary G Sukumaran Nair said NSS would no more allow anyone to piggyback on it.

Sukumaran Nair was inaugurating the public meeting organized in connection with Platinum jubilee celebrations of Pathanamthitta Taluk NSS Union.

Sukumaran Nair’s statement comes in the wake of rift between NSS and Congress Kerala leadership. Nair had accused Congress leaders Ramesh Chennithala and Oommen Chandy of subverting an agreement NSS had reached between Congress central leadership. Nair said the days of right distance (meaning soft approach to Congress) is over and from now onward it would be real equidistance.
Sukumaran Nair said many of those political leaders who try to exploit NSS are from our own side (hinting that they are Nairs). They need the support of community to win positions but disown us after achieving their aims, said Nair. Nairs should recognise such elements, he said. 

His statement received huge applause from thousands of Nair community members who assembled in Pathanamthitta town from different parts of the taluk.

Some self proclaimed leaders issue statements that social leaders should not cross the limits. NSS will react in those issues which concerns Nair community members and has every right to react in social and political issues, Nair said. But NSS won’t express any opinion on internal affairs of political parties, he added.

Nair said NSS had never gone out of the way to meet a political party leader but leaders of several political parties had queued up before the NSS headquarters at the time of elections. A majority of such leaders belonged to the Congress, added Nair. He said the reason for the current hostility of some Congress leaders towards NSS is the opposition expressed by NSS towards giving undue representation to certain groups in Kerala cabinet.
NSS had earlier expressed its opposition to appointing a fifth minister in Kerala cabinet from India Union Muslim League.
NSS president P N Narendranathan Nair presided over the meeting.