While noisy celebrations and quiet analyses of Kerala's local government elections have been going on across the state, an incident in Palakkad muncipal office has brought disrepute to Kerala's secular tradition. In the previous municipal council the BJP had been the largest single party with 24 members out of the total 52. Now with the party winning four more seats and thereby an absolute majority, the RSS-BJP workers has thrown all rule of law to the wind when they rolled down a banner at the entrance of the office with the inscription 'Jai Shri Ram' with the backdrop of Shivaji's picture. And on the other side hung another banner with pictures of Modi and Amit Shah.
Not only did the culprits roll them down, they are also circulating it through a video celebrating this violation of law as a sign of victory. This act cannot be simplified as a case of mere over-jubilation. The raising of a Jai Shri Ram call under the cover of victory celebration in a government institution, along the lines done in north India, clearly portends the agenda that RSS has in mind for Kerala. The Hindutva script would be complete only when this incident is placed beside the statement by BJP spokesman in Kerala Sandeep Warrier that Palakkad is the Gujarat of Kerala - which is ample indication that what happened in Palakkad was not a mere accident, but a warning about a Kerala in the making. If this is the exultation over having won just a municipality, and when the sangh parivar elements get to more seats of power, will the social atmosphere of Kerala turn worse than that of north Indian states?
Shri Ram, known for being Maryada Purushottam, is the idol of crores of devout Hindus and Jai Shri Ram their chant of peace. But unfortunately in contemporary India, the sangh parivar has turned Shri Ram into a warlike symbol and the Jai Hri Ram chant into a scream of assault. It is for the Hindu community in Kerala to sit back and quietly reflect how desirable it would be to convert religious symbols and Shri Ram hymns into a howl of hatred towards the other in Kerala, as being done in north India. Viewing the banner of 'Jai Shri Ram' in Palakkad as a trivial incident would mean that politics of hatred has taken deep roots among us, regardless of whether it is reflected in polling or not.
It is worthwhile to note that Kerala's local body polls have displayed several signs of creating a social background that sees the politics of hatred as simple and natural. Unless they are subjected to close scrutiny in the right perspective and remedial measures initiated, the concept of secular Kerala will become empty rhetoric. When a party wins a mere municipality, its spokesman invokes the Gujarat precedent and the followers shout slogans typical of mob lynching and racial violence, it cannot be dismissed as trivial. The expression of Palakkad as the Gujarat of Kerala contains a dangerous politics, with an underlying threat against a particular section of people. More significantly, the incident cannot be taken lightly as it comes at the same time of remembering the death of an innocent girl Sirajunnisa who was shot to death by the police during a communally charged 'ekta yatra' 29 years ago i.e, December 1991.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan termed the outcome of local bodies' polls as a victory of secularism. This incident amounting to breach of law at a municipal office, which represents a government model of secularism, holds the potential of making huge political and legal consequences. And naturally loud protests are being raised against the act that brings shame on democracy. The Congress and CPM have lodged a complaint demanding strong action against the culprits who brought this insult to secularism and a constitutional institution. The police has also registered a case on the complaint by the Municipal Secretary. It is hoped that the government will move into urgent legal steps in due response to the seriousness of the matter. There should not be any planned communal clashes in Palakkad or anywhere in Kerala. Kerala should not be allowed to become another Gujarat in that respect.