Of Jungles and Jails

Review of Kerala’s Naxalbari – Ajitha: Memoirs of a Young Revolutionary; Translated by Sanju Ramachandran; Srishti Publishers 2008; Rs 195; pp 287

– Shana Susan Ninan

K. Ajitha, Kerala’s Naxal Movement’s poster woman, was brought into the forefront of the revolution happening in Kerala’s jungles and hunted by the media, starting with parading her with the “dacoits” who attacked a police station in Pulpally, in 1968. This class XII girl didn’t look back. This is her story of how she grew in the revolutionary movement, her life as an educator in the rank and files, her close working and friendship with Comrade Varghese.

Through eye-opening chapters in her book, she takes us through her life and that of the movement’s to tell us about her initiation into it by her revolutionary parents, the Pulpally Revolt, martyrdoms of many comrades, their lives in police custody, political responses of then ruling Communist party, murder of Comrade Varghese, the Emergency and tortures of those times, her freedom from jail and life after that.

This memoir is as much about Ajitha’s life as a revolutionary in the jungles of north Kerala as it is about her life in the various jails across the state. Starting with the wardens eating up a lion’s share of the jail rations to how inhuman the authorities can be, these incidents open our heart to yet some more truths. She reflects many stories that bring to light the painfully atrocious goings-on in the women’s section of the jails she’s been in. This particular one is shattering to even contemplate. I am sure, for Ajitha, witnessing it was even worse:

The jail doctors too were an irresponsible lot. …once, a woman went into labour at midnight. The wardens were informed, but they rained such abuses on the poor woman that she got scared out of her wits. Her baby had come out partially even before the wardens decided to take a look at her. She sat in a corner pushing the baby back. After a while the baby died… who gives a damn about a prostitute and her bastard? No court would want to punish those jailers who killed the infant.

Ajitha isn’t shy to point out that even the glorified revolutionary movement was flawed in some places. The most visible being the gender bias and the objectification of women. In her later years, in 1993 to be exact, she declared she was no longer a member of the Naxalbari movement and that she is a confirmed feminist, a Marxian feminist. She now works for the liberation of women, operating and organisation from Calicut in northern Kerala, Anweshi.

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Rating: 9.6/10 (5 votes cast)
Of Jungles and Jails, 9.6 out of 10 based on 5 ratings

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 at 7:52 am and is filed under Communism, Memoir, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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