‘Collapse of the civil society undermines Kerala’s Renaissance narratives’

Professor TT Sreekumar, a distinguished academic currently associated with the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at the English and Foreign Language University in Hyderabad, has an extensive teaching history. His experience extends to prestigious institutions such as the National University of Singapore and the Division of Social Sciences at HKUST, Hong Kong. Renowned for his contributions to the field, Professor Sreekumar authored “ICTs & Development in India: Perspectives on the Rural Network Society” (Anthem Books, London, 2011), highlighting his expertise in development and technology studies. Beyond his academic endeavours, he is a prolific writer and columnist in Malayalam, his mother tongue, having penned over 500 articles and authored or edited 18 books mostly concerning literature, society, history, culture and politics of Kerala, where he was born. His engagement with civil society organizations in India underscores his commitment to societal impact. Additionally, he is known for his insightful fortnightly column “Naalam Kannu” in the Madhyamam Daily, further cementing his status as a much respected voice in contemporary discourse.   

In this long conversation with Abhish K. Bose Dr Sreekumar discusses the diverse challenges faced by the  Kerala society, its renaissance, the social context of the emergence of Communism, its civil society, growing islamophobia among other issues.  

Excerpts from the Interview   

Abhish K. Bose: Given that the Kerala Renaissance movements achieved significant progress in overcoming entrenched caste-ist superstitions and promoted human dignity, yet the vestiges of these deep-seated beliefs continue to linger in Kerala’s society, evident in the resurgence of communal tensions at even minor provocations, can we consider the Kerala Renaissance to have been an incomplete social transformation, falling short in fully addressing and eliminating the enduring societal afflictions that transcend time and affect various communities?

TT Sreekumar  :The term ‘Renaissance’, applied to the socio-cultural transformations that occurred in Kerala in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was retrospectively coined in the 1970s to elucidate the ‘Kerala model.’ The Kerala Model refers to the unique socio-economic and developmental approach adopted by the successive governments in  Kerala, characterized by high human development indicators. This model is distinguished by significant achievements in health, education, and social welfare, despite having a lower per capita income compared to other Indian states.Central to the Kerala Model is the state’s emphasis on equitable access to healthcare and education. Kerala boasts one of the highest literacy rates in India and a robust public health system that provides widespread, affordable healthcare. These achievements are underpinned by a long history of social reform movements, which have contributed to a more egalitarian social structure compared to other parts of India. The term Renaissance began to applied to these set of social reform movements as a teleological explanation of the Kerala model.

These movements, primarily anti-caste in nature, have historical roots predating colonialism, as evidenced in texts like ‘Thirunizhal Mala’ (13th century) , ‘PachalloorPathikam’ (14th century) and southern ballads (13th-18th centuries) which contain anti-caste and anti-Brahmanical sentiments. The intersection of internal anti-caste dynamics and external colonial influences catalyzed these social movements.Initially led by Dalits, these movements did not see significant participation from the upper castes, including the Nair Sudras, until the 1920s. The Nair Sudras, historically aligned with the Nambudiri Brahmins and forming a hegemonic group in Kerala, began embracing social equality ideals when their dominance was challenged by subaltern movements. However, this adaptation was more about retaining Sudra hegemony than genuine reform. Even today, this hegemonic alliance remains influential, dominating socio-economic spheres and manipulating policies, including reservation benefits, to their advantage.

The legacy of this alliance is evident in the rhetoric surrounding the Kerala Renaissance, which they claim to be the rightful heirs of. Despite this, caste-based discrimination, including honor killings and caste abuse, persist in Kerala. Discussing these issues is often seen as undermining the renaissance narrative, despite their prevalence. This hypocritical stance overlooks the fact that these movements were deeply rooted in Kerala’s history and utilized the opportunities presented by colonial modernity to advocate for social justice.The Sabarimala agitation, a recent example of this hegemony, showcased the alliance’s ability to mobilize and maintain social dominance. This movement, ostensibly about religious tradition, also reflected the underlying social power dynamics at play in Kerala. The agitation illustrated how the rhetoric of renaissance and social reform can be co-opted to maintain existing power structures, even when they contradict the principles of equality and justice that these movements originally stood for.

