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KERALA—LAND OF THE DON QUIXOTES

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For yet another time a hapless parent in Kerala is crying her heart out for the most brutal murder of her young daughter. In all, thirty eight stab wounds and injuries on her person, including her genitals and almost every other part of the body. The unfortunate victim this time is Jisha of Perumbavoor, in Ernakulam District, close to Kochi, the commercial capital of the state. If one examines the frequency with which such incidents happen in Kerala state and the involvement of the blue-blooded and the lumpen element alike, one can easily understand that there is something seriously wrong about the mental makeup and psyche of Kerala society cutting across class, caste and religion.

Soumya, Krishnapriya, Shari S Nair, Anagha, Ambili, Chinju, Al Jasna, Suryanelli girl . . . Jisha, the ever lengthening list of girls cruelly molested, body parts mutilated and then murdered in the most heinous manner is not uncommon news in the “most politically aware state of India.” This bizarre refrain of being politically conscious has started sounding sickening to the people of the state and those outside the state have started viewing it as absurd and extremely ridiculous. Yet it is shamelessly repeated by the politicians, intellectuals and the media in spite of repeated and unending signs pointing to a completely contrary state of affairs. The unashamed and brazen manner with which the politicians dub Kerala as the most progressive state in the country is one of the deep set mental disorders inflicted on the collective Malayali psyche.

One of the commonest forms of this collective mental disorder of Malayalis is the “delusion of grandeur.” According to the Encyclopedia of Psychology “A delusion of grandeur is the fixed, false belief that one possesses superior qualities such as genius, fame, omnipotence, or wealth.” This narcissistic personality disorder is visible in every aspect of Malayali cultural, social and political life. Kerala is indisputably a state that has produced a number of talented writers, thinkers, social reformers, sports personalities and a handful of political visionaries. It is commendable that the state has achieved great strides in the areas of elementary education, health and personal hygiene. It has or had one hundred percent literacy and that every Malayali gloats over the fact that he or she reads the newspaper everyday and that (questionably) every male and female takes bath twice a day. For an average Malayali these are consummate sophistication(s) and signs of cultural superiority which other Indians cannot attain. They often blow their own trumpet about every Malayali household having toilets and that none of the Malayali openly defecate. (This is only partially true! In Jisha’s case she neither had a proper house nor did her family have a toilet. The fact that her house did not even have a safe door that can shut out the dangers of the outer world led to her ghastly murder!! As a Malayali living in the state I can vouchsafe to the fact that at least 25% of the Malayali households do not have such basic amenities.) Then what big difference can you cite between the backward states like Bihar or Orissa and Kerala. But the “highly knowledgeable and politically conscious Malayali” do not want any comparison whatsoever with any of these so-called backward states at all. The present frenzy is to beat Gujarat in comparison and contrast with statistics and figures.

The essential Malayali political leader has a quixotic personality about him. Every leader in God’s Own Country entertains delusions of grandeur. In this attempt they unwittingly do a Don Quixote act and make themselves “greater fools.” He tilts at windmills, driven to take on challenges that he knew he could not meet, imagining himself to be waging a lonely war against giants. Every leader has his own band of Sancho Panzas and it is indeed a funny sight when the Quixote arrives at locations of man-made catastrophe, natural disaster, murder, rape and other not-so-happy-occasions. Those around him egg him on. One of their enviable qualities is that such leaders never tend to be weighed down by the oppression of reality. They don’t hesitate to make macho posturing at the very site of calamities and make it appear that they have instantaneous solutions to very problem. The gullible people are either happy to lap up their words and promises or are desperately in need of Don Quixotes in their real life. The tallest and most popular leader of the LDF is a classic example of this strategy to gain popularity. Although the nonagenarian has led many a crusade against several atrocities and illegal activities committed by scores of different mafia in the state, he has tilted at windmills a few times.

One such occasion was when he waged a lonely crusade against the revenue and forest land encroachers in Munnar, assisted only by three high ranking civil servants. None of his party colleagues backed him, and yet in the capacity as Chief Minister of the state he orchestrated a “tilt at windmills” knowing fully well that it was going to be a damp squib. With a few stage managed demolitions and half-hearted attempts at taking on the might of the land mafia in Munnar, he quietly withdrew when he knew that the spoils of the operation would raise the bar of his carefully cultivated image of a knight in shining armour. Another bizarre instance was after the murder of CPM rebel T.P. Chandrashekharan’s murder. He had a score to settle with the official and stronger faction of the CPM. Hence the opportunity was ripe for him to have another “tilt at windmills.” His grandiose and much hyped visit to TP’s house at Onchiyam in Vadakara Taluk of Kozhikkode district was an event to watch for. The easily-deceived, over-trusting Malayali avidly watched the TV for some action of substance. At TP’s house he did manage to create emotion-filled, melodramatic scenes with his widow K. K. Rema. Beyond these theatrics nothing much happened after that. As usual he carried on with his usual business of taking on the masses for a ride and reaped rich dividends out of the most brutal and sensational murder (in the history of Kerala) committed on a rebel CPM leader by the conspirators and murderers of his own party.

