Dangerous Liaisons: When your Father is an Urban Naxal
In 1991 my father, a lifelong communist, took me to the holy of holies of the CPM – AKG Centre in Trivandrum. This is literally the Kerala communist’s war room, where senior comrades work, eat, sleep – and occasionally plot against the Indian nation state.
A bit of background about why we were there in the first place and why we were allowed inside the CPM party headquarters. My father belongs to a traditionally Marxist voting family from Kerala. During the 1950s when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had banned the communist party and ordered the arrest of the party leadership, it was in the attic of our three-storey family home that E.M.S. Namboodiripad and senior party colleagues had taken refuge. The house was chosen because the ‘petty bourgeois’ location was considered the least likely place the police would search for communists. Because of such clever and counter-intuitive thinking, the police were never able to apprehend the wily EMS.
You get the picture – for my father AKG Centre was like the mothership.
Like a child running excitedly in a toy store, my father moved from room to room, meeting old comrades and introducing himself to new politburo members. In one of the rooms there was an older but perky looking comrade, packing election material, which is a stock activity in all CPM offices across Kerala. (As party hacks like to boast, “The CPM is always prepared for elections.”) My father greeted him like he was meeting a war hero, which in a bizarre way he was.
After a couple of minutes catching up, my father turned towards me and said, “Do you know who this man is”, and then proceeded to answer his own question: “This is KN; in the early 1980s he escorted E.M.S. Namboodiripad (the late Kerala communist ideologue) to the China border where a Chinese army helicopter picked him up and transported him to Beijing for consultations.”
KN offered a bored smile, suggesting he was a humble party worker just doing his job. He didn’t seem the least bit discomfited by the revelation that he had taken part in what was an unequivocally traitorous and seditious act. At that moment, another CPM leader (and future Chief Minister) V.S. Achuthanandan and his wife appeared in the corridor. KN saw them and said to us, “Give me a minute, VS is leaving for the day, let me see him off.”
As the crusty comrade followed VS and his wife down the stairs, VS’s wife said, “Aiyyo, I forgot my pillow in the room.” KN ran back and returned with the pillow under his arm, and then opened the car door for the couple. Watching the scene from the first floor window, my father remarked, “Back in the day, KN’s community used to serve the Namboodiri. Look at him, his inner ‘sevakan’ nature kicks in and he’s carrying that pillow like VS’s servant.”
Had anyone else said this, I would have dismissed it as the rant of a casteist bigot, but this was startling, coming from a seasoned communist who by definition has no caste or religion. But such is the hypocrisy of the upper class Indian communist – they are neither communist in letter nor spirit; they are merely urban naxals who are hoping there will be a violent revolution that will destroy the Indian state and replace it with a “dictatorship of the proletariat”. For, that is exactly what my father dreamed of all his life.
Tikait to revolution
Sometime in 1987, Uttar Pradesh farmer leader Mahender Singh Tikait launched his campaign in Muzaffarnagar, demanding higher prices for sugarcane. When the central government did not agree, he decided to lay siege to the heart of Delhi. More than five lakh farmers were to land up on the Boat Club lawns, a couple of hundred metres from Parliament. At around 2.00 in the night as the first trucks packed with slogan shouting Tikait supporters started entering Delhi, my father woke up and rushed to our balcony, saying, “Has the revolution started?”
It was a purely comical moment. Imagine a Soviet style revolution happening in a region where there were exactly 12 communists in a 1,000 km radius. I couldn’t help shaking my head at my father’s naivety in thinking that a Russian style revolution could happen in an area with zero communist presence. I reminded him that this was a farm agitation by western UP farmers, not a popular uprising against the Centre. But my father was still peering into the night at the distant headlights of the trucks, trying in vain to catch the words “Inquilab Zindabad”. He had this intense expression on his face as if the long awaited overthrow of the Indian government of the feudal class was imminent. In his warped thinking, he had conflated a communist revolution on a farmer’s agitation that had a very narrow and even parochial focus. “This rajyam (country) will burn if the farmers rise up,” he said as he went back into his bedroom.
