Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP) was constituted about a century ago to reform the Ezhava Hindu community. Now, after 60 years of neglect under various secular governments, Hindus of various denominations in Kerala are trying to come together on a common platform under the leadership of SNDP General How Kerala church perceives the attempts of Hindu Unity?
Secretary Vellapally Natesan, The ‘Samatva Munnetta Yatra’ (March for Equality) led by Natesan started onNovember 23 from Madhur in Kasargod district, Kerala and concluded on December 5th in Thiruvananthapuram.
Interestingly, on 4th December, a Malayalam daily (which claims to be independent but is owned by a Christian family) published an article by Father Paul Thelakat, Spokesperson of the influential Syro Malabar Church under the head “This isn’t democratic language of equality”
The original article is this – http://www.mangalam.com/opinion/383929
An almost literal translation of the article is as follows.
“Samatha Yatra led by Vellapally Natesan is moving through Kerala. Natesan is someone who keenly imitates the structure of the Church. I am happy that it is helpful for SNDP organisation. But maybe due to the peculiarities of our consumerist culture, he is in the grip of intense hatred. And he exhibits hatred towards church overtly and covertly. He says that the aim of his ‘Samathwa Yatra’ is to unify Hindus. But I think he has embarked on the unification yatra without knowing the essence of Hindu civilisation.
Because Hindu unity is not Hinduism. Hindu Unity is not a dream or vision in Hinduism.
Hindutvavadis say so (put forth the idea of unity) for political power. Because, there is nothing about unity or brotherhood in the origins of that civilisation. Brothers will unite even if their father is not good, because they are born of the same father. There is nothing that makes unity possible in Hinduism. They don’t believe in a common father. Even the Gods are different. Equality and fraternity require a common heritage. There is a common heritage and one God behind French revolutionary ideals like equality, fraternity, and liberty. Islam too has these. But there is no unifying concept in Hinduism. There is hierarchical discrimination even in the birth from Brahma.
The ideals of Hindu Unity which Vellappally exhort are borrowed from neighbours. Uniting inherently divided people reminds of an old story repeating– story of the fox which got angry at the lamb which muddied the water. Anger is the craving to kill and eat. Nairs didn’t consider Ezhavas as equals; denied them entry into temples. So they built Ezhava temples which in turn denied entry to Paraya and Pulayas. Now Vellappally conducts Samathwa yatra as if Christians and Muslims are at fault for this. The question may arise; are Ezhavas Hindus? E Madhavan in his (book) ‘Swathanthrya Samudayam’ asserts that Ezhavas are Buddhists who came from Sri Lanka. It is clear from Sri Narayana Guru’s and Kumaran Asan’s writings too. In Kerala, Syrian Christians also have Buddhist ancestry. Their terminologies like ‘Palli, Appan, Muthappan’ and women’s traditional attire like `Mundu’ and `Chatta’ indicates the Buddhist influence. Buddhist heritage is of the sangha (community) and brotherhood.
It is Christians and Muslims, whom Vellappaly is ousting from unity. Under Brahminical rule, land was Brahma swam (property of brahmins) and Deva swam (property of gods). Ezhavas, Christians and Muslims were living solely out of agriculture leasing the land under the systems of `Pattam’, `kanam’, and `Vaaram’. Government jobs and land belonged to aristocracy…. It was E M S Namboothirippadu’s land reforms which secured these three communities their own agricultural land. The basis for this revolution in Kerala was foreign. During independence movement, people like Nehru discovered India in Renaissance humanism, a western concept. Moreover, the brotherhood created by the one god and the one parents of Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious tradition based on the faith of Abraham. Ezhava renaissance too is related to Communism which is also part of the same stream.
Ezhava community had once considered joining the Church. Later many of them came under the umbrella of communism. This renaissance was not from any Hindu value. If Father Chavara and Mother Theresa brought about miracles in Indian society, it is the outcome of Christian humanism. If It is not from Hindutwa’s Gharwapasi, but because (poet) Changampuzha and (writer) Thakazhi imbibed the humanitarian ideals of communism that Malayapulayan got the rights of the banana he cultivated and son of a scavenger was recognised as a human too.
In independent India, Ezhavas, Christians, and Muslim grew under the progressive outlook. Christian educational institutions were born. `Pallikkodam’s (schools) that were built alongside churches founded by Father Chavara were not meant to teach only Christians. Hindus and Muslims also developed by learning from those schools. Muslims became more interested in education only now. Recently, Christians, especially the Catholic Church took interest in job-oriented higher education institutions. Self-financing institutions was a key step forward in Kerala’s development. Church started self-financing institutes not to flaunt money, but to fulfil a social need. Hence, the allegation that Church was doing business and used minority rights to make money are nothing but borne out of severe hatred.
When Church stepped into this field, all those temples which house tonnes of gold and riches were sitting idle like the ghost guarding the gold. Money is not enough, one also needs a vision which can do well to people. Ezhavas are not poor in Kerala’s consumer market. One needs to learn to see what lies beneath them too. There are people weaker than Ezhavas and this includes some Christians too. Poverty and weakness have no religion. The focus should be on development of all, especially the weaker sections and not Hindu Unity. This is a matter of justice.
We have to go forward, not backwards. Equality is an ideal yet to achieve. The objective should be this equality, but for that the way out is not to travel back to ‘chaturvarnya’. The language of Hindu unity isn’t that of equality or democracy. There is no assurance that the government they will bring about will be democratic. Will equality be ushered in by drowning Christians and Muslims in the Arabian Sea? Democracy is a prayer and a blessing; democracy which is the outcome of the combined force of peoples freedom and rationalism. That can be achieved only when people like Vellappally speak the language of democracy. It is not the order of hierarchy of nature. It is the lifestyle of human qualities like common sense, civilised discourse and mutual respect. It pains me to write that Vellapally’s language is not of this democratic culture. Let the language be of equality and fraternity. As a Christian, I never learn to define brotherhood based on religion and caste, which is why I write this note in fellowship.