“The most unkindest cut of all” on the Malayali body politic, committed by this nonagenarian, came in the form of a treachery. The breach of trust and back-stabbing committed by the most popular leader of Kerala was not just against the late Shari S. Nair and her parents, but on the entire Malayali society. Our Quixote’s most outrageous “tilt at windmills” would not be comprehensible if the background story of this treacherous deed is left out.

 

Similar to the beginning of the tragic stories of many other girls in Kerala, Shari S Nair of Kiliroor in Kottayam, too became a victim of the enticement of the glamour world. It all started when she won the 2003 Miss Kottayam title. A very close blood relative of the innocent girl laid the web of sex-trap and the unsuspecting parents got carried away by the promises of riches and fame. She was trapped in the lucrative sex market and the racketeers presented her to many important personalities of Kerala state. Her sorry plight was celebrated with much fanfare by the insensitive print media of the state. Television channels displayed their deceptive best by sensationalising, twisting and distorting this news time for weeks on end— television news channels in Kerala are notorious for this. The miserable and helpless girl ended up in the hospital. The then Congress Chief Minister showered umpteen number of hollow promises by way of financial compensation and job; and assured the family that all culprits would be nabbed and brought to justice. But the man who reaped riches out of this unfortunate incident was the darling of the masses.

In 2004 September our own Quixote went with his bunch of Sancho Panzos and the indispensable press to the hospital to meet Shari, her father Mr. Surendrakumar and his family. In the same manner as he presently went and met the late Jisha’s mother, on that day in September he consoled Mr. Surendran and just like the Chief Minister he too showered the family with rosy promises and assurances. But at the back of his mind he was mumbling these words: “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.” (Cervantes’ Don Quixote). Yes this visit and this incident’s repercussions did catapult the Left to victory in the 2006 elections. Fortune did guide his affairs; he waged a visible battle against all injustices meted out to this family. Only God and he knew that it was a camouflaged deceptive battle for power. When the righteous war reaped riches for him in the form of Chief Ministership of Kerala, everything about this family was forgotten.

In the meantime the unfortunate girl succumbed to death after giving birth to a premature baby. The harrowing experience of living with a fatherless, motherless young child was too unbearable for the family. They had to put up with the most humiliating comments and taunts of the society, the social stigma was unbearable. Yet they lived on in the hope that one day their chivalrous hero who is now the supremely powerful person in the state would render them all help. Five years after the much hyped visit to the hospital, in November 2009 the wretched, powerless and inconsolable parents approached Quixote—now the Chief Minister of the State—at his official residence for help. The gutted parents and the child ended up in a police station. “Culturally superior Kerala society” should have hung their heads in shame as a mark of respect and protest to this harrowing experience of the victims of one of the most sensational but distressing sexual harassment episode in Kerala’s history. But nothing happened, the collective Malayali conscience was living in self-delusion and apathy. The intelligentsia of Kerala and the media showed a blind eye to the pitiful sight of the innocent young child holding its unfortunate, dead mother’s photo. Our megalomaniac Quixote had become a Nero fond of playing a stringed instrument.

 

His ‘celebrated promise’ to the parents of Shari and to the Kerala society that all those behind the fate of Shari S. Nair would be handcuffed and paraded on the streets of Kerala after attaining power had by then become the stuff of legends! Until the day of elections in May 2006 political leaders and those seeking easy publicity would throng the house of Shari, but after the elections neither anybody from the newly elected LDF government nor did anyone belonging to any other party visit them. Now history is being repeated. Shari has now become Jisha and the entire Kerala and India have started chanting “I AM JISHA.” Jisha’s mother is going to face the same fate as that of Shari’s parents. After May 16 nobody is going to pay attention to Jisha’s family. Unlike in the case of Shari, Jisha’s murderer and those behind the incident may be few in number or it might even be one person’s crime.  Behind Shari’s fate there are scores of people: from the accused Lata Nair, Omanakkutty, Manoj to Praveen to the infamous VIP. In fact the entire Kerala society is responsible for the fate of such an innocent girl who was taken advantage in the name of promises of film and television career.  All of them are roaming free now. The doctors and the hospital staff including nurses had abused Shari and her parents with very cruel taunts and vicious insinuations for the ignominy of conceiving a child at this young age. Media had widely reported that subsequent to the visit of the CPM leader Ms. PK Sreemathi teacher to the hospital Shari’s condition deteriorated.

Shari’s young innocent daughter might have reached her late adolescent years now. In spite of state police enquiry and then the CBI enquiry, Shari’s father Surendran’s questions regarding the crime have not been satisfactorily answered. Those who have to give the answers are busy making claims in front of the electorate about their glorious achievements during their rule in Kerala. Several such incidents point to the fact that Kerala society is mentally sick; its psychosexual disorders are chiefly due to cultural and political reasons. Patriarchy rules the roost in the state, in spite of the contrary claims of having a liberated, educated women population. Further, it is largely a repressed and inhibited society with many of its young adults moving around with sexually frustrated minds. Sexual sadism (as in the case of Jisha’s murderer), exhibitionism, voyeurism and alchohol/substance abuse are all rampant in the state. All such disorders are prevalent in almost all states of the country, but when such instances happen frequently in the “most politically aware and culturally superior state,” one must understand that not just something but many things are “rotten in the state of Denmark.”

– written by T H Valsaraj

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