Sunday, March 3, 2024

This Malayalam movie brings back powerful memories of 1996 collectorate coup

On 4 October 1996, Kerala’s E.K Nayanar government saw its collector being held hostage for nine long hours by four members of Ayyankali Pada at Palakkad collectorate.

And the historic 1996 collectorate coup is now made into the movie Pada by Kamal KM starring Vinayakan, Kunchako Boban, Dileesh Pothan and Joju George.

“For long they were forgotten and now all of sudden they are back in people’s memories. And after all these years, they remain more than ever convinced of their action,” Kamal told Maktoob. The four Ayyankali members continue social activism.

During the 1990s, the collectorate offices of Kerala, especially Palakkad collectorate had many tribals coming seeking their land rights. According to the Adivasi Land Act of 1975, the Supreme Court had ordered those lands encroached from tribals since 1971 to be reinstated back to the them. However, the Nayanar’s Left Democratic Front (LDF) government amended the bill by changing the cut off year to 1986.

The amendment legalised all encroachments upto to 1986 and permitted land rehabilitation of tribals to be anywhere and not necessarily at their native place.

Infuriated by this, four members of Ayyankali Pada, a Maoist group barged into the Palakkad collectorate and tied up the collector, W.R Reddy. Reddy was made to call the chief secretary in Thiruvananthapuram and convey their demand for withdrawal of the anti-tribal bill passed in the state legislature.

For nine long hours, negotiation talks took place. Finally, the government gave in to the demand and the collector himself was made to sign that he would work for withdrawal of the anti-tribal bill. While retreating, they revealed that their weapons were made-up. It was toy pistols, crackers and bundles of thread that they had theatred the coup.

“With mere plastic pipes and thread bundles, we stood still this government for the last nine hours. This shows that all regressive forces are mere empty paper tigers,” declared the four members of Ayyankali Pada, after their successful coup.

Ayyankali has been remembered as one of the most influential anti-caste Dalit activists in colonial Kerala who effectively challenged caste-based restrictions in education, public space and social interactions in the late 19th century.

“I was a journalism student during that time. It was very powerful and I was personally struck by the dramatic turn of it,” Kamal shared with Maktoob.

“Even after 25 years of the coup, the realities of tribal land rights are more or less the same,” Kamal pointed out the relevance of the movie.

Watch official trailer of the movie:

Kamal had put one year into research and met all the major players of the incident, the chief secretary, IPS officers including the collector, W.R Reddy and his wife at their house in Hyderabad. “I have listened to every side of the story. I have also tried to understand how the incident had affected their lives.The movie is everybody’s story, each one of us,” says Kamal.

Shot for 60 days with four schedules, the movie has 1,500 plus artists. The movie is to release on March 10.

Afra Abubacker
Afra Abubacker
Afra Abubacker is an independent journalist from Kerala.

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