But Tikait’s farmers were only interested in better farm prices as farmers have demanded in all capitalist societies. Whether it’s the US, Japan or North Korea, farmers have rioted for higher prices or to keep imported farm products out. But incredibly, my father was so brainwashed by the incredibly daft Marxist books (Lenin, Collected Works, 24 Volumes) and newspapers such as ‘Deshabhimani’ which he read all the time that his secular education (gold medallist from Madras University and PhD in engineering from Berlin’s Humboldt University where Einstein had studied) did not help him understand the dynamics of India’s polity and society.
Pining for red terror
My father would go into a state of virtual rapture every time the CPM held a rally in Delhi. “We will show Delhi our strength,” he was fond of saying, as his chest swelled with pride. Once he met CPM politburo member E. Balandan on a flight to Cochin, and said to him: “You must paint Delhi red.”
He was also fond of saying how violently CPM goons had suppressed the RSS cadres in northern Kerala. When other family members explained to him how it was because of the organisation that Hindus were able to stave of ethnic cleansing by the Muslims in Malabar, he would nod his head and say, “I agree but the RSS must be used as a medicine, not as food.”
At family gatherings, he was always talking about the need for a Soviet style October Revolution in India that would kill all the kulaks (landed gentry) and create a paradise of the proletariat (working class). That he is one of the leading landowners in our ancestral village and would therefore be among the first to be shot or bludgeoned to death if a Lenin or Pol Pot emerged as the ruler of India somehow never occurred to him. Irony becomes a casualty when Marxists start talking. A bit like Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan claiming Kerala has India’s best medical facilities and then going to the US – the Marxist equivalent of Satan’s abode – for medical treatment.
Marxism had influenced my father so much that he had no love for the country. Despite working in a leading Punjabi owned food, liquor and beverages company based in Solan, he never liked living in north India or had any local friends. When I was in Class XI, I told my father that I wanted to join the Indian Air Force as a fighter pilot and that he had to sign the National Defence Academy forms. This is the gist of the conversation:
Dad: Are you out of your mind, why do you want to join the air force?
Me: Because I love fighter aircraft.
Dad: I won’t allow it, flying jets is a dangerous profession.
Me: I don’t mind dying for the country.
Dad: Let north Indians die for the country. Why should people from Kerala die for India?
I never forgave him for that last line, but that pretty much summed up his outlook towards life. In this aspect, his behaviour is uncannily similar to that of Congress politician Mani Shankar Aiyar, who – as a Marxist student in London, UK – collected funds for the Chinese army during the 1962 India-China war. Aiyar is a classic example of an urban naxal; he’ll always be remembered (with contempt) for appearing on Pakistan TV and appealing to his incredulous hosts to help the Congress overthrow Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
And in the manner of anti-national journalists such as M.K. Venu and Shekhar Gupta, who feel the southern states should secede and form a United States of South India, my father would say in all seriousness, “We south Indians can do so much better if we can form an independent country.” And he would say this while drawing the highest salary in his company.
Being an urban naxal my father was an equal opportunity hater. In order to show off his family’s mythical social status, he would say before shocked family members and guests that in the 1940s when the poor dropped dead like flies in famines in Kerala, he and his parents would eat pickled goat meat. When others would argue it was nothing to be proud about and was downright reprehensible, he would say, “This is how the strong survive.” However, his claim was an outright lie because my grandfather would have never allowed such as thing, and people in my village still remember him fondly. In fact, my grandfather, who was inspired by Sree Narayana Guru, opened the village school for members of the Veton (dalit) community and offered them a seat on our family temple committee.
Brainwashing young minds
Not only was my father wedded to an evil, barbaric and western philosophy, he also tried to convert me to Marxism. His first line of attack was: “Today there is no poverty, caste discrimination or the mafia in Kerala because of the Marxist party.” This was another patent lie because caste is alive and kicking in Kerala. However, caste clashes and untouchability have disappeared, and that is because of the pioneering anti-caste efforts of Sree Narayana Guru, Chattambi Swami and Ayyankali. In fact, the CPM is among the most caste-bound parties in India. Its politburo not only comprises 100 per cent Brahmins, but since independence it has had virtually zero representation from among Dalits and OBCs.