How does the current state of Communism in Kerala compare with that in China and Vietnam, considering the unique historical context of Kerala’s social transformation following the collapse of its matrilineal system, a process which some scholars liken to the social upheavals preceding the emergence of Communism in China and Vietnam? Additionally, in light of Kerala’s prolonged exposure to Communist governance, what factors contribute to the ongoing and evident social disparities within the state?

It is important to recognize that the matrilineal system in Kerala was not uniformly practiced across the region. Primarily, it was the Sudras and a section of the Ezhavas who adhered to this system, with its presence also observed in some subaltern communities. However, the prevalent notion that Kerala was entirely matrilineal is a misconception, largely stemming from the ideological dominance of the Nair caste. This misconception overlooks the diversity of social structures within Kerala and erroneously generalizes the practices of a particular caste as representative of the entire region. Such a perspective fails to accurately reflect the complex tapestry of cultural and social practices that have historically existed in Kerala.The transition from the matrilineal system in Kerala, predominantly practiced by Sudra Nairs and a section of the Ezhavas, played a crucial role in the state’s social dynamics. This system’s collapse was not an isolated phenomenon; rather, it was intricately linked to the wider social consciousness fostered by the subaltern classes’ reform movements. A progressive segment of Sudras and Nambudiri Brahmins, embracing the principles of caste equality and social justice, initially joined the Indian National Congress, transitioning later to Congress Socialists and Communists. They championed workers’ and peasants’ rights, transforming caste-based justice demands into class-based ones.

Dr TT Sreekumar, Professor at the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad.

In Kerala, the disillusionment with the matrilineal system, particularly among leaders, intersected with the influence of Dalit and subaltern movements. These leaders, while initially inspired by these movements, eventually appropriated their agenda, shifting the focus from a caste-based to a class-based approach. This strategic shift, while integrating Kerala into the broader Communist narrative, undermined the potency of anti-caste struggles. The emergence of Communism in Kerala in the 1930s, following the disintegration of the matrilineal social system, presents a distinct context compared to the historical backdrops of China and Vietnam. While the social upheavals in these countries, marked by civil war and the dismantling of Confucian bureaucracy, acted as precursors to Communism, Kerala’s path was different.This evolution in Kerala, however, presents a contrast to the large-scale class mobilization in China and Vietnam. The Communist mobilization in Kerala, influenced by sporadic struggles, was significant but did not mirror the extensive peasant and worker mobilizations led by Communist parties in China and Vietnam. The social hegemony of the Sudra-Nair alliance in Kerala remained largely unchallenged, unlike the systemic and revolutionary transformations in China and Vietnam.

Kerala’s experience as a sub-national entity within South Asia further differentiates its path from those of China and Vietnam. The state implemented substantial land reforms, yet these reforms, like those in communist China and Vietnam, were marked by inconsistencies, particularly in the exclusion of Dalits from land entitlements. Furthermore, Kerala’s trajectory, within the democratic and constitutional framework of India, diverges significantly from the authoritarian contexts of China and Vietnam. This difference has led to notable opposition in Kerala to neoliberal policies initiated by both leftist and centrist governments, a response that is distinct from the more controlled economic environments in China and Vietnam.The persistence of social disparities in Kerala, despite prolonged Communist influence, can be attributed to a complex interplay of historical, social, and political factors. The Communist movement’s adaptation of class-based politics, while influential, has not fully dismantled the entrenched caste-based social structures. Additionally, Kerala’s democratic context, allowing for a diversity of political and economic ideologies, has resulted in a multifaceted and sometimes contradictory approach to development and social justice. This complexity reflects the unique socio-political landscape of Kerala, distinct from the more uniform communist systems in China and Vietnam.

