Saritha S. Nair and the Mutiny 2013

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Does what happen now in anyway correspond to what happened before? Let me put the question another way—is our present influenced by past or history?

Let’s buckle the seat belt, here we go.

Much like any other democracy, in Kerala too, it is very common among people to come out on the streets to protest against the policies of the government. On a moderately bright day in June, in the year 2013, a large crowed swarmed on to the streets in Trivandrum, the capital city of Kerala, a small state in India, situated along the western cost, like a stripe in green. They threw stones at the police and the police threw grenades and teargas shells in return, at the mob.

The cause of the protests was a controversial revelation that broke out through some television quasi-news channels, the previous night. The Chief Minister of the state was accused of misleading a businessperson to invest money with a solar panel distributor. People associated with the solar panel company were recently arrested for playing fraud and stashing the money. The businessman maintained that the CM’s opinions about the company influenced his decision to invest money in the company.

The CM, at first, denied meeting with this man and the head of the solar panel company, Saritha S. Nair. Later, after the news revelation, of course, he had to back off from his previous statements. This was the final blow. Previously, the personal staff of the CM’s office were also either arrested or removed from their respective positions, due to illegal involvement with Saritha and her partner Biju and their solar panel company. According to the CM and the government, the CM met the businessman for some other purpose on another day, which was not the day mentioned by the businessman. The ruling party also declared that Saritha was not with the businessman, either, when he met the CM.

The ball had started rolling and it was unstoppable. The next day of the news telecast, the youth wing of the opposing parties came onto the streets.

When I was coming out of a restaurant after my lunch, I saw newsflash saying, ‘street war in Trivandrum’. There was a lot of smoke, blood, dust, and people. They announced a Hartal for the next day as well, asking for the resignation of the CM.

Needless to say, I was taken back to an event that occurred almost two centuries back in India; the Great Mutiny of 1857. I address the present events in Kerala, a Mutiny mostly because ‘mutiny’ is no longer a derogatory word. Our revolutionary nostalgia is associated with this word.
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Many scholars identify this Indian uprising against the British as the first war against the British. Initially it was termed Sepoy Mutiny, but later the former version was accepted, which was more romantic. Indian freedom struggle benefited greatly from the argument that in 1857 Indians fought their first battle against the British. It sounds rather like a consolation, though. We had fought and failed in 1857. Even if we fail in the current struggle, no one can blame us for under-performance. This might have been the thought behind celebrating the mutiny. The failure in 1857 had given purpose to the freedom struggle that followed.

Failed mutinies have a charm. They become tragic memories, and give us each year an anniversary to mourn for. In victory, some people often forget to learn, however, in failure, learning surely happens and the memory remains fresh throughout as something to be amended. If what happens at present in Trivandrum becomes a failed mutiny, it may inflame certain other more harmful trends. Meaning, if the government takes control of the situation, by suppressing the unrest, it will burn for a long time. If the government doesn’t, again, ‘the street war’ would continue and become more barbaric. It’s time to stop the ride and look for answers. Where would our first impulse lead us, in the search for answers?

Are we realizing that past has its fingers behind the ventriloquists of the present? Can we look back into the history and find answers for the present?     


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