When persuasion by words failed, my father changed tack. He tried to get me to read Soviet propaganda books which he bought by the ton from the Soviet Centre for Art, Science and Culture in Delhi. When I was in Class XI he insisted that I read Lenin’s biography because “you must get both sides of the story”. Fair enough. Plus I liked books anyway, so I started carrying the beautifully bound Raduga Publications tome in my school bag and read it while waiting for the school bus. But it was so mind-numbingly banal that after several weeks I hadn’t gone past the first chapter. It was literally the most boring and useless book I had read in my life. And this was in the entertainment starved days before cable TV, mobile phones and the internet when any book was a treasure.
I must add that my father is an extremely religious person who prays at least three times daily, visits temples and does puja and offerings. Funny enough, in 1991 when the Soviet Union self-destructed, he offered a Rs 100 puja at our family temple to bring down the Boris Yeltsin government. Appalled and ashamed, I quietly walked out. Minutes later when he came out, I said, “Assuming that offering a puja in a Kerala village would have an impact in Moscow, why would you want to reinstate communism in Russia when the Russians themselves don’t want it. Isn’t this like Gandhi supporting the Caliphate in Turkey after the Turks booted out the Caliph?”
Sidestepping the question, he replied: “Our devi is very powerful, Yeltsin cannot survive now. After he goes, real communism will come to Russia.”
Yeltsin was kicked out but only in 1997, and communism did not return to Russia. It probably never will.
For all his godliness, my father never gave us any religious books to read despite our constant requests to bring the Vedas or Upanishads while returning from his business trips to Mumbai or Chennai. However, credit where it is due – he never banned us from reading our favourite Amar Chitra Katha, Chandamama, Parag, Madhu Muskan, Lot Pot, Diamond Comics, Superman, Tarzan, Spiderman, Sad Sack, Richie Rich, MAD and the dozens of other ‘petty bourgeois’ titles we children read. Incidentally, the one magazine he really hated was MAD which – again ironically – was a liberal, left of centre publication.
Maoists amidst us
When I started my professional career as a journalist, I realised that the urban naxal (a term which did not exist then) wasn’t an uncommon phenomenon in Delhi’s urbane society. The ease with which anti-nationals are able to operate in the heart of the national capital and gain access to the corridors of power in New Delhi is illustrated by this incident.
In December 2005, a woman activist from an eastern Indian NGO approached a Delhi-based editor, who moonlights as an events manager, to conduct a seminar at the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. According to the editor, the woman was the typical unkempt, grunge looking, starched cotton sari wearing leftist. “Had she been carrying a jhola, the picture would have been complete,” he said. “It was as if a caricature or stereotype had assumed life and walked into my office.”
As would be expected from a seminar in the national capital, the woman told the editor that some noted politicians, academics and journalists were to be invited. The editor said that would not be a problem and a fee of Rs 70,000 was agreed upon.
One of the editor’s key contacts was a senior official in the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, a Congress dominated organisation. This official managed to invite a couple of top level Congress leaders to the event. The seminar went off smoothly, with participants from various organisations. Despite the un-glamorous subject, bottom feeders from the Lutyens Delhi media came in reasonably good numbers, probably enticed by the sumptuous buffet. The NGO’s senior members took the opportunity to get themselves photographed with Congress leaders.
Turns out, the photo-op was exactly what the NGO was after. This is how the rest of the story pans out.
When the editor sent in his bill, the courier company returned the envelope with the message that the NGO had vacated its office. When he called the woman on her mobile phone, she said she was travelling to her HQ in an eastern Indian state but promised to pay him the money after she returned.
Two weeks later when the editor called her again, she seemed irritated and asked him to stop bothering her. When he said that he was only calling to get his fee, she told him bluntly, “Look, by calling me repeatedly you are only putting your life in danger.” When he asked what she meant, she said, “The NGO I work for is a front for Maoists.”
The editor was predictably alarmed and said he would forget about the money she owed him. He ran a small magazine and did not want to be tainted by any link with the Maoists. However, he did ask her one final question: “You are obviously well funded, so why don’t you pay people for their services?”
The woman replied that it was quite simple – not paying was their way of showing their “class enemies” their place. She then boasted how her organisation operated.