Considering the land reforms bill enacted by the coalition of Communist Party and Indian National congress aimed to reduce social disparities in Kerala, where a significant portion of land was controlled by higher caste members, to what extent do you believe these reforms achieved their intended visionary goals?.

The land reform bill implemented by the Communist Party- Indian National Congress- Muslim League coalition in Kerala was a significant step towards addressing social disparities, particularly in the context of land ownership predominantly held by higher caste members. However, evaluating the effectiveness of this reform reveals several complexities.Firstly, the initial formulation of the land reforms by Kerala’s first Communist ministry in 1957 was structured in such a way that its benefits were primarily directed towards the relatively well-off and middle-class tenants, predominantly from the Sudra, Christian, Muslim communities, and to a lesser extent, the Ezhava community.This outcome was facilitated by Kerala’s unique ‘relative class position’ within its feudal structure. Unlike many other Indian states with powerful landlords and zamindars, Kerala’s Sudra and Nambudiri landlords held more of an ideological hegemony and a somewhat limited monopoly over land. This made the land reform process comparatively feasible, especially with the post-independence constitutional framework and the prevalent anti-feudal, anti-caste sentiments and struggles in Kerala directed toward caste hegemony.However, a major oversight of the reform was its exclusion of Dalit and other subaltern castes, who were not the primary tenants of the land. These communities were largely marginalized in the reform process, receiving only limited housing allocations through a lengthy and procedural system. This oversight was exacerbated by the limited availability of land and the large number of tenants from Christian, Nair, and Muslim communities, which led to a land ceiling of 15 acres per family. Additionally, plantations were exempted from the land reform, further limiting its scope.

The reforms of the 1970s resulted in a predominance of small farm sizes in Kerala. While studies in Indian agriculture suggest that smaller farm sizes do not necessarily lead to decreased productivity, in Kerala, resistance to mechanization and demands for higher wages led to a reduction in productivity. This outcome was in stark contrast to the national agenda, where land reform was more successfully implemented in Kerala than in many other states.The unresolved issue of Dalit land ownership remained a critical concern, leading to demands for a second wave of land reforms to provide cultivable land to the landless Adivasis and Dalits. This demand became a focal point for Dalit and Adivasi land rights agitation in Kerala. The land reform in Kerala, while part of a broader national agenda and relatively successful in certain aspects, did not fully address the deep-rooted social disparities and left key issues, particularly concerning Dalit land rights, unresolved.

Recently, Kerala has witnessed the emergence of distinct women-led movements, such as ‘PenpillaiOrumai’, and others representing a cross-section of society. Could these initiatives signify women’s collective efforts to dismantle the patriarchal constraints within the state? Furthermore, do these movements hold the potential to effect a paradigm shift in the state’s political dynamics?

The ‘PenpillaiOrumai’ movement, which emerged from the women plantation workers in Munnar, Kerala, is a testament to the burgeoning assertion of women from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds against the prevailing patriarchal order. This movement stands out for its grassroots-level mobilization that brought to the fore the gendered dimensions of labor and exploitation. It signifies a shift from traditional feminist activism to a more inclusive and intersectional framework that takes into account class, caste, and gender.

However, the feminist movement in Kerala faces staunch opposition, not only from entrenched patriarchal norms but also from Savarna anti-feminist ideologies and the anti-feminist sentiments of religious fundamentalists spanning all faiths. These opposing forces create a complex battleground for feminist activists.The feminist movement in Kerala, as explored by scholars like Dr. J. Devika, is not a uniform force but a constellation of various strands and ideologies that have evolved over time. It presents a fragmented landscape within the civil society of Kerala, with no single entity holding sway over the feminist discourse. This heterogeneity is crucial, as it reflects the movement’s responsiveness to the multiplicity of issues and contexts within the state.The resilience of the patriarchal system in Kerala means that the struggle for gender equality is multifaceted and enduring. Feminist and queer movements, along with other new social movements, need to forge solidarities and continuously open new fronts against patriarchal institutions and the subtle patriarchal underpinnings that pervade state policies, political discourse, and civil society practices.

