Punnapra Vayalar uprising can't be part of freedom struggle
D Jose in Thiruvanathapuram
The ghost refuses to be exorcised.
With the central government's recent recognition that the
Punnapra Vayalar uprising was indeed part of India's freedom
struggle, the Communists in Kerala had thought
the 51-year-old ghost was, finally, off to the other world and peace.
But no, it's back stronger than ever -- packaged as
scathing criticisms, flowing from 'anti-Communist' (read political leaders and historians) tongues.
"It's a farce on history," raged Bharatiya Janata Party
stalwarts, "to call it a freedom struggle."
"Total distortion of facts," said Congressmen.
"A blot on Indian history," historians held, "It was no freedom struggle."
According to BJP leader Sreedharan Pillai, the Centre was wrong in according such a recognition ''solely on the merit of a report submitted by a Communist-led
"The report (submitted by the E K Nayanar government) was diametrically opposite to the memorandum which the Communist Party of India presented before the Cabinet mission in 1946," he said, "While the earlier memorandum stated the stir was aimed at ensuring freedom for provincial states to
remain sovereign if they wanted to, the latest report claims
it was a struggle against the move to form an
independent Travancore state!"
In fact, Pillai continued, T K Varghese Vaidya, a leader of the struggle, had even gone on record saying it was a rehearsal for a larger revolution with the ultimate objective of establishing a Communist India. How, then, could it have formed part of India's freedom movement?
"By wresting such a recognition, the Communists are
trying to find a place in history which they truly do not deserve," said state Congress president Vayalar Ravi.
Historian A Sreedhara Menon (who snubbed the government's attempt to get a book written on Kerala's role in the Indian freedom struggle) said the current claim -- that the struggle was aimed
against an independent Travancore -- was really 'farfetched'.
"When the stir began in Alapuzha district there was absolutely no move
at all for an independent Travancore," he said. The Travancore
dewan, Sir C P Ramaswamy Aiyar, came out with the proposal only later. And
he himself dropped the move after a meeting with Sardar
Vallabhai Patel and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Menon said.
"The struggle cannot be given the status of a freedom
movement as it was started only after a national government assumed office under Nehru," he argued, "What was the need for killing hundreds
of people for freedom when we had already attained it?"
The uprising, he added, was nothing but a social
and economic revolt against landlords.
Veteran Communist Party of India-Marxist leader
E M S Namboodiripad, for his part, defended the freedom status of the struggle vociferously in his weekly talk on Asianet television channel.
The criticisms, he said, was sired by those who were jealous of the achievements Kerala made as a result of the uprising. The struggle had both national and local goals.
At the national level, the Communist party was at variance
with the Congress and Muslim League, the two powerful political
forces of then. While the Congress was striving
for freedom for the entire century through conciliatory talks
with the British rulers, the Muslim league wanted a Muslim land.
But the working class and the peasants felt the Britishers
should be thrown out.
"The Punnapra Vayalar struggle
was the result of this thinking," Namboodiripad said, "It
established a unified Kerala."