By some accounts, the proportion of Hindus in Kerala’s population has already reached a sub-50% level. Even if we go by government statistics and it hasn’t yet, it soon will, considering the rate of Hindu population growth compared to those of the other two major religious groups in the state. Neither of the two major political fronts that share power in the state bother to make any ‘special’ efforts to win over the Hindu vote; probably because we are so disunited that even in places where we are an overwhelming majority (like Chengannur, for example) non-Hindus are the ones who decide the winner. The government and the courts join together to hand our daughters over to self-confessed jihadis and celebrate the tears of helpless parents as a victory of liberalism.
Our temples are desecrated to avenge some phony injustice in a faraway land. Politicians proudly organize public slaughter of our objects of devotion, ostensibly as a protest against happenings that have nothing to do with us. The temples that have managed to escape vandalism and desecration are taken over by the God-hating communist state government, using intimidation and threats of police violence to trample over the pleas and emotions of millions of devotees. If we manage to live through all this discrimination and second-class treatment and make it to a stage where we are ready to move on to meet our maker, it turns out that we can’t even hope to have a dignified cremation in this ‘progressive’ state of ours.
Kuttiyamma was an 82-year-old Dalit woman who lived in a tiny 2 room house with her daughter-in-law and granddaughter in the Chengannur municipality area. When she passed away a few days back, she was placed in an iron box and cremated by a public road near where she lived (this news in Malayalam). When her son, Shashi, had died a few years ago from cancer, he too was cremated on a public road. This is not the isolated case of Kuttiyamma and her family. This is the fate of every Hindu living in that area who doesn’t own a large tract of land that can be used to cremate him/her. Chengannur municipality just doesn’t have a public cremation ground. So what do those Hindus who don’t want their dear ones to be cremated on a public road do? Some demolish parts of their houses to make room for cremation and some others donate the body to medical colleges. But the smart ones get the writing on the wall and convert to Christianity, so they can at least get a dignified burial in a Church-owned cemetery.
At this point, a legitimate point to ponder about is, how does a place like Chengannur, with approximately 60% Hindu population, not have a public cremation ground. After all, it is not as if Hindus were dumped in truckloads in this place after Modi came to power; they have been living in this place for hundreds of years. So, where did they cremate their dead for all these years? What happened to all those cremation grounds? The answer to this question can be found in what is currently happening in Payyambalam village in Kannur district.
Till a few years ago, there was a cremation ground in Payyambalam used by all Hindu communities and maintained by a volunteer committee called the Thiyya Samudaya Savasamskara Sahaya Sangham (the Thiyya community cremation assistance association; Thiyya is one of the OBC communities in Kerala). Then the Communists in the area went to court and had it taken over by the local panchayat. Just like the case of Parthasarathy temple in Guruvayoor, this move elicited intense protestation from the local Hindus but as is usual in our ‘secular’ country, even the court did not bother to hear the Hindu side of arguments before passing judgment (a video report in Malayalam here). Even at that time, in 2013, there were allegations that the court case and take over by panchayat were instigated by the local real estate mafia who had on several instances earlier tried to encroach upon the cremation ground.
The recent actions by the local administration prove that those allegations were not unfounded. Now, the Congress and Communist representatives in the Kannur corporation have been making moves to shut down the cremation ground and repurpose it for real estate development under the pretext of difficulties in maintenance (a video report in Malayalam). This despite the offer from local Hindus that they are prepared to accept the responsibility of looking after the facility once again. But their offer doesn’t seem to interest either of the ‘secular’ parties ruling the corporation.
At this point, one can only hope and pray that the Hindus of Payyambalam, and elsewhere in Kerala, do not suffer the same fate as Kuttiyamma and family. But if we don’t unite soon and start fighting for our rights, we will. We all will.