In this context, movements like ‘PenpillaiOrumai’ are not just isolated events but part of a larger wave of feminist activism that has the potential to reshape the political landscape of Kerala. The collective efforts of these movements could challenge and possibly alter the patriarchal status quo, leading to a reconfiguration of power dynamics within the state. The success of these movements in bringing about substantial political change will depend on their ability to maintain momentum, to unite a broad coalition of support, and to strategically navigate the complexities of Kerala’s social and political milieu.

As a scholar with a profound understanding of Kerala and its civil society, you must have noted the impact of the BJP-led Sabarimala agitation, triggered by the Supreme Court’s verdict on women’s entry, on Kerala’s societal fabric. This movement sounded the alarm on the intents of fascism and its advocates. Is it within the capacity of Kerala society to withstand future fascist incursions and reaffirm its commitment to the principles of the Renaissance? Can you contemplate the potential harm that fascist tactics might wreak upon the Renaissance ideals and the socio-political ethos of Kerala?

The Supreme Court’s verdict on women’s entry into Sabarimala is pivotal, asserting the primacy of constitutional morality over public morality. This distinction is vital for discerning the ethos of civil society. Hegel, in his ‘Outlines of the Philosophy of Right’, posits that individuals in civil society pursue their own objectives, often disregarding external considerations. Public morality may encompass ideological, religious, or secular ideologies. In contrast, legal ethics transcends these notions, serving as the arbiter of social conflicts and thereby regulating civil society.Chief Justice Dipak Misra underscored the supremacy of legal/constitutional morality. The court decreed that it is this constitutional morality which must steer the judiciary in appraising the legitimacy of a custom. Nonetheless, this stance is not without its complications. In a society with predominant religious views, the constitution may inevitably reflect some of that influence, potentially overlooking the rights of minority identities. Despite these intricacies, the core principle of the Supreme Court’s stance is commendable.

This leads to a dissenting view, as expressed by Justice Indu Malhotra, who contends that legal/constitutional ethics ought not to govern issues strictly of religious and faith-based nature, advocating for faith as the sole criterion. However, within the broader narrative of Kerala’s social history, and particularly in the Sabarimala discourse, the application of legal/constitutional ethics is crucial for advancing societal progress and upholding the principles of equality and justice enshrined in the constitution.In the early 1980s, the political terrain of Kerala saw the intensification of Hindutva politics. Capitalizing on the disaffection with the Emergency period and the impatience with the emergent neo-democratic resonances in regional politics, Hindutva proponents endeavored to establish a stronger presence within the political arena of Kerala. Despite a conducive environment for its proliferation, Hindutva politics struggled to gain traction, largely due to the burgeoning ideological force of neo-socialism within the state’s society.

The decades of the 1920s and 1930s were marked by Kerala’s experimentation with political innovation, a legacy that was mirrored in the 1980s and 1990s as the region embarked on another phase of democratic experimentation. This period was characterized by a surge in environmental activism, with heightened awareness and advocacy addressing ecological concerns. Concurrently, Dalit politics revitalized the discourse on caste consciousness, challenging the status quo and transcending the stagnation of preceding years. Feminist activism also gained momentum, seeking to transform public consciousness by vociferously challenging gender disparities, including those within political entities, and stimulating dialogue on essential structural, legal, and administrative reforms for the liberation of women.Furthermore, human rights advocates extended the scope of democratic politics, addressing a spectrum of issues from penal reform to the atrocities of custodial torture. These developments presented a formidable challenge to successive governments, signaling a period of intense political dynamism. The undeniable reality was that Kerala’s society was confronted with an imperative for self-rejuvenation—a transformative process that could only be realized through the acceptance and integration of these vigorous political movements.

