Short campaign videos made by Progressive Kala Sahithya Sangham’s (PuKaSa) for the Pinarayi government in Kerala is drawing ire from various quarters for its supposed stereotypical portrayal of various religious communities in Kerala. On Thursday, PuKaSa’s Ernakulam District Committee released the videos starring Santhosh Keezhatoor, Tesni Khan, and Kalabhavan Rahman.
If in one video, a Muslim mother played by Tesni Khan says that the increase in pension amount by the Pinarayi Government has helped her to support her son’s family, another video depicts how rations kits provided by the government during the pandemic helped a temple priest and his family survive. Both videos end with the image of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan along with the slogan, ‘LDF for surety’.
On the other hand, social media is buzzing with criticism for the videos, citing that the “election campaigns” and “political drivel” are not only regressive in their stereotypical portrayal of various religious communities in Kerala but also “Islamophobic” and “casteist”.
If in one video PuKaSa recreates the age-old tale of the “destitute Brahmin”, in another they reinforce the “terrorist Muslim”. A few noted that the former video is aimed at pleasing the upper caste votes, which according to political observers, have been migrating to the BJP. They add that the scheduled castes, backward communities, and scheduled tribes would regardless vote for the left parties despite their objections. On the other hand, the saffron party has been providing an alternative platform to the upper caste votes, forcing the left to change its strategy. While the left parties cannot directly enter such a narrative, organisations such as PuKaSa create a platform to do so.
Released by the PuKaSa Ernakulam District Committee, one of the videos shows LDF candidate P Rajeev asking people to vote for continued governance, showing an undeniable affiliation. While the video with the “destitute Brahmin” might seem innocent at first, it is a recreation of the tired trope of Brahmins and other upper-caste members losing their “wealth and land” following the establishment of reservation, which was established for the upliftment of the downtrodden communities in the country.
This is not the first time that the short videos created by PuKaSa have courted controversy. Earlier, their short film titled 'Oru Theendappadakale' starring Ravunni, the state secretary and poet of Purogamana Kala Sahithya Sangham, was criticised for saying that untouchability is relevant in the time of Covid-19. PuKaSa, however, claimed that the real aim of the video was to create awareness about the relevance of the ‘Break the Chain’ campaign. The short film, directed by MR Balachandran, compared this ‘Break the Chain’ campaign with the untouchability practised by the Brahmins. Moreover, political observers also observed that the LDF’s government passing reservation for Economically Weaker Section had also attracted ire from activists.
In the other video, the PuKaSa campaign describes the Muslim mother as having rejected her son’ dead body since he was a terrorist. The main question people asked was why terrorism was only linked to the Muslim family and not to any other communities. Political observers claim that this is an enforcement of the ‘Muslim terrorist’ narrative, which found prominence in Kerala thanks to left parties. They pointed out that the narrative has been set in stone as well as in action thanks to the Pinarayi government’s lax usage of the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) against Muslim youths.
In several incidents across Kerala, the LDF government has pushed UAPA on Muslim youths for protesting and posting posters against the death of CP Jaleel. Legal experts and rights activists have pointed out that printing and publishing posters disagreeing with questionable government action aren’t worth the time of a draconian section. On the other hand, BJP Yuva Morcha leader Rakesh was arrested from Thrissur in 2019 for printing and using counterfeit currency worth Rs 40 Lakh. However, apart from sections under IPC, the government did not pursue UAPA despite the act making provisions for treating the production of counterfeit Indian currencies as an act of terrorism.
This wasn’t the first time that Rakesh was caught with fake currencies and yet the former DGP TP Senkumar described the crime as “just making Photostat copies”. While clear legal terminologies are denoting the action as sedition and an act of terrorism, the LDF government had been after Muslim youths for publishing posters criticising the state. This is not to mention the haunting tale of Thaha Fazal and Alan Shuhaib.
These videos were reportedly removed from social media platforms and PuKaSa hasn’t yet released any official response to the controversy. On the other hand, social media is having a field day with PuKaSa’s version of progressiveness, claiming how it is inadvertently calling out the “left’s inherent casteist-islamophobic” tendencies.