NEWS

In Kerala, CPM's Hypocrisy Is About As Unbearable As BJP's Intolerance

Criticism is highly encouraged but not when it's directed at the CPM.

03/01/2017 2:47 PM IST | Updated 03/01/2017 3:03 PM IST
LightRocket via Getty Images

Kerala is a great state for polemic, except that it has to be driven by the CPM, whether it's ruling or not.

Otherwise, you will be in trouble and will be overrun by a huge army of vituperative and abusive cadres, leaders and proxies, and a self-seeking cultural-industrial complex.

In other words, criticism, even in the meanest language, is highly appreciated and even encouraged, but it should be in favour of the CPM.

That's precisely what happened when well-known writer and Jnanpith Award winner MT Vasudevan Nair recently criticised demonetisation and even suggested a hidden agenda behind the move. The BJP reacted with its habitual intolerance. The party's state general secretary AN Radhakrisnan said that MT, as he is popularly known, had no right to criticise demonetisation because he was not an economist. He also questioned his silence when the CPM hirelings had hacked to death a rebel-Marxist, TP Chandrasekharan, a few years ago.

The CPM, through its leaders and cadres to cyber-proxies and intellectuals, immediately unleashed an attack against the BJP for criticising MT. Although their voices qualitatively varied, the message was the same: MT cannot be criticised and the BJP was intolerant. Veteran leader and former chief minister VS Achuthanandan even suggested that the BJP was targeting MT they way did Kannada writer Kalburgi. In response, Radhakrishnan stood by what he said, "I have not insulted MT personally. I pointed out MT's double standards for not speaking against several incidents affecting Kerala society."

As elsewhere in India, the intolerance and bigotry of the BJP and the Sangh have become a real menace in the state, and the attack on MT, who rarely took political sides in his life, is its latest example. However, the CPM accusing the BJP of intolerance is ironical. Nothing beats the lethality of its own history of intolerance, whether unleashed officially or through proxies. There's an ecosystem, nurtured over the years, that fosters and delivers it. Sometimes its critics are even assaulted and killed. And it spares nobody.

Take the case of actor Mohan Lal, the popular matinee icon of the state, who also spoke on demonetisation. Unlike MT, he favoured the move and even praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While social media was awash with abusive comments against him, CPM leader MM Mani, now a minister, went a step ahead and alleged that the actor supported Modi because he hoarded black money. Nobody from the left camp, who are now standing by MT's right of free speech, defended the actor's freedom of expression, however unfavourable it was. Instead, they fostered it.

Nobody from the left camp, who are now standing by MT's right of free speech, defended the actor's freedom of expression, however unfavourable it was. Instead, they fostered it.

The CPM's intolerance is often expressed as violence and social isolation. The party that is defending MT now, had assaulted Paul Zacharia, one of the most celebrated modern writers in the state, because he criticised it for an incident of moral policing. Similarly, when Thilakan, a highly regarded movie actor in the state, was boycotted by the film industry, allegedly at the instance of some big names, the party kept quiet even though it violated his fundamental right to life. The then state minister for culture, who also doubles as an impresario, conveniently avoided even commenting on the issue, let alone acting on it. It also maintained a similar convenient silence when a prominent movie director Vinayan was subjected to social and professional exclusion by the bigwigs of the industry, because the party favourites were against him.

There are many more such incidents that show how brutally exclusive and violent the CPM is against its critics. Recently two Dalit girls accused the CPM of social ostracisation and physical assault because their family supported the Congress. While the entire state protested, local CPM leaders chose to stigmatise the girls and ended up inviting legal action. In another case, a girl couldn't practice as a doctor because of the same exclusionary tactics. From time-to-time, to malign opponents, some of them even don the mantle of cultural police.

However, nothing contrasts its defence of MT as much as its systematic attack on the late Prof MN Vijayan, who once was a CPM hardliner and the editor of its newspaper. For years, he had been a revered ideological mascot of the party, but the day he started pointing out its "degenerative" tendencies and criticised its decentralised planning because it was foreign funded, he became a persona non grata. He became an object of target-practice for the cultural-intellectual ecosystem of the CPM. The party haunted him till his death. A former CPM insider G Sakthidharan, who was also a senior journalist in the party newspaper, highlighted this irony in a Facebook post where he said that MT didn't suffer as much persecution at the hands of the "Sanghis" as Vijayan had suffered at the hands of the CPM.

A former Naxalite leader Civic Chandran also sought to expose the CPM's double standards in defending MT. "The left can criticise everybody, but nobody should criticise them," he said. He also compared the intolerance faced by Mohan Lal on the same issue with that of MT. Nobody is immune to criticism, he said.

"The left can criticise everybody, but nobody should criticise them."

Interestingly, besides the abusive trolls and the menacing ruffians on the streets, what's most paradoxical in this intolerance debate is the use of the cultural-intellectual catchment of the party to sanitise and legitimise its double standards. What's probably unknown outside the state is that most of this group of people are not just ideology-driven fellow-travellers, but are beneficiaries of an incestuous ecosystem. Besides the government and quasi-government institutions that provide employment and honours to its favourites, the party also has a fairly big cultural and entertainment complex in the form of TV channels, newspaper and magazines, publishing houses and a number of not-for profit organisations.

If the CPM is indeed concerned about intolerance, it has to first practice what it seeks to preach.

Being on its side is a safe bet to pursue art and culture as a well-paid vocation, however good or bad one professionally is. The CPM cries foul when the BJP is trying to cultivate a rival art and culture ecosystem, by attracting people such as Mohan Lal, to push its agenda. However, given its divisive ideology and lack of intellectual allure, it's hard to get respectable names.

If the CPM is indeed concerned about intolerance, it has to first practice what it seeks to preach.

And the double-standards of this self-breeding cultural Tzars need to be exposed again and again.

Also on HuffPost India.

'Indica: A Deep Natural History Of The Indian Subcontinent' Is More Compelling Than Sci-Fi

More On This Topic