It has been mentioned before that Renaissance is not Nostalgia. It is the dependability in approach to democracy and human rights. Renaissance is not a window that can be raised and lowered at will. It is not a one-size-fits-all agreement. Criticism is an integral part of its foundation. If the renaissance is not to remain condensed in history, there must be a politics that can see it continuously. This country has renewed itself under the pressures of old struggles. Its resonances echoed throughout the twentieth century. It was not because he always went to the memories of the Renaissance with a ghostly presence. To maintain the democratic tradition means to be ready for political and cultural reforms. We can find the right answer to the question of whether the Renaissance tradition is sustained by whether there is a fair approach to the concerns, ideals and aspirations of the new civil society.What is being heralded as a ‘renaissance’? What historical processes are embedded in it? Are all those processes similar? In my opinion ‘Kerala Revival’ is an ideological construct. It is not just a mere imitation of Eurocentric historiography. On the contrary, it was deliberately made to confirm the later concept of Kerala model in history. The Renaissance concept is made as a historical testimony to the imaginary creation of Kerala model by putting all the social advancements as a result of British rule and missionary work in the list of a single social process and giving the same face of upper caste reform to all the great Dalit advancements in Kerala.

The Kerala Renaissance is a mega-history made only to validate the Kerala model. Politics is not possible here without pretending to follow the concept of Renaissance heritage and its historical achievements. The caste struggles here are the result of Kerala society being opened up to an outside world that asks ‘caste? What is that?’ Renaissance as a discourse has now become an ideological construct that belies its complexities. It remains to be debated whether it is correct to abstract the efforts of reforming Brahminical ideology, Shudra politics against Brahminicalism, Dalit anti-caste struggles based on the awareness created by the British occupation and missionary work along with the historical forces of caste conflicts in feudal Kerala as part of the same historical process.

In your research on the Muslim community in Kerala, you have observed a noticeable increase in Islamophobia over the past ten years or more. Could you elaborate on the underlying causes of this rise in Islamophobia within the state?

In my explorations of Islamic popular culture and minority politics within Kerala, I have observed a discernible increase in Islamophobia over recent years. While some suggest that this is due to a rise in conservatism and militancy within the Islamic community in Kerala, there is no substantial evidence to firmly substantiate such claims. Instead, it appears that the roots of Islamophobia may lie elsewhere.The phenomenon of Islamophobia in Kerala may, in part, be linked to the socioeconomic transformations experienced by the Muslim community, particularly due to the significant labor migration to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. This migration has not only improved the economic standing of many Muslims in Kerala but has also introduced new cultural and religious influences.

The increasing Islamophobia in the state seems to be fuelled by a resistance to the accumulation of cultural and economic capital within the Muslim community as a result of this Gulf migration. Islamophobia is exhibited in various ways, with one of the most insidious being the selective targeting of specific factions within the diverse Muslim community. Accusations and critiques are often leveraged against groups like SDPI, Jamaat-e-Islami, Salafi organizations, Samastha, and even the Muslim League, under the guise of political critique but often represent a broader sentiment of Islamophobia.Furthermore, the participation of ordinary Muslims in new social movements has been co-opted by state mechanisms and their defenders to disparage these movements as extremist. This has led to a situation where the average Muslim individual can be easily miscast as an extremist, contributing to a pervasive atmosphere of mistrust and discrimination. This insidious form of Islamophobia poses a significant challenge to the social fabric of the state, impeding the collective journey towards a more inclusive and tolerant society.

