The Razor’s Edge

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It’s what the liberal-minded must navigate on DYFI turf

Paul Zacharia

Fiction writer and essayist

THE MOST important lesson I learnt from my encounter with the goons of the DYFI (Kerala CPM’s youth wing) was that the borderline between what is known as manhandling and coldblooded murder is razor thin. Manhandling is just a foretaste of the other real thing – a rehearsal; a pointer. It would take only one small wrong turn from you or them for the whole thing to slip into murder-mode.

Of course this doesn’t mean only the CPM uses goondas. All parties do. And they all protect their goons like a mother her babies. Youth wings like the DYFI are multipurpose vehicles. They are used to collecting funds with that extra touch of force; they constitute a ready-made crowd when the occasion demands; and they are the breeding grounds where future ‘leaders’ are bred and trained to become the kind of politicians we are so sickeningly used to. They are also respectable goondastables. Without the DYFI and the SFI (the student wing) the CPM is as good as a horse without legs.

There were times when the SFI and the DYFI had exhibited some sort of a progressive outlook. They could get along with differing points of view. Kerala’s Minister for Education and Culture, MA Baby, is a good example of that generation. He’s able to bridge that difficult gap between being a Marxist ideologue and a culturally sensitive person. But in the new Armageddon of the CPM men like him are liabilities.

In the old style, I would not have been physically attacked. I would have been heckled as I made my speech; or if a CPM comrade or fellow-traveller were on the stage, he would have launched a strongly worded critique after my speech and matters would rest there.

But things have changed. As CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said, if you go amongst Christians and criticise Jesus or go before Muslims and criticise Allah and an ‘emotional reaction’ — meaning violence — follows, just blame yourself. In the same way if you go to a Marxist fortress like Payyannoor and criticise Marxists, you get what you deserve — a dose of manhandling. Or, if the script justifies it, death.

In my case it was an issue of sex! A couple of weeks ago the DYFI had attacked a Congressman and molested his woman friend, accusing them of ‘immoral activities’, when they were resting during a car journey. The police arrested the two, not the attackers! I had pleaded their case saying that nothing in the Indian Constitution or the penal code justified the DYFI act. It was a plain case of brutal violation of fundamental rights.

It was my restating this point at Payyannoor, a small town that lies in Malabar’s CPM heartland where only the party’s writ runs, that got the comrades raging.

It began with a single comrade’s redeyed threat of retribution when the meeting concluded. An hour later, as we were getting into the car to go to the railway station, the DYFI struck. The car key was snatched, we were surrounded and the show began. I was told in eloquently four-lettered terms that I cannot leave Payyannoor alive after defaming DYFI. Then one comrade decided to be more explicit and grabbed me by the neck and shoved me. I was a nice and obedient puppet in communism’s secular-democratic hands for a few minutes. Then we were roughly pushed into the car and off we went!

I did not forget to whisper my thanks to Prakash Karat for letting me live. After all Kerala is his last ray of hope. Perhaps they still need a writer or two, who knows! .

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