Tuesday, December 9, 2008

PEOPLE'S TRIBUTE : A memorial for EMS

A fund collection drive aimed to set up a memorial for E.M.S. Namboodiripad evokes an overwhelming response.

Frontline,Vol. 15 :: No. 19 :: Sep. 12 - 25, 1998

THE contributions of E.M.S. Namboodiripad to the cause of the democratic movement can only be described as historic. The fund collection drive launched by the Kerala unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to set up a suitable memorial for EMS has also turned out to be a unique, epoch-making event. The target fixed by the organisers for the first round of fund collection, on August 22, 23 and 24, was Rs. 110 lakhs. In the event, the enthusiasm shown by the people was so overwhelming that they contributed more than three times the target amount. The AKG Centre, the headquarters of the State unit of the CPI(M), had already received Rs. 4.02 crores collected in different parts of the State. The final figure is likely to touch the Rs. 4.25-crore mark. Significantly, almost all regional committees and local squads of the party in the State have been able to collect more than their assigned targets .

The way the fund collection campaign was organised also had certain significant features. It was decided that apart from facilitating fund collection, the campaign should carry the message of an EMS Memorial to every household and places of social activity such as shops, marketplaces, factories and educational institutions. Accordingly, the fund collection campaign was transformed into a mass mobilisation exercise in which nearly 20,000 squads and around four lakh people, drawn from all walks of life, participated. In sharp contrast to cases of similar funds or trusts instituted with the help of huge donations from business houses, it turned out to be a highly participatory exercise, wherein most of the money collected came in small amounts contributed by workers, peasants, agricultural labourers, middle class employees, women, students and youth.
The third week of a month is not the right time to launch a fund collection drive among the common salary-earners. It was also feared that the inclement weather in the State would dampen the campaign. But none of these factors could deter the people from showing their respect, love and affection for the great leader. They contributed whatever they could preserve until the third week of the month. Freedom fighters, artists, writers and other prominent citizens participated in the campaign either by making personal contributions or by joining the volunteer squads. Those who could not directly participate sent contributions through money orders and bank drafts. A renowned freedom fighter sent a money order for Rs. 1,001 to the AKG Centre. Those who sent their contributions directly to the Centre include many non-resident Keralites and their organisations.

It may be a coincidence that the days of the mass fund collection were marked by hostile propaganda against the party. Sections of the press carried motivated reports about the possibility of a split in the Kerala unit of the CPI(M) or "massive internal problems" owing to certain actions taken by the party's Central Committee against those who indulged in anti-party activities in the name of the 'Save CPI(M) Forum'. However, the unprecedented success of the campaign proved beyond doubt that the rank and file of the party, and its sympathisers, stand beside the Central Committee and the State Committee and the lower units of the CPI(M), undaunted by the misleading propaganda.

A unique feature of the collection drive was the donation by many poor families of their only possessions such as calves and lambs and by many others of valuable land and gold ornaments. The level of participation and the spirit of the people and the contributions made by them have no parallels in the recent history of Kerala. Many freedom fighters compared the warmth with which people participated in the fund collection drive to campaigns initiated during the freedom movement. Ayyappan Pillai in Kilimanoor and Mercykutty Joy in Punalur donated lambs. In Udayamperoor, Palluruthy, and many other centres also, the squads received lambs. While Meenu, a kindergarten student of Vazhuthacaud in Thiruvananthapuram, donated Rs. 101 received as a scholarship, Biren Jith contributed Rs. 501, which he received as a present for securing a rank in an examination. The head-load workers of Kozhikode donated one sovereign of gold from their wage earnings. Anila Devarajan of Peroorkada in Thiruvananthapuram contributed two sovereigns. A leader of the Deshabhimani Balasanghom, Aiswarya of Nedumangad in Thiruvananthapuram district, donated her gold ring and Shiji of Kollam donated one sovereign. Sonia, daughter of an agricultural workers' union leader, also donated a gold ring. In Manjeri in Malappuram district, Pulickal Pathumma contributed her gold earrings. Beena of Thiruvananthapuram contributed two bangles while in Aluva, Khadeeja donated one sovereign. In Peralasseri, the land of A.K. Gopalan, the late Marxist veteran, Sab and Anakha donated gold rings worth two sovereigns.

