Part 1 – How the Indian Communists embraced Islamists?



The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) was founded in 1948 in Madras by the remnant Indian members of the All India Muslim League, led by M Mohammed Ismail, “to advance ..[the interests] of Muslims in the Union”.

There was division in the party over alliance with the Congress. But the League demands before the 1952 general elections were refused by the Congress high command.

The formation of the Kerala state, which included the Malabar region, which had a substantial Muslim population, altered the course of their politics. In the first Kerala State Legislative Assembly Elections held in 1957, the Communist Party of India (CPI) came into power. The state government implemented a radical agenda that led to dissatisfaction from social groups such as the Nairs and the Christians, leading to the Liberation Struggle, with much help from the CIA.

The Kerala unit of the Muslim League allied with the Congress and the then-existing Praja Socialist Party (PSP) to form a joint committee to pull down the Communist government, which eventually happened in July 1959. In the subsequent 1960 elections, the PSP, the IUML, and Congress allied and swept the polls. However, the IUML did not get cabinet positions in the eventual government. Instead, KM Seethi Sahib of the party was given the Speakership.

The alliance eventually broke down, and the League exited the partnership in 1961.

The year 1964 was a turning point in the political history of Kerala and that of the Communist Party. The United Communist Party split into two, which led to the formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The differences of opinion in the party began as early as 1962. The conservative section of the CPI rallied behind the Nehru government. By 1964, the discrepancies between the communists had become irreconcilable. The famous walkout of 32 members of the CPI at the National Council meeting in Delhi happened that year. This was later followed by the founding of the CPI (M).

In the Assembly elections of Kerala held in 1965, no party was able to gain a majority. Political parties were not willing to form a coalition, and hence the Assembly in 1965 was declared void. From 1965 to 1967, the state was under President’s rule. In 1967, the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) took the initiative to break the ice between the CPI and CPI (M).

MN Govindan Nair was the tallest leader of the CPI, and EMS Namboodiripad was that of the CPI (M) in the state. The idea of the RSP was to form a solid front to resist Congress. During this time, the CPI (M) had formed the Sapthakakshi Munnani (a coalition of seven parties). There were only 134 legislators at that time in the Assembly.

RSP’s efforts to reconcile the differences of opinion between the CPI and CPI (M) were successful. Apart from CPI (M) CPI and RSP, the other parties were Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the Indian Socialist Party (ISP), Kerala Socialist Party (KSP) and Karshaka Thozhilali Party (KTP). The coalition won 117 (including four independents) out of the 133 seats. EMS was sworn in as the Chief Minister for the second time on March 6, 1967. League had contested in 15 seats, winning 14. Under this ministry, the infamous decision was taken to carve parts of Palakkad and Kozhikode districts to create a Muslim-majority Malappuram district.

But even before completing 30 months, conflicts surfaced in the Front. The coalition couldn’t tolerate the differences of opinion between the CPI and CPI (M).

EMS had said that he would take care of the ministry like his own eyes during the swearing-in, but soon fights erupted. The different parties started accusing each other of corruption, and public spats ensued. The government fell 32 months after assuming power, on October 24, 1969. Following this, the CPI, RSP, IUML and ISP left the coalition.

Thus, for the first time in 1967, two Muslim League members became ministers in a Kerala cabinet: CH Mohammad Koya (Education) and MPM Ahmed Kurikkal (Panchayat, Fisheries).

Koya retained the education portfolio subsequently under K Karunakaran and AK Antony. He also became the CM of Kerala for a short while in 1979. He played an essential role in establishing Calicut University. He became a member of the Kerala State Assembly in 1957 after being elected state secretary of the Muslim League. For the next 22 years, he continuously served as a member of Parliament or state legislator.

The 1967 EMS Cabinet

On April 26, 1967, the government issued the order to lift the liquor ban. In the policy document issued by the Front in 1966, it had said that “abandoning of liquor ban will be re-examined as it was a complete failure”. Interestingly the document supported the lifting of the ban not in an open manner but very subtly. It said, “The issue will be re-examined considering the ill effects of consuming hazardous foreign liquor. To avoid using foreign liquor, measures will be taken that will also curtail the ill effects of drinking to the maximum.” The silence on the liquor ban during election time avoided any issues that may put Muslim League in trouble since it was opposed to liquor consumption on religious grounds.

The Malappuram district, the centre of the Mappila rebellion, was formed just three months before the government’s fall, on June 16, 1969.

Malabar remained a part of the state of Madras for a few years after the declaration of Indian independence. Malappuram was one of the five revenue divisions in the Malabar district with the taluks of Eranad (headquartered at Manjeri) and Valluvanad (headquartered at Perinthalmanna) under its jurisdiction, while the other four being Thalassery, Kozhikode, Palakkad and Fort Cochin. Later in 1956, Malabar merged with the erstwhile state of Travancore-Cochin to form Kerala following the linguistic reorganization of states. The newly merged Malabar was divided into Kannur, Kozhikode, and Palakkad in 1957. The Eranad taluk of the erstwhile Malappuram revenue division was added to the new Kozhikode district and Valluvanad taluk to Palakkad. Large-scale changes in the territorial jurisdiction of the region took place between 1957 and 1969. On January 1, 1957, the Tirur sub-district was formed by adjoining major Eranad and Ponnani subdistricts. Another portion of the Ponnani sub-district was carved out to create the Chavakkad sub-district (in Thrissur district), and the remainder is the present-day Ponnani. Perinthalmanna was formed by carving out some portions from the erstwhile Valluvanad subdistrict. Eranad and Tirur sub-districts remained in Kozhikode district, while Perinthalmanna and Ponnani sub-districts continued in Palakkad.

The district of Malappuram was formed with four subdistricts (Eranad, Perinthalmanna, Tirur, and Ponnani), four towns, fourteen developmental blocks, and 95 Gram panchayats at the time. Later, Tirur Taluk was bifurcated to form Tirurangadi Taluk, and Eranad Taluk was trifurcated to form two more Taluks namely Nilambur and Kondotty.

Thus, Muslims became a vote bank for Marxism, an outdated ideology, and the Communist Party, a relic of Soviet authoritarianism.

Courtesy – Hamlet in Monsoon )

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