Social issues, not development, dog God's Own Country

Kerala weathers through prohibition, exhibition

Social issues, not development, dog God's Own Country

It’s interesting to note that the two issues that dominated Kerala’s socio-political discourse in 2014 were both anchored in dichotomies of its society.

The state government’s proposal for closure of all bars except the five-star category and phased prohibition was announced in August; four months later, the new excise policy is being fiercely contested by bar owners in the court while the government itself has backtracked on some of its directives.

Since the announcement of the policy, leaders of the Congress-led ruling coalition in Kerala – the state has the highest per capita alcohol consumption in the country – have highlighted the liquor ban’s social impact. V M Sudheeran, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president and pro-prohibition poster boy, took out a statewide rally, also to create awareness on the perils of alcoholism.

Funds for the rally were also collected from a few bar owners. The irony was hard to miss.

In November, a group of young men and women came together at Marine Drive in Kochi to stage a trailblazing kissing protest against moral policing.

“Kiss of Love” triggered an intense debate on the limits of individual spaces; conflicting political ideologies merged in declaring this new, aggressive form of dissent as immoral. Even as a social media outrage builds around Kiss of Love, the campaigners plan similar events in other parts of the state.

The political theatre offered gripping drama all through the year.

In January, 11 people including three CPM functionaries were sentenced to life imprisonment in connection with the murder of Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) leader T P Chandrasekharan.

In the Lok Sabha election in April, the Congress defied a nation-wide rout and controversies around the solar panel scam as the United Democratic Front won 12 of the state’s 20 seats.

There was friction in the Left ranks after the CPI took on big brother CPM for compromising on anti-government agitations. Finance Minister K M Mani is facing allegations of having accepted bribes from bar owners.

In November, Mullaperiyar was back in focus with Kerala raising alarm on Tamil Nadu maintaining water level near 142 feet in the 118-year-old dam. In July, 46 nurses help captive by IS militants in Iraq, arrived in Kochi to a rapturous welcome.

December saw the passing away of eminent jurist V R Krishna Iyer (99). Legendary playback singer K J Yesudas courted controversy when he urged women to not wear jeans and “distract” others. Writer-activist Arundhati Roy angered Gandhians and Congress leadership when she criticised the Father of the Nation for having endorsed caste-based hierarchies.

The Indian Super League and home team Kerala Blasters signalled a new spring for football in the state. At the cinemas, it was Anjali Menon’s “Bangalore Days” – a slickly shot rom-com – that defined change.

The year is winding down on a grim note in the backdrop of attacks by suspected Maoist insurgents in Wayanad and Palakkad districts. As the state braces for this unfamiliar challenge, disillusionment over development issues in the state’s tribal belts is still building.

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