Walls in the minds

Published : Nov 07, 2003 00:00 IST

THERE are no walls in Marad, only clusters of houses nestling in a seaside coconut grove. Here Hindus and Muslims coexist - of late not necessarily as friends. There has been a gradual polarisation of the two communities in the past few decades, as a recent study by a team of researchers of Calicut University has observed.

The village, separated from mainstream Kozhikode by the Kallai river, lacks facilities for big boats to dock on its coastline. The fishermen at Marad therefore depend on the fishing hubs at Beypore and Puthiyappa.

To a large extent, the only contacts that Hindus, predominantly of the Araya sect and of an insular disposition, have is with the people in Beypore and Puthiyappa. In contrast, Muslims have a thriving "organic" link with the rest of Kozhikode, which is predominantly Muslim. The study identifies the early 1960s as the time when the first signs of a divide became evident with the urbanisation of Kozhikode and the influx of people into Marad following the inauguration of a local water supply scheme. The consequent change in the lifestyles of Muslims, possibly also because of their links with the Gulf, sparked an atmosphere of competition between Marad's communities.

Over a period, with their sense of security increasingly threatened, both communities began to depend more and more on organisations within their own community for their economic and psychological needs, gradually rendering irrelevant the `sea courts', a traditional secular system of redressing grievances. Organisations like the `Marad Arayasamajam' and `Mahal committees' evolved as powerful social institutions that attempted to unify their own people and thereby divide them on religious lines.

With income from the sea dwindling, many Muslims sought employment in the Gulf and other places, and the unity a common means of livelihood brought was broken. The youth held back from involvement in festivals of the other community, and preferred to bond with their own, both within and outside the village.

The disparity in religious identity was reiterated by liberally displaying religious symbols and motifs on the walls of houses, organising religious festivals, and becoming active members of the Arayasamajam or the Mahal committee, which in turn were closely affiliated with mainstream religious groups and other communal organisations.

Fishermen of the same beach today owe allegiance to social and communal groups beyond their surroundings, while making enemies of their immediate neighbours. There are walls in Marad.

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