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Remembering EMS Namboodiripad: Kerala’s first Chief Minister, a pioneer of land reforms

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Remembering EMS Namboodiripad: Kerala’s first Chief Minister, a pioneer of land reforms

Elamkulam Manakkal Sankaran Namboodiripad, Kerala’s first chief minister and one of India’s leading communist leaders, was born on 13 June 1909 in the present-day Malappuram district to a Brahmin family. EMS, as he was popularly known, died on 19 March 1998 in Thiruvananthapuram after few years of suffering breathing problems.

On EMS Namboodiripad death anniversary, we recount his journey comprising many struggles and contributions for the betterment of the society.

* From early on, EMS was associated with anti-caste campaigns in the Namboothiri community. In college he was attracted to the Indian National Congress and the freedom struggle. For his nationalistic activities he was sentenced to three years in jail, and released in 1933.

* He co-founded the Congress Socialist Party (a wing within the Congress) in 1934 and became one of its joint secretaries. He later headed the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee and was elected to the All India Congress Committee. In 1937 he was elected to the Madras legislative assembly. But eventually he became a member of the Communist Party of India (CPI).

* Comrade EMS was elected to the Polit Bureau in 1953-54 at the third Congress of the CPI. Subsequently, he became editor of the CPI organ New Age and also became General Secretary of the Party after the death of Ajoy Ghosh.

* In 1957 he became the first Indian to head a democratically-elected Communist government. As Chief Minister of Kerala he was a pioneer of land reforms. However, after widespread protests and unrest in the state, his government was controversially dismissed in 1959 by Jawaharlal Nehru’s Congress government at the Centre.

* It was during his tenure then as the Chief Minister on November 9, 1967, that EMS at a press conference in Thiruvananthapuram gave his famous ‘Judiciary as an instrument of oppression’ speech based on teachings of Marx and Engels. EMS reportedly called judges as dominated by class hatred, class interests and class prejudices, instinctively favouring the rich against the poor.

* EMS was the General Secretary of the Party from 1977 to an important phase in the 34 year old history of the Party.

* There was no subject which he did not deal with, whether it be Marxist philosophy, political economy, Indian philosophy, literature or culture.

* Throughout his life, EMS wrote innumerable articles and books on a variety of subjects. Notable among his works are Kerala Society and Politics, The Mahatma and The Ism, History of the Indian Freedom Struggle, Indian Planning in Crisis and Nehru, Ideology and Practice.

* His selected writings printed in English in two volumes covers the whole gamut of his ideas in the sphere of culture, philosophy, economy and politics.  He also wrote an outline history of the Communist Party in Malayalam.

* Even during his last days, despite his failing health, he used to contribute regularly to the party dailies, weeklies, theoretical organs and ofcourse to the Polit Bureau and the Central Committee.

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