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Print edition : April 11, 1998
E.M.S. Namboodiripad

May I join the millions of people mourning the death of E.M.S. Namboodiripad by sharing the following information with readers and continuing a debate with EMS although he is no more with us ("Farewell to EMS", April 17).

In his column of April 3, 1998 in this magazine, he reviewed my book Ideological Choices in Post-Soviet Russia. EMS and I were not personally acquainted, our only meeting having taken place 28 years ago. I had not sent him this book, I had not asked anybody to request him to review it; I had merely suggested to the publishers that they send him a complimentary copy as he would certainly be interested in it. Yet he sent me an advance copy of his review, both in English for Frontline and in Malayalam for the Deshabhimani weekly, with a personal letter informing me of his disagreement with me.

I was deeply moved by this act of exquisite courtesy by one who was four decades my senior; I was about to send him a reply when I saw the newsflash announcing his death. Let me then share with the readers of Frontline what I was about to write to EMS, and let us thereby share the illusion, for a brief moment through debate which he would have welcomed, that he is still with us.

I had written the book as four chapters, one on each of the ideologies - Communism, liberalism, nationalism and Eurasianism. According to EMS' reading of it, I have argued that the choice before Russia is between a return to Soviet Communism and one of the other ideologies. However, I had argued that there was no question of restoring Soviet Communism, that a transformed Communism was now evolving, but that it would continue to play a most important role in post-Soviet Russian politics by absorbing many features from other ideologies. EMS and I are therefore in agreement that (a) there can be no restoration of Soviet Communism and (b) Communism would absorb significant postulates of the other ideologies. I am sure we are in disagreement as to what was to be absorbed and the manner of absorption; sadly however, we cannot pursue the dialogue any further.

Madhavan K. Palat New Delhi

The articles and editorial on EMS were a fitting tribute to a truly great son of India. My brother and myself were active in the student movement in Travancore State from 1945 to 1949 and had the opportunity to know EMS fairly closely. I vividly recollect a few incidents that illustrate his noble character and commitment to the cause he espoused.

We were the first, along with P.K. Vasudevan Nair and other friends, to convey the news of Gandhiji's assassination to EMS, who was staying in a modest hostel in Thiruvananthapuram. He was stunned, but recovered his poise in a few minutes and started consulting his party colleagues such as K.C. George on the action to be taken to meet the situation. The Communist Party then organised big demonstrations against communalism.

A couple of days earlier, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) men, armed with sticks, had attacked students who were demonstrating peacefully against a rally addressed by M.S. Golwalkar. In those days, the RSS had no soft front. It was virulently anti-Muslim. The student community was thirsting for revenge and an opportunity presented itself when the RSS links of the assassin became known. Quite a few RSS men were roaming in Thiruvananthapuram and a large contingent was at the railway station. But for the restraint exercised by EMS and his colleagues such as K.C. George, the attacks on the RSS men would have been severe and widespread.

Another incident relates to an Assembly election in Alappuzha. The CPI candidate was T.V. Thomas, a popular labour leader, and the Congress had put up K. Ramakrishna Pillai, a political heavyweight. In a fair election Thomas would have won. Around noon on polling day CPI workers rushed to the party office and wanted permission to resort to the same foul tactics that were being employed by Congress workers to rig the election. EMS and K.C. George, however, said 'No'. I was witness to this incident.

Despite a stammer EMS had a great ability to hold the attention of his audience.

Those who differed from him and even those who were strongly opposed to his views held him in high esteem because of his spartan simplicity, high integrity, awesome scholarship and other qualities. The spontaneous outpouring of grief in Kerala on his death is proof of this.

J.N. Iyer Chennai

You have done justice to E.M.S. Namboodiripad, one of the most illustrious and distinguished sons of India, by featuring his demise as a Cover Story.

All that I knew about EMS was through my parents and through the highly informative columns of Frontline. The "glorious and multifaceted" life of EMS was revealed to me only after I read this issue of Frontline.

Fathima Diana Mohin Bangalore

"For the intellectual the task, I believe, is explicitly to universalise the crisis, to give greater human scope to what a particular race or nation suffered, to associate that experience with the sufferings of others." This is how Edward W. Said helps us to understand an intellectual. EMS belongs to the group of moral agents named intellectuals. He was never a servant of power.

EMS was, as your Cover Story has put it, an "anti-imperialist and freedom fighter, social reformer, historian, writer, journalist, thinker and theoretician". He was indeed sui generis. He is something more than the father of the radically organised social structure of the modern State of Kerala. He was to Kerala what Antonio Gramsci was to Italy.

Acting his role as the only consciously reflective social analyst in Kerala, he gave us a very particular specimen of social movement, which was solely responsible for the cultural formation of present-day Kerala. He made us immune to the virtual world of "strange realities", whether it is post-Holocaust amnesia, Disneyland, cyberspace or Fukuyama.

Although Kerala is the largest consumer State in India in the age of mass consumerism, it has better immunity to the mono-cultural prevalence of free market capitalism. Thank EMS.

