I am happy to be a part of this seminar being organised by the Delhi Union of Journalists in association with the National Alliance of Journalists. I say I am happy, because the issue being discussed in this seminar is the biased and one-sided reporting against Kerala in certain sections of the media, including national media.
Having picked such a topic, you who are organising it are acknowledging that there is a planned campaign against the state. Those of you who have come here to attend the seminar are also concurring with that fact. At a time when several media houses have been ferociously targeting Kerala, it is heartening that journalists themselves are coming out against this campaign against the state. It means that, despite the business interests of their employers attempting to paint a gory picture of the state, the employees are standing by the truth, as far as Kerala is concerned.
We live in times when there is a price to be paid for saying the truth. Voices of opposition or dissent are being threatened with dire consequences. We know how sedition charges were cooked up against our students. Cultural activists have also been threatened. The likes of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi, have even been murdered. In the recent past, even journalists have had to pay the price, like Gauri Lankesh and Shantanu Bhowmik did.
Why is the state of Kerala targeted? The answer is that, it is the state that champions the values that strengthen secularism, democracy and socialism. Be it communalism, demonetisation, neo liberalism or crony capitalism, Kerala is the state that raises the first voice of dissent. It is quite natural that those who are at the helm of affairs to get perturbed over this. Hence, the continued attack on Kerala.
The efforts to ridicule and intimidate Kerala has been going on ever since the elections to the state's Legislative Assembly were held last year. Kerala was equated to Somalia on Infant Mortality Rates, but the man who made that bizarre comparison felt the brunt of last year’s summer himself. Keralites across political divides and from around the world came together at that single stroke and ridiculed him with a trending hashtag. Figures were soon in circulation which showed that it was in fact the state from which he hailed, was a closer comparison to Somalia when it came to Infant Mortality Rates.
Next came demonetisation. This time the attack was not singularly on Kerala. It was an attack on the whole of the country. But the resistance to it spontaneously sprung up from Kerala, on the very same evening of its announcement. Soon, people across India started questioning the so-called gains of demonetisation. They soon realised that the cost that would incur in printing fresh notes would defeat even the so-called purposes behind the withdrawal of notes which were in circulation till that time.
Demonetisation brought the whole economy to a grinding halt. It took away the lives of more than hundred Indians as well. It miserably failed in curbing black money. To put it in a nutshell, demonetisation amounted to be a foolishness beyond imagination. It ended up as a disaster. What Kerala pointed out at that point of time, stands vindicated now. Neither the Centre nor the RBI has been able to convince the nation about its usefulness and even the Supreme Court has been left wondering about the quantum of black money that came back. It appears that the figures are not going to be made public in near future.
This was the second instance of Kerala speaking in one voice since last summer. This time around, Kerala was setting the tone of the resistance against the anti-people policies of the Centre. Alongside demonetisation came the veiled attack on Kerala’s cooperatives. They are the financial institutions that had been instrumental in making Kerala a financially inclusive society. Inequality in Kerala is far less than that of the so called ‘model’ states of India...
Contrary to what the anti-Kerala campaign said, later it was found that black money in huge volume was deposited in some of the institutions belonging to the areas from where this campaign emanated.
The people of Kerala came out in open support of their cooperatives, narrating stories of how it helped them to tide over their various financial crises. With Keralites unequivocally questioning the Centre’s unequal treatment meted out to the cooperative sector in the aftermath of demonetisation, even the Supreme Court felt the need to protect these people’s institutions. Once again, Kerala’s united voice steered the national discourse of resistance.
Then came the Gazette Notification on Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which amounted to a ban on beef. Yet again, Kerala protested it. Not only did the people throng beef fests, they also talked of how it is a violation of our federal principles, an intrusion into the states’ rights and how it will adversely affect the dairy, farming, meat and leather industries. The harm such restrictions would do to our most disadvantaged communities was also discussed. Other states soon followed suit and those behind it had to concede, saying that they will reconsider, based on inputs from the states. However, they have not moved towards it so far.
