Monday, January 18, 2010


Striking work, mass leave, dharnas, demonstrations, setting buses on fire, pelting cars, buildings and policemen with stones, beating up fellow citizens – these are some of the most common and, sadly, accepted forms of protest in our country. This speaks volumes about the leadership post independence in a nation which experimented successfully with nonviolent resistance to overthrow the British empire over which the sun never set for a few centuries.

Today, there was a heartwarming piece of news in The Hindu.

Vengeri takes the lead in resisting Bt brinjal.

Vengeri a small village near Kozhikode is launching a protest against the BT Brinjal about which there is so much misgiving among the public, agricultural scientists, environment activists and certain political parties.

The controversies surrounding it is reason enough to shelve this genetically modified variety of vegetable - temporarily, at least.

"After what Bt cotton did to the farmers of Vidharbha, methyl isocyanate to Bhopal residents and Endosulfan to Kasaragod’s children, we do not have faith in the prescriptions of multinationals" said Babu Parambath, co-ordinator of Niravu.

My concern here is not the veracity of the theories doing the rounds, but the initiative taken by the a village near Kozhikode, in this state of Kerala which indulges in the most revolting, arrogant, unethical, lawless type of protests, at the drop of a hat. A group of people have decided to protest in a civilized, creative and constructive manner, by growing traditional brinjal to produce enough seeds to pose severe competition to the multinationals BT.

Brinjal campaign from today

Special Correspondent

KOZHIKODE: Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran will launch a campaign on Sunday to popularize a traditional variety of brinjal found in rural areas as an alternative to Bt brinjal.

The function will be held at an organic farm near Netaji Library at Vengeri. The farm is managed by Niravu, a collective of 101 people of Vengeri. A. Achyutan and Shobhindran, environmental activists, and Sister Ancilla of Providence Women’s College will speak. Niravu will distribute nearly one lakh saplings of the brinjal variety in the coming day

It is significant that the official launching of this protest project is by the minister. Of course, considering the official stand of the left against the multinational invasion into the agriculture sector, it is not surprising that the present Kerala government should get enthused over this project. But, this is a matter that goes beyond politics. It is recognition of a new type of politics - politics by the enlightened mass. Here, a small innocuous village in Kerala is showing 1. the way to protest democratically against a policy decision that is perceived to be anti people and 2. how an enlightened people can be meaningfully and constructively involved in governance.

It is significant too that an Educational institution - Providence College - is a leader of this movement.

Can we call it a modern day Salt Satyagraha?

I do not know if I am technically right in drawing that comparison, ‘cos Salt Satyagraha was based on deliberate violation of the ‘law of the land’.

The Vengeri model is a sustainable mode of protest that invests power in the hands of the people, provides an opportunity to walk the talk regarding an alternative mode of development and enables the literate people of Kerala to utilize their enlightenment to evolve a manner of protest different from the teeth gnashing INQUILAB ZINDABAD.

It, however, waits to be seen how the BT lobby reacts to this.

More important, it waits to be seen how supportive the government will continue to be, once the multinational lobby become proactive against this.

My father used to say (am not sure if he was right), the Japanese mode of protest post WW II was working overtime!

Nothing brings the authorities to their senses and to the realization of the legitimacy of a protest other than the ethicality of the means and the public weal consciousness that informs the end. The latter shouts out loud and clear through the former. It puts the authorities on the defensive, making it difficult not pay heed to the concerns of the people expressed in a calm, moderate, civilized and PRODUCTIVE manner which cannot in any way be faulted as lawless.

More than half a century after the death of Gandhi, Gandhiism shows signs of rebirth in a little village in Kerala.

Today, I am proud to be a Malayalaee.


  1. Bt.Brinjal is expected to hit the market in a year’s time. But then, what gives an ominous tone to the introduction of Bt.brinjal is the recent scientific study in Australia, which says that consumption of GM food( Genetically Modified) could be one of the contributing factors to the increasing incidence of infertility.

    In Europe, where there is a strong public opinion against the GM food, US agrochemical giants have not been able to make much headway in promoting their genetically engineered food products. For instance, in Switzerland, the moratorium on introducing genetically engineered food was extended on public demand. In Italy and Austria, government-funded studies have gone to show adverse impact of growing and consuming GM food.
    Having said this, one cannot write off the issue so easily. In the field of medicine, genetic engineering has contributed to some of the most advanced methods of manufacturing medicines like insulin, and offers promises towards curing many hitherto incurable illnesses. Genetic modification can also make plants ,pest and drought resistant.

