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Home > News > Specials

The Rediff Special/ Sebastian Paul

In M N Vijayan's death, the real teacher has gone

October 08, 2007

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M N Vijayan's televised death was not just a visual shock. When television channels began beaming the footage of the 77-year-old professor finally being silenced during a press conference in Thrissur, the shock was palpable across Kerala [Images]. Suddenly there was a void. There was no one to remind us that our society attributes truth to the victor and falsity to the loser.

Vijayan, a Marxist thinker and literary critic, had greatly influenced contemporary Kerala culture as a radical thinker � in fact a radical humanist of M N Roy's genre. He was among the rare breed of teachers who refused to give the students straight answers. He disturbed them with his doomsday prophecies and inspired them, like Socrates, with his original observations. Everyone � writers to journalists and activists to prisoners � turned to him even when they found it tough to digest him.

In Kerala, it's CPI-M versus CPI-M

Vijayan always courted controversy, be it his justification of the violent politics of Kannur or his crusade against the perceived deviation in the communist line. Many differed with his views but none doubted his intellectual honesty. When he enlivened stages with his charismatic words and characteristic tone, everybody listened. His was no master's voice because he was master to himself.

Even CPI-M leaders respected him despite his caustic critique. Vijayan was an ideological shield for the party in troubled times. His unrelenting admonitions against the party he loved had started as early as his stint as the editor of Deshabhimani weekly, a party mouthpiece. When he resigned two years ago amidst a raging controversy, he famously said that resignation was also a political activity.

The final press meet was intended as a launch pad of a fresh bout of attack against the Kerala Shastra Sahitya Parishad, a body of progressives and rationalists. He had just been absolved of a defamation case by a Kochi court for an article in the controversial magazine he edited, Paadhom. The classical Marxist platform had been accusing the party leadership of ushering in imperialist designs in the guise of foreign funding.

The travails of god's own country

Vijayan's life was a legacy of the freedom movement. Born in 1930, he started his career as a teacher in Madras New College in 1952. He had a stint at Thiruvananthapuram University College before he joined Thalassery Brennen College, from where he retired in 1985. By then he was a household name in the state with his fiery oratory. He continued to teach until death.

Vijayan, a powerful presence in Malayalam literature from his young age, broke new ground in literary criticism by fusing yardsticks of Marxian social realism and Freudian psycho-analysis. Gradually he broke out of the label of literary critic in the academic sense by directing his intellectual pursuit to a wider spectrum of social, political and cultural sphere.

Like Prophet Nathan, he fearlessly and constantly pointed his accusing finger to the mighty. He did not spare even his dear disciple Pinarayi Vijayan, CPI-M state secretary. His was the voice of warning to the masses against the danger of infiltrating imperialist influences. Beware, he once said: "The spy will come in many forms, even in the form of a teacher." The real teacher has gone, leaving many a bewildered citizen unable to distinguish a teacher from a pack of infiltrators.

Sebastian Paul is an Independent member of Parliament from Ernakulam, Kerala

The Rediff Specials