Sunday, April 6, 2008

Poster girl of kerala's Naxalism

Kerala’s Naxalbari: Memoirs of a young revolutionary, Ajitha, translated by Sanju Ramachandran, Srishti, Rs. 195. It may not be worth much but it is a testimony to Ajitha that a random Google search of just her name brings up correct links in the first instance itself. No need to add either her initial or key words like Naxalite (the movement she was associated with in the 1960s) or P.K. Kunhalikutty (the powerful former Indian Union Muslim League minister in Kerala whose involvement in the ice cream parlour sex racket she tried to expose in 2005).

A familiar name in Kerala — courtesy her role in the Pulpally revolt in which she along with other Naxal comrades stormed a police station 40 years ago — it was her campaign against Kunhalikutty three years back that got her some national attention after the late 1960s when newspapers had flashed photographs of a defiant Ajitha under arrest.

Though the translation itself leaves much to be desired, Sanju Ramachandran and Srishti Publishers must be thanked for making Ajitha’s memoir accessible to a larger audience. So what if Ajitha has since moved away from Naxalism and become a feminist, there can be no denying the spirit that saw a school girl choosing revolution over a comfortable and carefree existence.

Not the best of reads — replete as it is with revolutionary rhetoric besides a touch of self-glorification — Ajitha’s memoir, however, doubles up as a window into the mind of a foot soldier of the short-lived Naxal movement of Kerala.

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