Earlier, a month-long campaign was carried out across India, on the threat to Hindu lives in Kerala. However, it did not yield much result. Their own leaders got into trouble by hurling death threats. Thus, came the national level campaign featuring the hashtag, 'Kerala Killing Fields' on social media and news televisions. Keralites en masse responded to this orchestrated campaign with spontaneity, featuring the hashtag 'Kerala Leads' and 'Kerala Number 1' profile pictures.
As part of a ‘yatra’ that is being held now in Kerala, national leaders including chief ministers of other states have resorted to a malicious campaign against the state. Leaders from states in which children and farmers were killed, came in quick succession as if they were to rescue the people of Kerala. Yet again, trending hashtags in social media welcomed them. They were ridiculed for bringing people from other states to conduct a rally in Kerala and were asked to set things right in their own states.
Irresponsible and dangerous statements were made by BJP leaders depicting Kerala as the hot bed of Islamic Terrorism. Slogans such as ‘Love Jihad’ was used to disrupt the centuries old communal harmony of the State. The BJP Yatra was routed through Vengara, the constituency where a by-election was held with provocative slogans but the result that has come out has shown where the BJP stands. Despite all these dirty tricks and attempts for communal polarisation, BJP has been relegated to the fourth position with much reduced vote share. This is a pointer and stern warning to the BJP, that they cannot mess up with Kerala.
It is needless to state that the people of Kerala extended a warm welcome to the BJP leaders who descended on Kerala in the name of the yatra and requested them to enjoy the state’s hospitality…
So much has been talked about the so-called violence in Kannur, the district from where I come. The historical facts, as well as, the statistics would expose the RSS claims. They had made numerous attempts to disrupt the communal harmony. In late 60s they raised a private army to take on the workers in the beedi sector who were agitating against the draconian working conditions. In the early 70s the RSS tried to create communal riots in Thalasery and Justice Vitayathil Commission had stated about the role of CPI(M) in defeating this heinous agenda. There after RSS has made series of attempts and every violence is a result of their grand plan in having a foothold in this district.
Everyone knows the role played by the RSS during the freedom struggle. Neither they participated nor they co-operated with any of the popular uprisings. In Kerala, they in fact, were against all reformist movements. The biggest contradiction now is that they want to appropriate the social reformers in the name of religion.
Let me get to some facts about Kerala now. No matter what the sponsored campaigns say, the facts remain unrefuted. Some time back, while speaking at the launch of the International Centre for Human Development, a collaboration of the United Nations Development Programme and the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies in Delhi, renowned Economist and Nobel laureate Prof. Amartya Sen had said that, ‘there is a lot to learn from Kerala in delivering quality life.’ Advocating the much acclaimed ‘Kerala Model of Development’ Sen also rolled out data which proved that we were far ahead of other Indian states in terms of social indicators. The state is also ahead in terms of the Human Development Index, the Public Affairs Index and has been rated as one of the least corrupt states in the country.
Kerala is a state that continues to lead the country in literacy and has become the first Indian state with high population density to become Open Defecation Free. Kerala became the only state in the country to achieve 100% electrification.
Kerala is the only state which has a population proportionate allocation, for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the state budget. In fact, Kerala even went to the extent of becoming the first to declare access to internet as a right to its citizens. The list of firsts associated to the state of Kerala is almost endless. It is the first state in India to have a transgender policy, and transgenders have been employed in the Kochi Metro. We are also the first to maintain a registry of sex offenders…
Giving further focus on women, Kerala even set up a separate department for them and reintroduced gender budgeting with a share of 16% in the state’s budget. We are also moving towards increasing the strength of women in our police force to 25%. We have a dedicated battalion that consists of only women. We also have police stations run entirely by women.
With the highest minimum wage in the country, Kerala attracts a large number of migrant labourers and even instituted a health insurance scheme for them. They are accorded a warm reception in the state and are treated at par with the fellow citizens. Yet, recently there was a heinous effort to spread fear among them, circulating fake images and voice messages on WhatsApp and other social media. But, all those who went to the ground to assess situations realised that there is no threat to migrant workers anywhere in Kerala…
(The second part of the speech by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will appear tomorrow)