Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Onchiyam and the Rising Rebellion in Communist Party

THIS YEAR marked the 60th anniversary of the police firing in Onchiyam, a village on the revolutionary map of North Kerala, in which eight communists died on the spot. The firing on the unarmed people took place on April 30, 1948 when the people resisted the police move to search the households to arrest a few communist leaders who were hiding in the village in those days when the communist party was a banned organization.

The village had witnessed horrible police assaults in the wake of the bloody confrontation, many people were arrested, brutally tortured and two more comrades lost their lives in the next few days in custody.

These incidents are part of the revolutionary folklore in North Malabar, where the communist party built up its bastion on the blood of those who dared the police on that fateful day.

And what an irony of history that it was exactly on the 60th anniversary, a few weeks after the party refreshed the memories of those historic incidents, that the communist party virtually split into two in the same village. Ever since the 1964 split, Onchiyam has been the stronghold of CPM. Now if you go to the same village, you will see the party split, with the official group left with only a handful of members while the rebel ranks swell. Not only the CPM, all mass organizations are also now divided with the rebels forming their own committees to challenge the official party that has the support of State CPM leadership.

The feelings in Onchiyam are seething, with most comrades frustrated and angry with the way the party is now going. It appears what has divided this small village with its own romantic memories to nurse, is a deep political and ideological crisis that has gripped the party from bottom up everywhere in Kerala. The sense of revulsion, anger and frustration among the rank and file is palpable, but it is yet to take a clear ideological and political form. Talk to anyone in rebel ranks and you see they are unhappy with the party and its bureaucratic leadership who are making every effort to put yes-men in leadership, promote sycophants and henchmen to key posts, and hijack and the party and its traditions for their personal gains. This is not an isolated case with Onchiyam alone; similar developments are taking place in many other villages in most parts of Malabar.

But the developments are really poignant in the case of Onchiyam; and a harbinger of sadder tidings to come. This week, I came to know that one of the last surviving revolutionaries who faced bullets in the firing, 80-year-old Puravil Kannan, who received a bullet in the firing while his father, Puravil Kanaran, died on the spot, left the party and took to the rebel ranks. There were three Kannans surviving in the village, who were the jewels of CPM all these years, as they had taken part in the 1948 incidents. All of them were honoured on April 30 this year when the party held its grand function in the village. Now two of them have left, and only one remains with a jaded red flag while his comrades have marched to the rebel ranks.

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