    The method for protest might have been commentable , but the question is whether it is going to make an impact on the issue. This is not an issue concerning us, but has global perspectives. Times have changed, and I doubt if another Salt Sathyagraha would have any impact in our political scenario.

  2. What a creative and wonderful form of is very proactive rather than being reactive!! I hope this will succeed and be an example to others.

  3. Thank you teacher for educating me on BT brinjal. I did not know this, as well the movement.
    seriously, for a place like kerala gifted with such rich soil, what is need to have Genetically modified produce for consumption? makes me wonder!.


  4. @ Dr Antony
    thanks for the inputs sir.
    'Times have changed, and I doubt if another Salt Sathyagraha would have any impact in our political scenario.'
    One never knows.

    @ anjuli
    yes proactive in a mature, productive and rancour free way

    @ shy
    you are right, shy. if every house had a well managed kitchen garden, kerala would be different.

  5. Like environmental terrorism there is a terrorism in these BT issues. Its a fact that India became No 1 in cotton export in world after BT Cotton was cultivated, this Vidarbha story is repeated over and over and nobody knows whats real facts.

    The tomatoe we are using without seeds for past 10 years is geentically altered so far it has more storage life and no health hazards reported.

    Brinjal is not much used in Kerala only one small brinjal for a sambar or 2,3 brinjals for a 'mezhukkupuratti', no more use. So a ban is easy but will you ban rice or wheat, is so thats courage. These are all propagands.

    The fish you are using Ayla chala are mixed with Ammoniam sulphate isnt that harmful its 100 time harmful than BT Brijal.

    What about carbide rad put Oranges mangoes isnt that harmful? None questions.

  6. These kinds of protests are the need of the hour instead of hartals...

    nd not many years back most Kerala houses had a cow, few chickens and a vegetable had to only walk around your patch of land to get the vegetables for the day's cooking...

  7. That was lovely to know!! From what I have heard many kerala homes have their own dumps in the kitchen garden where they make natural manure, I think thats just a perfect recycling path and what a wonderful way to actually get rid of garbage without using plastic bags! Similarly the BT brinjal project too will triumph in kerala, am sure, goes on to prove what 100% literacy can really achieve!

  8. Yes, it is quite interesing! But Ii have my own doubt about our people who will be working hard to find out some reason to stop this constuctive venture! What to do, it is turned as a nature of Keralite to go against everything without properly understanding whether there is some GOOD in it. Congrats and thanks!


  9. I don't know if Bt Brinjal is good or bad, except a smell some controversy around it.
    It is time we get over destructive methods of prottest.

  10. You pay the ruling party and you can sell anything. The Opposition might protest. Pay them also and they would give up the protest after some time.

    GM food people went wrong in not creating a media hype in their favour, the way the Smart City people did. If GM had been publicised as a 'Dream Food' or so, as was done with the Smart City, and timely payments made to all sides; there would not have been any controversy.

    But then, most MNCs do not care for the Left here. Even the NSG companies ignored them, and it caused the protests against the Nuclear deal.

    When would the exploiting [and even killing] MNCs learn to pay both sides fairly in this country, is the question. They ought to price Indian lives more reasonably and be judicious enough to pay all the sellers of Indian lives [for butchering].

  11. Good post. Tampering the genetics of plants and animals can result in disaster.
    You can get more information about GM foods and the campaign against it here

  12. Glad to hear that a remote village in Kerala is showing the novel way to protest the blind thrust of the MNC products. Govt. instead of supporting such unscrupulous, MNC's should extend support to such movements.

  13. @ anonymous
    kerala govt seems to be supporting the movement at the moment

    @ Chakaran
    thanks. v useful site

    @ the stoic
    the incurable cynic:-) cant help agreeing on some points, tho :-(

    @ B K Chowla
    agree with you sir

    @ krishna Prasad
    guess that's what literacy has done to the state!

    @ happy kitten,
    @ sujatha
    similar views, both of you. i think even now keralites believe in kitchen gardens.
    the bio gas idea is slowly catching on. i think in 5 yrs time, biowaste will become manageable in kerala

    @ ########
    scary. where do we turn to for accurate info on these issues?


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