The Rediff Interview/K R Gowri and K R Bhaskaran
'Narayanan has done nothing for the dalits. Why should he?'
Ever since Kocheril Raman Narayanan emerged
as the consensus candidate for the Presidency, a caste and religion-based controversy
has been brewing up in Uzhavoor, his native village in
Kerala. A section of people, led by the Vishwa Hindu
Parishad, have questioned Narayanan's 'dalit
credentials'. They feel that though Narayanan was
born a dalit, he is a "dalit brahmin" today.
Narayanan's critics say he is a "pro-Christian" leader because
his wife, Usha, is a Christian and one of his sisters, Bhargavi, is
married to a Christian.
But in Narayanan's modest home at Uzhavoor, his sister K R Gowri and brother K R Bhaskaran are unmoved by these accusations.
"We escaped caste oppression all these years. The VHP is now
trying to tarnish our family's image. But Narayanan, and we
ourselves, are above such petty allegations," says 80-year-old Gowri, a homeopath.
In an exclusive interview to Rediff On The NeT's George Iype at their Uzhavoor home, Gowri and Bhaskaran
defend their brother and emphasise that he holds
the country's top post not because of his caste, but because
of his merit. Excerpts from the conversation:
Do you think Narayanan became an all-party consensus candidate for the President's post because he is a dalit?
Gowri: The political parties' motives
for supporting him might have been our low-caste status.
But neither our brother nor we have ever craved for power or
position because we were born in the dalit Paravan community.
Our brother never used his dalit status to plead for
ambassadorial or ministerial posts before Jawaharlal Nehru,
Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi. Instead, they invited him to
serve the country because they knew he was a committed
person, a honest and simple human being. Today, he is the
country's first citizen because of his merit alone.
Some people say Narayanan is not fit to be the
country's President because he has not done anything for
Bhaskaran: True. All these years, Narayanan has
done nothing for the dalits. Why should he? He has never
claimed to be the leader of the dalits. He has never claimed
government benefits or reservations meant for dalits. We
were born in a poor family. We are still poor. But our father
was a physician who treated high-caste Namboodiris and,
therefore, had a social standing. In the 1930s, when we
were in our childhood, we never felt oppressed by our
Narayanan has reached the pinnacle of success
because he is very hard working and sincere. I always told
him he would become a great person. All these years, my
conscience has been telling me he is meant for bigger
things in life. That has finally come true. I can rest in
Gowri: Narayanan is not a servant of
the dalits. But can you name a single dalit leader who is a
committed servant of the low-caste communities? All these
politicians, who pretend to be dalit leaders, live in big
bungalows in Delhi. They profess high principles, but never
practise justice and truth. Our brother should be a role model
for all these leaders. Unlike them, he has never amassed wealth.
He is still a poor man because he is sincere and committed
towards his country.
The VHP says Narayanan is a "pro-Christian" leader...
Gowri: How can the VHP decide Narayan's caste
and religious status? Has the Government of India given the VHP
the authority to investigate our religious status? Narayanan is
not pro-Christian, pro-Hindu or pro-Muslim. He is a leader whose
belief is not chained to any particular religion. What is important
is his vision for India and his conviction in life. Those are the
reasons behind his success.
Why have you hung Jesus Christ's photograph
along with Narayanan's on this wall?
Gowri: What is wrong in that? I hung it there
because I admire Jesus Christ and his great principles. Keeping
Christ's photograph home does not mean we are followers of
the Church. I am not a fanatic. I have faith in god. That god
can be Jesus Christ or Lord Shiva. Whenever I go to a church,
temple or mosque, I put whatever little money I have in the
donation boxes. I read the Bible, the Ramayan, the Bhagwad
Gita and the Koran. Unlike the VHP, I do not discriminate
Bhaskaran: Religion is a means for
people's betterment. Hence, discriminating against people
on religious and caste grounds is the first step toward social
inequality. In India, politicians use religion as a bait to
get votes. They swear by truth and justice, but cheat the
system. The politicians in India are like the CPWD employees
who come in droves to whitewash our house whenever
Naryanan comes here. Our politicians are perpetually
whitewashing the people.
But your younger sister Bhargavi is married
to a Christian...
Bhaskaran: What's wrong with that? She was
a central government employee and, while in Delhi, she fell
in love with the man who is now her husband and asked for permission to marry him. All of us -- including
Narayanan -- approved of the match and blessed the
marriage. In such cases, religion does not matter, what
matters is commitment and love.
Why did both of you avoid marriage?
Gowri: I did not feel like getting married. I have
been practising homeopathy for many years and have
found complete fulfilment in serving people in my own
Bhaskaran: That is a personal choice.
I decided not to get married because I wanted to lead a
quiet, unassuming and peaceful life in my village. I am
happy with my decision.
Have you ever experienced social discrimination
because you are dalits?
Gowri: We have never experienced social
injustice from the upper caste. I think we escaped this
discrimination because our father was a respected
physician. But we were always poor. Often, we
did not have the money to buy clothes or pay the
school's fees. Narayanan was able to pursue his degree
education because some Christian priests, who
supported poor students, helped him. I think our early
struggles in life made Narayanan an upright leader.
Has Narayanan been helping you financially?
Bhaskaran: We have never felt the need to ask
any money from him because we are self-sufficient in our
own little way. I am getting pension from the company I
worked for in London. My sister gets enough money from
her homeopathic practice. There is no need for Narayanan
to help us financially. He is like one of us. He is not rich.
What was your reaction to T N Seshan's decision
to contest against Narayanan?
Gowri: Seshan is an arrogant man. You cannot
compare him with our Narayanan. Both are extreme ends
of a pole. Narayanan is known for his simplicity and Seshan
for his arrogance. It is sad that Seshan begged for support
from the Shiv Sena leadership which has been denigrating
south Indians all these years.
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