The NGO’s job, the woman revealed, was to develop links with journalists and use them to get close to senior political leaders. Often the politicians would not even remember the NGO’s name, but that didn’t matter, as the photographs taken at seminars, meetings and forums were all that mattered. These were used to establish that the NGO was a legitimate organisation which was ‘close’ to top Indian leaders. Armed with these photographs, they tried to influence the United Nations, international development organisations, aid agencies and the foreign media.
The woman ended the call with an offer he could have hardly refused: “Forget about us or the Maoists will kill you.”
How to weed out urban naxals
The recent arrest of so-called activists by the Maharashtra Police has revealed a direct connection between Maoist terrorists on the ground and urban naxals in the metro cities who supply them with weapons and funding to wage war against India. While the Maoists have been defeated several times by the paramilitary forces, their urban brains trust has been allowed to function without much disruption. Such indulgence is unheard of in the world except India where these diehard enemies of the nation are allowed to live amidst us and work for the destruction of one of the world’s most pacifist and liberal societies.
The urban naxals are working closely with a number of groups that want to balkanise India – European and American NGOs, Indian Christians and Muslims, communist parties, the leftist media, Pakistan and China. While the intention of all of these groups is well known and they are easy to identify, the urban naxal mixes casually within society and secretly plots against it. He or she is hard to spot. Before the Maharashtra Police exposed their links with Naxalite terrorists, how many had heard of Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonzalves, Arun Farreira, Rona Wilson, Sudha Bhardwaj and Gautam Navlakha? Except the last named (who had been previously outed for his connections with Pakistan’s ISI spy agency) the rest were classic urban naxals who operated anonymously and had excellent cover as activists, poets or professors.
Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman statesman, who served as consul in the year 63 BCE, wrote: “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.”
Urban naxals are people who are detached from reality. Brainwashed and stuck in a time warp, they are wedded to Lenin and Mao’s Red Terror tactics. In view of the danger they pose to India, here is a beginner’s guide to weed out these traitors:
- Urban naxals are cowards who don’t have the courage to fight or the strength to pick up a gun. They prefer to work in air conditioned offices which means they need to enter the corporate world. If you are a CEO or hiring manager, you can ascertain their intentions at the interview stage. Enquiring about their family background is a must; if they have any history with communism, then it should raise red flags.
- It has come to light in recent years that certain academic institutions have turned into breeding and hiding places for urban naxals. As professors in these institutions can mould innocent and well-meaning youth into urban naxals, graduates from such colleges should be thoroughly screened for signs of sedition. Remember, you might want to give them a break, thinking you cannot judge someone because of their background, but if morning shows the day, the graduates from these universities are more likely to join up with Breaking India forces. Years from now if they manage to explode bombs in a packed commuter train or a crowded market or bring down an airliner, it’ll be because you thought what harm could a 21 year old do. Think about it – your son or daughter could be on that flight or train.
- A corporate version of the catechism will filter out most potential urban naxals. Ask them about their views on Karl Marx, Lenin, Mao, Nehru, Gandhi, Che Guevara, Afzal Guru, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the Sikh terrorist mastermind Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala – if these are their heroes then you should politely show them the door.
- The default setting for jobs in universities should be nationalist. After all, the vast majority of Indians are patriotic and it is from their taxes that university professors are paid. So what right does an urban naxal have to draw a salary from the state and then work for its destruction? In this backdrop, university professors should be constantly monitored for signs of pro-terrorist activity by the vigilance department.
- Schools textbooks should explain to young minds the uselessness of communism and the danger posed by naxalites. If they are forewarned they are forearmed. By the time they enter college, they are in the hands of naxalite professors.
- Doordarshan must produce programmes about the failure of communism in Russia and Eastern Europe and how China has moved to a capitalist economy and given the command economy the boot.
- School textbooks must have chapter on the Indian economy – how it was the world’s richest country for 1700 of the last 2000 years when it was capitalist and Hindu; how it became the poorest under Christian British rule; and how under socialism for 60 years it remained poor and backward; and how India is once again becoming wealthy because of capitalism.
Editor’s Note: A generalization about people from Bengal/Kerala was carried in the earlier version of the article, which was not factual. This has been removed. Editorial oversight regretted.
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