The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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From class to caste struggle
- CPM probes alliances to counter Mayavati, Mulayam, Laloo

Thiruvananthapuram, March 16: The threat posed by caste-based organisations to the CPM’s support base is forcing the party to promote inter-caste marriages.

Reports from a number of district and local CPM meetings across Kerala indicate the party leadership has decided to be proactive on this front.

Sources in the state CPM say their leaders are increasingly emphasising the need to support and encourage inter-caste marriage and launch a campaign against superstitions and obscurantist customs.

The exhortation forms part of the explanation of the revised party line on Caste and Caste Organisations, which was recently adopted by the CPM central committee.

The document is self-critical and says the party failed to understand and counter the caste phenomenon in the country in the proper perspective.

Without saying it in so many words, the document indicates that the party either ignored the casteist dimensions of Indian politics or dealt with it without political creativity, leading to the rise of caste-based parties such as the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party and leaders such as Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayavati.

If the explanations at party forums across Kerala are any indication, the CPM appears to be gearing up to correct its past omissions.

Party meetings have also emphasised the caste organisations’ bid to bring back superstitions and obscurantist customs in ceremonies related to childbirth, death, marriage and house-warming.

To drive their point home, the caste organisations are socially boycotting those who do not follow the obscurantist customs.

The CPM meetings have called on people to openly protest such customs and exhorted party activists and sympathisers to become the torchbearers of social reform to promote a scientific temper.

The CPM’s statewide campaign, based on its new document on caste, is intense because of the political threat it faces from the Shree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, an organisation of the backward caste Ezhavas.

Yogam leader Vellapalli Natesan launched a direct socio-political assault on the CPM in October. He branded the party anti-Ezhava and accused it of primarily upholding the interests of upper castes.

For several decades, the CPM has held sway over large sections of the Ezhava community. The new Yogam campaign, however, has raised fears that its support base could crumble.

Natesan’s campaign is based on Ezhava empowerment and assertion of their status in the larger Hindu fold. The CPM, however, has been portraying the Yogam’s move as part of a gameplan to hitch the outfit to the BJP.

The latest round of CPM meetings show the party is taking up the battle against the Yogam not only at the political level, but also at the level of grassroots social intervention.

The party’s propagation of inter-caste marriage will certainly pose a challenge to Natesan’s idea of Ezhava empowerment.

CPM leader M.A. Baby explain the party’s new thrust on caste equations, saying both majority and minority fundamentalists are united in propagating obscurantist customs.

‘‘The activists of fundamentalist and casteist organisations are targeting progressive young people. The party and its class and mass organisations should be able to resist the onslaught of fundamentalist forces,” the leader says.

“They should encourage marriages between members of different castes and religions.”

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