An inspiring story of how a people’s collective in a small town in Kerala continues to stand up to CPI(M)’s strong-arm tactics and emerge victorious. The Congress, too, joins its arch-rival to sabotage the people’s movement for development.
Nileshwaram: In the matters of development, the Marxists are like the proverbial dog in the manger. They won’t move a finger for any good and if someone takes up a development activity, the whole rank and file will see to it that it’s aborted (no pun intended. For, the word ‘abortion’ got associated with CPI(M), after a Branch Secretary’s fatal kick on a pregnant woman’s stomach resulted in the termination of pregnancy).
Nileshwaram (also Nileshwar) in the backward Kasaragod district is called North Kerala’s “Cultural Capital”. Nileshwaram became Municipality in 2010. After seven years, development is a far cry. Being a major town in the district and surrounded by seven hilly panchayats, residents have been demanding stoppage of certain trains at Nileshwaram station for the last many decades. They were also demanding a Kendriya Vidyalaya in the area, for which the procedures had started in 2012. They had approached the local CPI(M) MP, P Karunakaran, with these demands but the veteran leader had only false promises to offer.
If Suresh Gopi visits the town, Nileshwaram will burn and the collective will be responsible.
In the meanwhile, a non-political youth collective took shape and started peaceful campaign for development of Nileshwaram. The Campaign included, people’s parliament, signature campaign, group art gallery, kavi sammelan, etc. World famous magician Sudheer Madakath also took part in the campaign by riding a bike blindfolded “to open the eyes of politicians”. When the Collective announced cleaning of 26 acres of railway land on 10th December 2017, the CPI(M) cadre were in panic and jumped into the site and cleaned it on 8th December though it was an unsuccessful attempt. This act was largely criticized by the general public, including the party higher-ups. Meantime, the collective approached Manoj Kumar, Director, Rural Development Ministry, New Delhi, who is also from Nileshwaram, to take up the lead role in this social cause. Beyond the call of his duty, he took upon himself the task of expediting the process with his connections in Delhi’s labyrinthine administrative setup. But once it looked like a low hanging fruit, the CPI(M)-led Municipal Council and local MP jumped to take the credit. Manoj was even insulted and asked to stay away from the developmental activities. However, as luck would have it, the project again hit a wall. Finding themselves in a soup, they approached him again, who pulled the strings from the top to salvage the project. The CPI(M) had to cut a sorry figure when it tried to appropriate the credit for establishing the KV.
Having lost face before the public, the CPI(M) started targeting the members of the collective with a vengeance. It singled out individual members and used threat and force. Many had to lie dormant out of fear. Active workers of the collective were told in no uncertain terms by CPI(M) leaders that their houses would be attacked if they went ahead with collective’s activities. Many members of the collective received threat calls and were discouraged. But the collective did not budge. When the CPI(M)’s threat didn’t work, they parroted the tried-and-tested narrative — that the collective was working at the behest of BJP to “saffronise” Nileshwaram. They discouraged CPI(M) sympathizers from working for the collective. But the members of the collective remained unfazed. “We told them that our concern was development and only BJP MPs responded positively. For the development of Nileshwaram we are ready to take anybody’s help,” said an active member of the collective from Nileshwaram on contacted on phone, who doesn’t want to be quoted.
After realizing that their MP was hoodwinking them, the Collective approached BJP MPs for train stop. When that was granted, the CPI(M) again tried to hijack the credit but in vain as the people of Nileshwaram has by that time realized the fact.
In the meantime, BJP MP and Malayalam super star Suresh Gopi intervened and offered to setting up five public toilets in the railway station. This was too much for the CPI(M) to digest. When they got wind of Suresh Gopi’s proposed visit, they initiated a whisper campaign with a threat: “If Suresh Gopi visits the town, Nileshwaram will burn and the collective will be responsible.”
It’s not clear whether Gopi will visit Nileshwaram and he couldn’t be reached. But some residents of Nileshwaram advice the members to exercise caution as the party cadres can be vicious and brutal.