The rise in Islamophobia in Kerala seems to be precipitated by a resistance to the Muslim community’s augmented cultural and economic influence, which itself is a by-product of these migration patterns. Islamophobia manifests in a variety of expressions, one of which is the strategic targeting of specific sects or groups within the Muslim community. Often disguised as political critique, these attacks typically generalize and misrepresent the community’s diverse perspectives.Organizations such as SDPI, Jamaat-e-Islami, Salafi groups, Samastha, and even the Muslim League find themselves at the center of continuous criticism. This form of Islamophobia is pervasive and often implicates the entire community through the vilification of select groups. Moreover, the involvement of ordinary Muslims in broader social movements can be misappropriated by state proponents to delegitimize these movements by branding them as extremist. This stigmatization risks the Muslim individual being wrongly identified with religious extremism, thereby exacerbating the climate of Islamophobia in Kerala and hindering progress towards a cohesive and equitable society.

Does the current political landscape of the state require a transformative approach to effectively combat the modern-day threats, including the menace of fascism, and to recover from the prevailing political deterioration?

The social fabric of Kerala is currently experiencing significant fissures. A series of troubling events, from harrowing caste-related killings to the surge in students seeking education abroad, are indicative of a deepening political malaise. This pervasive sense of tragedy is rooted in historical grievances and revolutionary zeal, reflecting a collective disquietude about departures from an idealized vision of Kerala—a vision that, while nebulous, is fervently cherished.The interpretation of these societal challenges often leads to a sense of alienation among Keralites, as if they are strangers within their own transforming state. There exists a pronounced tendency to vilify historical epochs, notably those referred to as the Renaissance, and a concurrent inability to comprehend contemporary issues outside the Renaissance paradigm. This dichotomy places considerable stress on the social psyche of the people.Dominant religious ideologies across India that advocate for caste pride, combined with the negation of Dalit autonomy, rising Islamophobia, appropriation of historical narratives, and a dismissive attitude towards history, have been persistently operative in Kerala. Yet, a prevailing reluctance to acknowledge these elements under the guise of Renaissance disdain has been the norm. The societal distress is palpable in the public discourse, marked by a disconcerting realization that casteism is resurging, that honorkillings and human sacrifices are not merely relics of the past but present realities—contrary to the collective denial or ignorance that once prevailed.

In reflecting on the historical trajectory of Kerala, it is imperative to acknowledge the significant yet often overlooked socio-ideological evolution between 1900 and 1950, particularly the ascendancy of upper caste-Shudra ideology. The impact of this ideological evolution on shaping subsequent social dynamics in Kerala is considerable. Despite not achieving mainstream dominance, upper-class ideology retained a firm grasp on the logic governing social processes. Robin Jeffrey’s title “The Decline of Nair Dominance” might be seen as somewhat of a misnomer, as it does not encapsulate the full complexity of the book’s content.The Namboodiri-Sudra hegemony in Kerala transcends economic and cultural dominance, representing an ideological supremacy that cannot be adequately captured by the notion of ‘decline’. In contrast to North India, where Brahminism’s ideology and political power were directly linked, in Kerala, this power was upheld by the Nairs—Shudras. The permeation of colonial modernity and the Dalit movements of the 19th century, which could not be entirely suppressed, prompted the upper classes to adopt the guise of progressivism expeditiously. This period saw many from the upper echelons who earnestly sought social reform.

During the 1890s, this led to a strengthening of upper caste reform as part of the ‘Renaissance’ movement. Literary and scholarly works, from Chanthumenon’s “Indulekha” to Chattambiswami’s interpretations of Vedic texts and ancient Malayalam, emerged as critiques of Brahmanical ideology. By the early 20th century, these upper classes began to consolidate a new form of power under the banner of caste reform, with Brahmins conceding to Shudra leadership within this recalibrated social hierarchy. This shift facilitated the persistence of caste consciousness, conservative orthodoxy, and micro-level Hinduism, effectively circumventing the progress made in the 19th century.The agendas advanced by these movements, which ranged from the near complete marginalization of Dalits to the propagation of Islamophobia, paved the way for right-wing movements. These movements, gaining popular acceptance, have retrogressively steered the Kerala community and imbued it with Hindutva politics, thus undermining the social advances previously made.

