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Unique antiwar campaign in Kerala
George Iype in Kochi |
April 01, 2003 15:43 IST
Expatriates who have returned to their villages in Kerala's Muslim-dominated Malappuram district after working for years in various countries across the Persian Gulf have launched an innovative antiwar campaign.
Anglers in the coastal areas of Malappuram have built a fishing boat named Iraq with an inscription on it: "Every Bush Will Be Ploughed Someday."
On Monday, the boat was flagged off from a boat-building workshop in central Kerala's Aroor coastal township. "It is a boat that will conduct a voyage of peace across Kerala's waterways," said Mohammed Bashir, one of the antiwar campaigners.
According to Bashir, the boat will soon sail to the Saddam Beach, a small seaside island, near Parappanangady in Malappuram. "We named the island after President Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War. The war affects us immensely and we want to protest [against] it in a unique way so that people take note of it," Bashir told rediff.com
The boat campaign is one of the many that political parties and social and cultural groups have launched across Kerala. More than half of the nearly four million Indians working across the Persian Gulf are from Kerala.
"The Iraq war is unjust and immoral. The war is bringing shockwaves to the economy of Kerala," said eminent jurist V R Krishna Iyer, who heads the Anti-War Forum.
Activists like Bashir and Iyer said the war is bringing fears of social and economic insecurity to lakhs of families across Kerala. "I am really worried about the war. If the war prolongs and affects countries like Kuwait, we would be in a crisis," said Ayisha Beevi, a mother of four children whose husband works as a store supervisor in Kuwait.
Hundreds of such families are participating in the street corner antiwar meetings that Kerala is witnessing these days. "We will have no peace of mind till the war is over," Beevi added.
Expatriate Keralites are credited with having boosted the state's economy in the past three decades by sending remittances worth billions of rupees every year.
According to Iyer, "The war affects every Kerala family. Every family in Kerala has got a Gulf connection in some way or the other. There are exclusive Gulf pockets in Kerala that survive only on the income of those working in the Gulf," the retired judge told rediff.com
According to a study by the Thiruvananthapuram-based Centre for Development Studies, Malappuram has the largest number of expatriates working in the Persian Gulf. "49.2 people per 100 households in Malappuram are working in the Gulf," it said.
Already, voluntary groups and Gulf returnees' associations have set up permanent "antiwar corners" where artists exhibit paintings and hold plays.
"We will launch more Iraqi peace boats with various anti-American inscriptions into the Kerala sea and backwaters," Bashir said.