Thursday, September 07, 2006

After Vande Mataram muslim fanatics target Onam
By Easwaran Nambudiri

After opposing the recital of national song Vande Mataram, the Muslim fundamentalists have now targeted Onam, perhaps the most secular festival in the country after Republic Day and Independence Day.

Kerala’s renowned harvest festival has always been cited as a symbol of the state’s secular character as it has for centuries been celebrated by Hindus, Muslims and Christians alike despite its Hindu origins. The annual boat race, the traditional pookkalams (floral arrangements) and the ‘Ona Sadya’ (festival cuisine) associated with the event have come to be identified with Kerala’s culture itself. In fact, the state’s tourism season officially begins with the Onam festival.

However, the Muslim fundamentalists in the state, who are increasingly gaining strength, even electorally, under banners like the People’s Democratic Party, thought otherwise. The Muslim management of the AWH Engineering College at Kuttikattoor in the pre-dominantly Muslim Kozhikode district decided to prohibit Onam celebrations on the campus. Senior students had collected money for Onam celebrations last.

“The juniors were subjected to ragging during such celebrations and we wanted to prevent recurrence of such incidents,” was the specious response of College Principal Ahamed Kutty.

Defending the indefensible, AWH Secretary Muhammed said: “The decision to ban such celebrations is only to uphold college discipline.”

However, even as the secularist media which paint the town red when the Madhya Pradesh government decides to do away with some nursery rhymes or an insignificant poem on ‘Chacha’ Nehru, chose to maintain a dead silence. The students of the college responded by organising pookkalams (floral arrangements) outside the Principal’s room. As a novel way of protest, they organised similar arrangements in every room of the college. “Every Malayalee has the right to celebrate the festival, irrespective of caste and creed,” said a students leader.

Condemning the incident, BJP National Vice-President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told Organiser: “Unfortunately, today there is a competition to destroy the nation’s culture and identity. The so-called secularist mindset is gradually converting to separatist mindset.” The college management’s decision also came under attack from nationalist organisations in the state.

The national media may have played down the incident but they would do well to remember that the Marad killings, the Sabarimala controversy, the Kerala Assembly’s unanimous resolution demanding the release of Coimbatore blast accused Abdul Nasser Madani and the victory of extremist candidates defeating the ‘moderates’ in Malappuram district in the recent Assembly polls are not isolated incidents. They mark the turning points in the state’s emergence as a fundamentalist hub over the years. They represent the attempts to denigrate the Hindu religion. They reflect the efforts to tear apart the secular fabric of the most literate state in the country. The pseudo-secularists should understand that it is the mindset and not literacy that matters.


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