Friday, March 17, 2023

Sense of Deja Vu


Sense of Deja Vu

I was struck by a sense of deja vu when I watched fisticuffs in the Kerala Assembly yesterday. People of my vintage would dismiss it with a perfunctory nod, "Oh, what is there? We have seen it all before.." 

The disruption of the proceedings, the physical exertions by the honourable members, the determined move of the watch and ward guards, the complaints about their excesses--we have been treated to it all over decades. If there was a difference between then and now, it was in specifics. There was no KK Rama then to bemoan that an MLA had kicked her. 

Another difference. Television had not got going when I first witnessed, not without glee, legislators and their guards being locked in combat right inside the great portal of democracy. Nor was television coverage possible when I saw ruling party activists rounded up a legislator and bashed him up severely.  He was an iconic presence everywhere when he was fire-breathing Marxist. The activists had to thrash him, kick the renegade around, to illustrate their allegiance to the party. 

Today's rulers were yesterday's resisters. It was their resolve that K M Mani, finance minister, who was facing charges of graft, should not be allowed to present the budget. It was no bland appeal; it was a revolutionary decision to block his entry into the august assembly. Those who orchestrated the resistance revolution believed, of  course, stupidly, that they had enough physical prowess to rout the state's police.  Two scenes of that farce remain vignettes of my memory. In one, a woman legislator dug her teeth into another legislators arm. In the other, a doughty comrade was seen jubilantly pushing the speaker's high-backed chair down the rostrum. 

Time was when Vakkom Purushothaman ruled, let us say, the roost as the speaker. Following some commotion, he sternly suspended four members including Marxist militant M V Raghavan. His party would not approve of the speaker's order. Raghavan led what could be called Operation Vakkom, trying to force their entry into the assembly. Vakkom never brooked defiance. His order to assembly guards was to let no suspended member get into the assembly hall at any cost. They obeyed the speaker's order meticulously. In the melee, one member, now a minister, Krishnan Kutty, had his hand grievously crushed in a closing door. 

MVR was himself the victim of a vicious assault by his former followers. He had changed his party and had a point or two to make when T K Ramakrishnan, home minister, was giving a garbled version of an incident involving him. Raghavan rushed down the aisle to force into the home minister's pocket. In a moment the enraged crowds of comrades swarmed around him, manhandling him, kicking him, lapsing into vituperative pyrotechnics. The victim was not ready to clear out, yielding to the massive attack. As he dared his tormentors, challenging his former followers to do him to death, speaker Varkala Radhakrishnan, adjourned the house. 

There were tides off the beach of Sankhumugham. MVR became a minister. The comrade crowd could not come to terms with his survival. They were determined to block his movement everywhere. Blocking a class enemy, physically, violently, if need be, was still the Marxist method of resistance. When he went to address a meeting in Koothuparamb, hyperactive comrades dared the police which opened fire, killing five workers. That was subject for a new movement of resistance.

Blocking anyone's way, preventing any assembly proceeding, is not the way of democracy, not exactly. Democracy is all about letting a contrary view to be expressed without hindrance. For participants in the democratic process, it will be useful to remember that militant or military moves against an established authority is not likely to succeed. 




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