Now EMS, the activist intellectual, is history. There are numerous intellectuals, as well as endless interpreters of Marxist thought. But EMS was different.

I would like to thank you for your special EMS coverage. The apt tribute from Frontline was as expected.

Kamal Ram Sajeev Kozhikode

The news of the demise of the towering Left leader came as a shock to the readers of his highly relevant and contemporary articles in each issue of Frontline.

Namboodiripad served the CPI(M) as well as the country's politics untill he breathed his last (as, according to Prakash Karat, he was dictating articles just before his death). The country has lost a leader of unparalleled qualities.

His article about 'reformed Communism' ("Ideological choices", April 3, 1998) is an indication of his deep-rooted belief in the eternal relevance of Communism as an ideal.

Sheojee Singh Patna EMS on river waters

I read with interest E.M.S Namboodripad's article "Centre, State and river waters" (April 17). What strikes the mind first is the fact that he does not deny that the waters of Kerala rivers are not utilised fully and that much of it flows into the sea. His argument is that diversion of Kerala rivers would result in the saline water of the Arabian Sea getting into the freshwater of Kerala rivers which would turn paddyfields into deserts. It is not clear whether there is any scientific study to support this argument. It would be good if an expert in river water management can throw light on the truth or otherwise of this theory.

Namboodiripad has wondered how the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), which stands for State autonomy and opposes centralisation, can demand the transfer to the Centre of the existing rights of the States over the utilisation of river waters. As far as I know, the AIADMK has not made any serious demand for the transfer of more powers to the States. It is the DMK that has been persistently demanding State autonomy, and not the AIADMK. However, assuming that the AIADMK also stands for State autonomy, it is not clear how the demand for making the Centre the authority to decide on the distribution of river waters to different States would amount to surrendering States' rights? Where interests clash it is but natural that there should be an independent authority to settle the issues arising thereby.

P.V. Velu Chennai Gundupatti

The atrocities unleashed by the police on the people of Gundupatti is a sad commentary on the style of governance in Tamil Nadu ("Mayhem in Gundupatti", April 17).

When people demanded basic amenities the Government turned a deaf earto it. To show their displeasure they decided to boycott the recent parliamentary elections. The elected representatives of the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and bureaucrats could have tried to meet their demands at least before the elections.

The Government's decision to send a four-member committee to the village and order a judicial inquiry is commendable. The Government should ensure justice to the victims of Vidhuthalai Nagar and Bharathi Nagar. Besides providing immediate relief to them, it should initiate long-term measures to create an atmosphere that will help the people live in dignity.

A.M.A. Raja Chennai Thein Pe Myint

"The Professor's predicament", the Burmese story by Thein Pe Myint, translated by Usha Narayanan (April 17), made interesting reading. The writer depicts a few moments from the routine life of the professor, and the emotion that unbalances the character in that particular situation.

T.V. Jayaprakash Palakkad Government by default

The Cover Story ("Government by default", April 3) gave an excellent account of the post-poll situation. Only the mutual dependence of coalition partners will provide stability. If they learn from past mistakes and learn to be interdependent instead of resorting to deceit and threat, then quite possibly history will not be repeated. "The hard and mighty shall fall; the flexible and yielding shall prevail" goes the saying. Is that not true?

R. Ramasami Tiruvannamalai

The poll strategists of the BJP deserve to be congratulated on hammering out a strategic alliance with the regional parties. The Congress party strategists miscalculated badly. The United Front constituents were also at loggerheads with one another at least in nine States. Barring the Left parties, the U.F. constituents failed abysmally to put up a meaningful challenge to their political adversaries wherever they were in a position to do so. The Congress(I) and U.F., instead of forging a pre-poll alliance on the basis of issues, are trying to close the stable door after the horses have bolted.

For the BJP, this Pyrrhic victory is the beginning of its woes. There is no common bond among the BJP and its coalition partners - where the BJP is the big brother whose hands are tied by the allies. Sooner or later these allies will turn out to be the proverbial millstones around the party's neck. Even the politically astute A.B. Vajpayee will not be able to contain these small parties' growing demands. The developments also give the non-BJP parties an opportunity to cooperate with one another.

Bichu Muttathara Pune

Many mistakes have been committed during the course of India's long history. Many stupas and other structures were either converted into or demolished and reconstructed as temples. The Babri Masjid is but one such example. In fact, there are historians who believe that a Buddhist stupa existed at the disputed site in Ayodhya. That does not mean that you should give undue publicity for the BJP.

You have been writing unfairly against the BJP. The Cover Story is a standing example. Leave alone the contents of the articles, the legend on the cover, "Government by default", is revealing. You had praise for the United Front Government. Yet you could not save it from disunity. When it came to power, coalition was the mandate. But when the BJP leads a coalition, it is by default. How can you defend Harkishan Singh Surjeet who opposed support to the Congress(I) before the elections but is prepared to join hands with the party after the elections? Who forced this election? Was it is the BJP or the Congress(I)? Or the United Front - its partners?

All the propaganda carried out by your clan in the name of secularism only made the people think: "Why not a chance to the BJP?"

K.C. Kalkura Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh

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