Dissent in the time of distress

Dissent in the time of distress

Kerala is preparing a blueprint for what could be a first-of-its-kind regulations on hartals—the life-halting shutdown strikes which have defined the state’s politics for years–through the proposed Kerala Hartal Control Act.

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government has clarified that the Act will not be in conflict with people’s fundamental right to dissent and protest. Moreover, protests, in new form and character, dominated the year in the state.

In September, moving away from conventions of organised agitation, the women of Munnar’s tea estates led a path-breaking protest for better wages, while keeping politically affiliated trade unions out of the agitation.

The jury is out on the stir’s “success” considering that promises made by the government to the labourers are still caught in deliberations but the new, apolitical, model of dissent is something Kerala seems to be embracing in a time of intense political polarisation.  
The row over intolerance triggered distinct voices of opposition.

In December, People Against Fascism organised a unique meet-up in Kochi with seminars, cultural shows and music performances.

Again, there was a concerted effort to keep things apolitical. Sara Joseph and K Satchidanandan were among key players in the writers’ resistance against intolerance.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy slammed the “raid” in Kerala House in Delhi over reportedly serving of beef in its canteen.

Left-affiliated youth organisations, meanwhile, organised beef festivals in protest. In November, Rahul Pasupalan and wife Reshmi Nair, lead organisers of Kiss of Love protest, were arrested for their involvement in an online sex racket.

Scams and sly moves
 In November, K M Mani, Kerala Congress (M) chief, stepped down as finance minister after months of protests over the bar bribery scam. Excise Minister K Babu is also caught in the scam while 2013’s solar scandal continues to haunt Chandy. The setbacks came after the Congress’ victory in the Aruvikkara by-poll, in June.

The CPM-led Opposition scored big in a crucial local body election in November and is gearing up for next year’s Assembly election while the BJP, in prospective alliance with Ezhava community organisation Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam, is also eyeing gains.

In December, Chandy’s exclusion from an event organised to unveil the statue of late former chief minister and Congress-SNDP leader R Sankar led to protests against attempts to link the late leader with Hindutva forces.

The leadership row was back in focus with a letter, allegedly written by Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala to the Congress central leadership, highlighting Chandy’s dented image. Talks on leadership have also commenced in the CPM involving top leaders V S Achuthanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan. December saw the formal launch of the long-in-the-wait Vizhinjam seaport project. The second edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale which took off late last year, ended in March on a familiar high.
DH News Service

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