In the 1970s, Kerala saw the emergence of various social movements, encompassing environmental, anti-caste, gender equality, and human rights campaigns. These movements infused the state with the ethos of neo-socialism, piercing through the entrenched cultural norms and challenging the influence of the right-wing majority. Retrospectively, Kerala’s contemporary history appears to be characterized by instances where religious conservatism has frequently prevailed.The Sabarimala controversy served as a pivotal moment, reigniting a critical awareness and forcing a reckoning with past periods of inaction, particularly those reminiscent of the early eighties. The entrenchment of right-wing conservatism, which fundamentally opposes democratic values within Kerala—a state with a significant presence of left-wing and Congress parties—demands serious attention and cannot be trivially dismissed or denied.

Does the conversation suggest that reshaping civil society in Kerala is challenging and that the state is ill-prepared to confront the fascist elements within the nation?Does this signify a comprehensive breakdown of institutions and governance in the state? Is the erosion of the Kerala model leading to a cultural, economic, and political crisis within the state?

This should not be interpreted to mean that Kerala has been stripped of the fundamental politics of social justice and the ethical principles that have been the bedrock of its cultural norms. Nonetheless, it is concerning when dominant social tendencies undergo a transformation, and opposing ideologies gain momentum, particularly if such changes are ignored due to a misplaced sense of renaissance triumphalism. The paradox of individuals espousing progressivism while the society collectively leans towards conservatism is particularly alarming.This shift signifies a diminishing of the politics historically associated with the renaissance ideal. It highlights a situation where the defense of liberties is increasingly pursued by individuals in prolonged legal battles, lacking the support of democratic institutions. This situation underscores a pivotal moment in Kerala’s history, where the commitment to progressive values must be reevaluated in the face of rising conservative tides.

Kerala can no longer rely solely on the perceived legacy of a Renaissance to guide its progress. This legacy has evolved into a double-edged sword—a collective agreement that simultaneously undermines itself through pragmatic betrayals. While the narrative of the Renaissance in Kerala has historic validity, it is crucial to acknowledge that ‘Renaissance’ is an ideological construct, not merely a replication of Eurocentric historiography, but a political framework that has underpinned the historical conception of the Kerala model. The socio-political changes spurred by medieval anti-aristocratic movements, British colonialism, and missionary endeavors in South India are diverse and cannot be conflated into a single narrative, yet they were instrumental in forging the narrative of the Kerala model. Kerala’s commitment to the evolving democratic ethos of neo-socialism cannot be sustained by clinging to an overarching historical memory of a renaissance.

Presently, the superficial agreement observed in Kerala’s approach to LGBTQ politics, caste abolition, environmental stewardship, and minority rights often belies an undercurrent of reluctance and resistance. The growing influence of right-wing conservatism is exerting pressure on the general consensus previously established by neo-socialism. It is becoming evident that the state is drifting away from the ethical principles of human fraternity and social justice championed by figures such as Sree Narayana Guru and VaikuntaSwamikal.

The contemporary challenges faced by Kerala cannot be resolved by mere retrospection into the Renaissance era. The vital historical lesson here is the necessity for political and cultural reform, especially in an era where global capital is fostering an opportunistic nexus between neoliberalism and fascism. It is against this global backdrop that the defeat of neoliberal forces and the insidious rise of right-wing orthodoxy becomes imperative. The reunification of democratic forces stands as the sole viable strategy in this context, rejecting the confines of sectarianism.

The aspirations of the new civil society and the realization of neo-sociality’s ideals are fundamental to crafting a new vision for Kerala, transcending the nomenclature of the renaissance. This arduous task spans from penal reform to the re-democratization of institutions, prompting introspection about our integrity and commitment to these values. The potential of constructing a future Kerala that honors its rich historical legacy hinges on the successful internal struggle to reclaim and revitalize the values of neo-sociality.

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