Beef, Thoovanathumbikal and the fascist knock

‘Thoovanathumbikal’ is a film which gets mention in one out of every five Malayali conversations, especially during those seasons in which it rains hard. The nostalgia over that film got to such nauseating levels that many of us started running the minute someone uttered ‘Thoo’. But, today a small scene from that film has come to occupy the centre of a key debate happening in Kerala right now.

A few hours back Sreekumar Sekhar posted the above image, a screenshot of a scene from that film. It was shot in front of a banyan tree located inside the Kerala Varma College in Thrissur. This was 1987. It was just another banyan tree. Switch to 2015 and there is a high railing around the periphery and inside, just under the tree, is located a temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa . Nothing wrong with that, until you hear the complete story.

The state of the Banyan tree now

Recently, a group of students belonging to the SFI organised a beef festival at the college, in protest against the beef murder in Dadri. It was a peaceful affair until ABVP members barged in and created ruckus. It ended up in minor clashes. Newspapers like Mathrubhumi which makes ‘secular noises’ chose to publish just a photograph of ABVP members being chased away. The ABVP kids also burned down the college union office. The ‘impartial’ college management suspended just a few SFI students for the crime of eating beef inside the campus, which according to them is a ‘temple’.

This is where the earlier temple under the banyan tree comes in. According to students who passed out from there just a few years back, there was no such temple there. It is a recent construction and regular poojas started even more recently.
The college, managed by the Dewaswom Board, does not prepare non-vegetarian food in its canteen. But students were free to bring in non-vegetarian food.

Now, the ABVP and Yuva morcha have alleged that the beef festival (Which was not organised anywhere near this banyan tree) was aimed at hurting the sentiments of the Hindus. They have wilfully used the phrase ‘cow’s meat’ instead of beef in television and online discussions.

One of the lecturers of the college, Deepa Nishanth, took a strong stand against the action taken over the beef festival. She wrote in facebook — “I strongly disagree with the opinion that educational institutions should be like temples. Educational institutions should not be following temple practices. I saw many demanding that action should be taken against teachers supporting the beef fest. I wish my name would be right on top of the list of people to be ousted… I support strikes that are the necessity of the times.”

The post went viral and the ABVP and Yuva Morcha have demanded the management to take action against her. The management, waiting to please the saffronists, have ordered an enquiry against her. The social media has come out in support with the hashtag ‪#‎SupportDeepaNisanth‬ .

Today, we also heard the news of the management of the Sanskrit University in Kalady refusing permission for a seminar against fascism. These two instances are an answer to those who were questioning the need for protests like beef festival in Kerala. Secularism in Kerala started eroding several years back, only that a few noticed it. Now, it is at its weakest point. Those who are still waiting to hear the knock of fascism on their doors, please don’t. You won’t hear it, since they are already in, sitting across your dining table and keeping an eye on what you are eating. A stone, or a sword, is waiting for you.

PS- After seeing this image, the Kerala Sanghis might actually label Padmarajan, who directed the film, as an anti-national.