“Amit Shah is not welcome in our village,” 15-year-old VV Aaditya said. When asked about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she was joined by her dance partner KV Saumya: “Yes, if Narendra Modi visits our village, we will attend his programme. He is our PM, we will go to see him but won’t pay heed to what he says.”
Aaditya is a member of the CPM children’s wing Bal Sangham. Saumya, 20, now works with the women’s wing of CPM.
Newslaundry is at Malappattam – a village blessed with nature’s bounty and one of the most fertile fields for Marxists. Since 1968, the CPM has been sweeping the local body poll here. In the last election, it won all 13 gram panchayat seats.
It’s only red
This village has everything - paddy fields, markets, schools, 19 libraries (one has as many as 60,000 books), one public healthcare centre and even a profit-making co-operative bank. The village, with 10,000-odd residents, was declared open defecation-free in 2016.
Some of the books in the libraries dwell on Communist history and literature. CPM leaders like EMS Namboodiripad, EK Nayanar, AK Gopalan and Pinarayi Vijayan are very popular with children.
One of the 19 libraries in Malappattam which is managed by the CPM
Such a village would have a pathological hatred for the rivals. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are not loved here. The village doesn’t have a single RSS shakha. There is not a single RSS-BJP flag here. The Congress and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) are present, but they are mere namesakes.
Malappattam is all about the CPM. Even if you hate the party, there is no way you can ignore it.
The village is surrounded by rivers on three sides and is 28 km from Kannur town. The village had witnessed a violent peasant movement against local landlords in 1947 seeking land for the tiller. When the Communist Party of India (CPI) came to power in 1957, Chief Minister EMS Namboodiripad introduced land reforms.
Land which was limited to just three families under the landlords was distributed to almost every family in the area. Malappattam has over 7,500 Hindus and 2,200 Muslims. Muslims are considered the core vote bank of the United Democratic Front (UDF). Still, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) has routed the UDF.
A CPM memorial inside the village where the Marxists are calling the shots since 1968
Did anyone vote for BJP here?
“There is a small BJP vote bank of about 300 people in the village. But no one dares to openly support the party. So we don’t exactly know who votes for or sympathises with the BJP or the RSS,” said Robert George, a former SFI leader. There are only 3-4 Christian families in Malappattam and Robert’s is one of them. The nearest village where the RSS is active would be at least 10 km away,” he said.
Most families belong to the middle class. One often comes across big bungalows. George said those are owned by Gulf Malayalis. The village has over 300 government employees.
On August 27, Yadav P was about to start a committee meeting at one of the oldest libraries in the village. This 13-year-old member of Bal Sangham was ready to discuss “all agenda of the meeting, including regular politics.” When asked why he joined Bal Sangham, Yadav said he liked the CPM and its leaders. This correspondent asked him what is Communism. He took about five minutes and responded: “Fighting for equal rights.”
Yadav, a Class VIII student, also has his theory on violence. “Anti-CPM forces attack CPM, and then the CPM will react. A physical fight is allowed in this case. I will hit an anti-CPM person if he hits me first.” At Bal Sangham, children are disciplined and indoctrinated in a phased manner.
Even many elderly believe in what Yadav said. M Mukund, 67, who is a panchayat member, echoed the view. “What should we do when we are attacked? The media has blown this violence out of proportion. The CPM brought about land reforms, it works for the poor masses and the secular spirit,” he said.
Many women also feel that they don’t need the RSS here. “The RSS is our political enemy and its presence is not required in this village,” K Rajna, a 33-year-old housewife, said. She was among a group of women at a dance rehearsal for Onam festivities. When asked what would happen if an RSS meeting is held in the village, Shaina KC, 32, was sure: “No chance! We will protest against RSS meetings. The CPM is working for locals, there is no need for the RSS.”
The village has a culture of inter-caste and some inter-faith marriages. But you could be discriminated against on your ideological preference. Those voting for the BJP are virtually ostracised. “If someone votes for the BJP, we won’t be friends with them,” said Saumya. Many of these women belong to the “new generation.” A majority are graduates and actively participate in CPM activities.
Of course, they condemn killings. “Political killings between the RSS and the CPM must stop. This is political rivalry and violence is no solution,” Bina K, 39, said. “These killings are affecting families,” Aaditya added.
Don’t say party village, please!
Both the CPM and the RSS object to the term party village. Manish, a CPM office secretary, had a strange look on his face when we mentioned the term. P Jayarajan, the district CPM secretary, said: “What do you mean by party village? It is as much like any other village. You can visit it – but won’t get to see anything different there.”
He accused the media of creating such terms. It only means a village that is a party stronghold, he said.
An hour away from Malapattam, in Payyannur, there is a small village named Mottakunnu. Pockets such as this village give a sense of relief to the RSS. “Since the 1960s, this is an RSS village. We are going to celebrate the foundation day soon,” M Vinit, 31, who works with a PSU, said.
“We have been brought up in this environment.” He and a bunch of youth accused the CPM of not allowing village development. The village has 100-odd families, and they support the RSS.
The electrical poles painted saffron are lined up on the way to this village. Oneshakha operates here but there is no library. Here, we met 33-year-old RSS worker Muralidhar. “The shakha focuses only on the issues of the village. We are fighting for Hindu sanskar and abhimaan,” he said.
Muralidhar, a carpenter, alleged that if any CPM worker is attacked in nearby localities, RSS workers in the village are hounded by the police. “Active RSS workers are identified by the CPM and named in such cases,” he said.
Not far away is the house of slain RSS worker Biju, accused of killing a DYFI leader. CPM workers are accused of murdering Biju in July.
Security is a concern in these party villages. “It is easier to visit the villages during peaceful days like this. When attacks or clashes take place, every vehicle is checked and the identity of those entering the village is verified,” RSS prachar pramukh R Jayaprakash said. In other words, the village security and those visiting it is in the hands of the organisation which governs it.
From an outsider’s perspective, that's not heartening news.
Artwork: Anish Daolagupu
Animation: Venkateshwaran Selvaraj
Picture Credit: Amit Bhardwaj
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