14-20 Nov, 2012
small world
Political Violence
A Familiar Murderer in the PTA

KOCHI ~ A teacher is murdered in cold blood in the classroom while he is teaching. The person convicted of the murder is awarded capital punishment, later commuted to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court. After serving eight years in jail, he is released by the state government. He is now President of the Parent Teacher Association in the same school. Strange are the ironies of political violence in Kerala’s Kannur district.

On 1 December 1999, KT Jayakrishnan, the then state vice-president of Yuva Morcha, the BJP’s youth wing, was hacked to death in front of his students in a classroom of East Mokeri Government UP School. With blood sprinkling on the faces of children, it was thought to be among the most horrific episodes of political violence between the RSS and CPM in Kannur.

A Pradeepan, a local CPM leader, and six others were arrested. One of the accused committed suicide during the trial, one was acquitted and five were sentenced to death by a session’s court. The High Court upheld the judgment. The Supreme Court acquitted four and only Pradeepan was left in jail.

In 2011, Pradeepan was released by Kerala’s former LDF government. He has now been elected as President of the Parent Teacher Association in the school. Pradeepan does not think this is outrageous. “You can talk to any teacher or parent. Everybody knows I am innocent. Nobody has any ill feeling towards me,” he claims. The school says it had no part in it. “I cannot comment. The PTA President is elected by parents, I have no role,” says a school official who does not want to be named.

K Renjith, Kannur district president of the BJP, pins the election on party politics. “The BJP is weak in that area. Hence there is nobody to question his becoming the PTA president,” he says.

KT Jayakumar, younger brother of the murder victim, was unaware of Pradeepan’s election when he was contacted . “Oh, is he president of the PTA?” he asks, “I did not know. The CPM is capable of anything.”

Take Two
Say What
The dissonance of Girish Karnad on tone deafness

It is true that Girish Karnad is a giant in a land of literary phonies. His plays, most based on myth and history, will be as good as anything India will ever produce. There is also merit in what he says about VS Naipaul. That Naipaul cosied up to the BJP is hardly a secret. Whether he is anti-Muslim is debatable but that is just a fine distinction in liberal eyes.

Yet, there is one point of Karnad in his harangue which makes little sense. In his words during the Tata Literature Live festival: “None of the three books Naipaul has written contain any reference to music. He’s gone through the whole of India without responding to Indian music. That only means that he’s tone deaf.... if you don’t understand music, if you don’t respond to music, then you cannot respond to Indian history because the real development of Indian culture has been through music.”

Music, perhaps, is one way for anyone striving to understand Indian culture. But the reverse—that the tone deaf are condemned to perpetual ignorance of Indian culture—is not true. For archaeologists, culture is material remains and stones don’t sing.

You could even argue that there is nothing called ‘culture’ except a vague idea. It can only be interpreted, not understood. Consider this: the beginnings of India’s second urbanisation (after the Indus Valley’s disappearance) starts in the 6th or 7th century BC. The political idea of India begins then with the Magadhan and Mauryan empires. The beginnings of religious culture can be traced to that age when Buddhism, Jainism, Samkhya and other philosophies become organised. They are all part of the Indian experience even today. But, you have no idea what Indian music was even as recently as 1,000 years ago.

Without knowing a single musical note, you can interpret the development of a culture through the prism of religion. Or architecture. Or anything. Or all together. They will all be valid interpretations. There is also one more curious irony in what Karnad says. If being tone deaf is such a disqualification, what about those who are actually deaf? Should they forget about understanding the development of Indian culture?

Fesity Feasts
The Trouble with Jail Biryani

Two jailors in India have lost their jobs for serving biryani in their jails. In Hyderabad’s Chanchalaguda prison, Jailor Keshav Naidu arranged fresh fruits, biryani, bakery items and chocolates for the jailed mining baron and former Karnataka Minister Gali Janardhan Reddy. Naidu also appointed a personal cook, attendant and computer assistant among inmates to help Reddy. A masseur too was allegedly arranged. A few months ago, he had even hosted a ‘dinner’ at his official residence to celebrate Reddy’s 46th birthday. Spicy Hyderabadi biryani was served to all other inmates at that time too. In Mangalore, another jailor found himself in trouble over biryani. Although a treat of chicken curry and ghee rice had been arranged on Eid-ul-Fitr, clashes ensued because a group of inmates suspected that it was paid for by Dawood Ibrahim’s henchman Rashid Malbari, also an inmate. When they refused to eat it, as a compromise, chicken biryani was ordered by the jailor. This angered Malbari’s supporters who beat up the jailor and another fight erupted on the premises. It led to the jailor, K Puttachari, being suspended.