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Kerala Left Front 'supported' citadels of caste, patriarchy in illegal adoption case: Report

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan
By Rosamma Thomas, Rajiv Shah 
Renowned activists and academics Kalyani Menon Sen, Nivedita Menon, JM Rugma, Cynthia Stephen and Enakshi Ganguly in a report on the case of illegal adoption in Kerala that was in the news in December 2021 say the state's CPI-M government has refused to "challenge the citadels of caste and patriarchy."
In a report circulated by the authors, they say, "it is depressingly obvious" from what they have found that the Left Democratic Front (LDF), which is supposed to pursue "progressive" policies, has maintained silence on the societal norms that assert that "a relationship outside marriage is an unforgivable sin", or that pregnancy outside marriage is "the greatest possible shame for the family", and, worse, "a relationship between a savarna woman and a Dalit man is the ultimate crime."
Stating that these beliefs are seen as "fundamental to the preservation of Malayali society", the report, titled ‘A family matter? Caste-patriarchy-politics nexus in a case of illegal adoption in Kerala’, records how Anupama S Chandran, a 22-year-old mother, won back custody of her baby against heavy odds. She was pitted against her father and members of her own family, on the one hand, and the state administration, including police and the child rights panel, on the other.
Daughter of CPI-M leaders PS Jayachandran and Smitha James, Anupama had conceived the child while in a relationship with Ajith. Both of them were active in student politics. Anupama’s family was furious on learning of the pregnancy, not only because Ajith is a married man but also because he is Dalit. When attempts to separate the couple failed, the family lured Anupama back home on the promise that once her sister’s marriage was over, they would acknowledge her relationship too.
The baby was forcibly taken from her and put up for adoption – and a couple had indeed adopted the child. It was with great difficulty (including a court-ordered DNA test) that the baby was restored to the parents, after several attempts at such restoration failed. Played out in the media, social commentary even from many educated women was about the shame that Anupama had brought upon her family, breaking up a marriage and conceiving a child with a married man.
Referring to how the state-run child rights institution behaved, the report accuses Shiju Khan, general secretary of the Shishu Kshema Samithi (the Kerala State Council for Child Welfare, the designated Special Adoption Agency of the State government) and Adv N Sunanda, Chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee (Thiruvananthapuram district) for "colluding in the abduction and illegal adoption" of the son of Anupama and Ajith.
The report states: "Although both the UDF and the LDF stand accused of 'political capture' of child rights institutions in order to weaponise them against their political opponents, the Left parties with their strong grassroots presence and disciplined cadre are arguably more successful in operationalising this culture of 'cell rule' at the local level."
It is this culture that enabled the ruling Left to claim all the credit when the child was handed back to his parents. The report cites a statement by a former chairperson of the State Women’s Commission (also member of the CPM Central Committee): “I may be the Chairperson of the State Women’s Commission, but I am from the Communist party. No other party, other than mine, will take stern action in cases against women... Our party is a court and a police station."
Demonstrations of solidarity and support for Anupama's father Jaychandran, are not surprising, the authors say, "Despite its much-publicised history of social reform, progressive political movements and impressive development indicators, Kerala continues to be a deeply conservative, sexist and casteist society."
Noting that "notions of family honour and caste purity are as powerful here as it is in other parts of the country", the report comments, "Anger at Anupama’s and Ajith’s 'immoral behaviour' have united those on opposite sides of political and generational divides. Various commentators from the culture minister to middle-class housewives on family WhatsApp groups have jumped into the free-for-all to condemn the couple while justifying and condoning Jayachandran’s actions."
Anupama was told the Chief Minister was aware of the situation and was of the view that it was a family dispute, best resolved within the family
The authors of the report insist, "These moral judgements invoke familiar Malayali tropes: Anupama’s distinguished lineage as the granddaughter of a much-respected leader of the CPI-M to the 'sanctity' of Ajith’s first marriage, Anupama’s neglect of her filial duty in choosing Ajith against her parents’ wishes, and the social stigma that she and her 'illegal' child will create for her family."
"These beliefs are seen as so fundamental to the preservation of Malayali society, that even strangers take it upon themselves to preach to those who step out of line. For instance, Anupama told us how a nurse at the hospital sermonised her on her duty to obey her parents and break off her 'illegal' relationship with a man from a caste so much below her own", they add.
The report finds the ruling party, CPI-M, and the state government refused to take action against the people Anupama accused in her police complaint, saying they had handed over her baby for adoption. Her father Jayachandran and Shiju Khan were among the accused. "Both hold senior posts in the district-level hierarchy. Public prosecutor Geena Kumari is a party member and a close associate of Jayachandran," the report notes.
"In contrast", the authors observe, Ajith, who is a Dalit, "was removed from his party position as soon as his relationship with Anupama came to light without any notice, explanation or due process." Ajith’s father, also a member of the CPI-M local committee, was "sidelined and excluded from discussions" and his "party colleagues boycotted and ignored him, at least in public." Meanwhile, "male leaders (most notably the culture minister) continued to make obnoxious and sexist comments in public and troll Ajith on social media."
The report says, Anupama brought the whole matter before PK Srimathi (“Srimathi Teacher”), former health minister, appealing for her help to bring the issue to the notice of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Although sympathetic to Anupama’s situation, Srimathi said she had “spoken to the CM who was aware of the situation and was of the view that it was a family dispute, best resolved within the family.”
The report approvingly quotes KK Rema of the Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP), a feminist activist and MLA, stating that the CPI-M is "a typical Malayali family where patriarchs keep firm control of the reins while maintaining the facade of women’s autonomy." 
Rema is the only politician who took a strong public stand in support of Anupama and Ajith, it adds. Rema and her husband TP Chandrasekharan started their political lives with CPI-M but broke away and formed the RMP in protest against the party’s unwillingness to act against the 'murder politics' in the state. Chandrasekharan was stabbed to death in 2012. Three CPI-M activists were among the 11 people eventually convicted for the murder.

Comments

KALYANI said…
Please note that the link to the document has been inserted without the knowledge or permission of the authors. I am once again requesting the site administrators to take it down.

KALYANI
Jag Jivan said…
Strange requirement from the authors! Leaked reports are published in media everywhere, but here they don't want its hyperlink only because it was supposedly used without permission... They shouldn't have sent to the authors of this article or anyone else if they didn't want it be used. And let them try doing this with a big media house!!!
Editor said…
The link is no more visible

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