What 'Keraleeyam 2023' achievedtext_fields
It is curtains down for Kerala's celebration in connection with the 68th anniversary of the state's formation, titled 'Keraleeyam'. In an article written on the inaugural day of the festivities, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan claimed that this would be an opportunity for every one in the state to take pride in being a Keralite sharing that joy with others and to present Kerala with all its achievements. However, the Opposition leader VD Satheesan and associates boycotted the inauguration ceremony, sharply criticising the government and calling it an extravagance by a government that could not find funds even for the mid-day meal of school children. The Opposition which by and large took a non-cooperative stance, also highlighted as its justification a remark made by Kerala High Court while considering a petition on the non-disbursement of pension by the state's transport entity KSRTC. Although financial stringency of Kerala is a bare fact, if an event like Keraleeyam succeeds in achieving its declared objectives, spending resources and energy to that end will not be seen as a wasteful expenditure. Introducing Kerala's cultural stature and social relevance to the world would be laudable too. And it will add to the confidence of Malayalees' about their birth place, especially at a time when concerted efforts are made by communally driven elements and their media to single out Kerala for attack and to belittle the communal amity which is the greatest asset of the land. Senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, despite the party leadership's bar, took a stand that thoughts about popular development need not get bogged down by narrow party thinking and took part in the seminar on panchayat raj that was part of Keraleeyam. It is indeed a dream of Kerala to allow more space for opposing views and dissident voices.
At the same time, a question needs to be raised as to how successful Keraleeyam - launched as a landmark project to present before the world even the minute aspects of Keralite society - was in depicting Kerala in this dimension. One of the constraining factors was that the events were all limited to Thiruvananthapuram and its outskirts, as if it were the capital's exclusive entitlement to host the celebrations whereas the state is a web of towns, cities, suburbs and villages stretching from Manjeswaram to Parassala. It appeared that the organisers had a wrong notion about how Kerala's representation should be determined beyond the narration contained in brochure and PRD promotions. This was clear from the depiction of the tribals by exhibiting their representatives with painting and costumes in the name of showcasing the tribal heritage of Kerala. The underlying gross indecency speaks for the attitude ingrained within the Folklore Academy and curators about Adivasi community. True, the public, especially the new generation, need to be made aware about the tribal communities, their life style and interventions in culture and arts. And in the cultural festivals by various countries, exhibitions of their aboriginal communities are prepared with great prominence: they are taken to venuesand shown as the invaluable assets of the country, and not by paying them daily wages of a thousand rupees to pose as living museum pieces. It is hoped that the debates about this part of Keraleeyam will engender rethinking about the existing perceptions of tribal life and what they should be.
The crowd that turned up in the exhibition venue, food festival and in the music and dance venues, the words of appreciation by guests, and the flattering social media posts by well-wishers like a ritual are likely to lull the organisers to a complacence that what was done is enough. But if they get out of this comfort zone, absorb the creative criticisms about the event in their spirit, and organise in future more inclusive editions of Keraleeyam by correcting the shortfalls, then the world will be waiting for that. May the government be able to get there.