In many places people made contributions and joined the squads, transcending political barriers. Congress(I) MP and former Assembly Speaker, V.M. Sudheeran, was among the contributors in Thrissur. In Kulathupuzha, S. Padmanabha Pillai, a block level leader of the Congress(I), made a donation and participated in the campaign. In Mahi, the Vicar of St. Thomas' Church, Father Joseph Pulichathara, donated Rs. 1,001. The president of the Anglo-Indian Association in Kalamasseri, Gilroy John Louis, and Shajahan of Kolenchery donated gold coins of one sovereign each. Jaison Varghese and Jackson Varghese, teenagers from Kunnamkulam in Thrissur district, contributed gold bracelets. They used to attend unfailingly all public meetings addressed by EMS in Thrissur. In Thrikkakkara, Ernakulam district, Bejoy Thomas contributed 6.872 cents of land. Sahasranamam gave a plot measuring 2,400 sqft in Palladam in Coimbatore district.

THE memorial for EMS will be in the form of an academy. The spontaneous and unprecedented flow of donations in cash and kind for the proposed academy would not surprise those who know the life and times of EMS. The selfless contributions and sacrifices of EMS and his generation have left their imprints on the minds of the people in general and the party cadres in particular. EMS had donated his entire ancestral wealth to the party.

A detailed plan for the development of the academy is yet to be drawn up. Many people have already come forward to share their ideas. There is general agreement that the academy should ideologically equip and empower all those who stand for the revolutionary transformation of society, the cause to which EMS dedicated his entire life. It should be equipped to cater to the ideological requirements of the democratic movement. The academy will be a unique statement of the people's confidence in the future. The memorial is also visualised as a centre of excellence, which will reflect the wide spectrum of intellectual pursuits of EMS and will provide a forum for open dialogue on issues that call for new answers. As the year 2000 unfolds, the academy should develop into a leading centre in India, and in the whole of the South Asian region, concerned with trends in the coming millennium. The memorial should also be a venue for the celebration of what is best in the culture and tradition of our people.

The EMS Academy would be developed in a phased manner. In the initial phase, the emphasis perhaps will have to be on developing a spacious land area with a lot of greenery in order to ensure an eco-friendly environment and academic atmosphere. The idea is also to leave sufficient space and scope for further development and expansion. The academy would develop training facilities for mass organisations of workers, peasants, agricultural labourers, women, students, middle class employees, cultural activists and so on. It is also expected to take up research programmes related to issues raised by such organisations.

The second phase will include a cultural centre, including a museum on EMS and the democratic movement. The movements suggested for representation include the freedom struggle, the social reform movement in Kerala and the revolutionary movements within the country and outside. There is also a suggestion to develop the academy into a full-fledged distance education centre with facilities such as a library, the Internet, electronic mail and networking with schools, colleges and academic institutions. Another idea mooted is the setting up of a medicare centre and an old age care centre.

It has been decided to constitute a board of directors to look after the day-to-day activities of the academy with V. S. Achuthanandan as Chairman and Paloli Muhammedkutty, Susheela Gopalan, M. A. Baby, E. M. Sreedharan, P. Govinda Pillai, T. M. Thomasa Isaac. C.P. Narayanan and Dr. K.N. Panikkar as members. It has also been decided to set up an advisory council with E.K. Nayanar as Chairman. The members of the Council include S. Ramachandran Pillai, E. Balanandan, Chadayan Govindan, T.K. Ramakrishnan, Pinarayi Vijayan, P. Karunakaran, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, T. Sivadasa Menon, P. K. Gurudasan, S. Sarma, C. Kannan, M. Sathyanesan, P. K. Sreemathy, Prof. Irfan Habib, Dr. Utsa Patnaik, N. Ram, Prof. Sukumar Azhicode, Prof. I. S. Gulati, Prof. O.N.V. Kurup, Dr. G. Balamohan Thampi, Dr. K.K.N. Kurup and Prof. N.V.P. Unnithiri.

The AKG Centre for Research and Studies has launched an ambitious programme to publish the collected works of EMS. The article that EMS dictated for Deshabhimani, the party's official organ in Malayalam, just two hours before he breathed his last was the last of his writings, which include thousands of articles and hundreds of books and pamphlets.

According to initial estimates, the collected works would have hundred volumes, with an average size of 400 pages. The first volume would be published before November 7, 1998. When completed, the collected works would provide the proposed EMS Academy a sense of direction regarding its research agenda and other activities.

M. A. Baby is a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

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