Deconstructing Historiography: M S Jayaprakas and Counter Hegemonic Narratives in Kerala

Dr M S Jayaprakas 1950-2013. Professor of History and Human Rights Activist who passed away on 10 May 2013 at Alapuzha while addressing a gathering at Carmel Hall.

Dr M S Jayaprakas 1950-2013. Professor of History and Human Rights Activist who passed away on 10 May 2013 at Alapuzha while addressing a gathering at Carmel Hall. Photo from Internet

Prof (Dr) M S Jayaprakas (1950-2013) was an academic and activist who contributed in a liberating way to people’s culture and history in Kerala.  As a teacher and a radical professor of history he enlightened generations of young students on the real but suppressed and erased history of Kerala.  As an author and orator he also illuminated millions of young readers, researchers and listeners on the Buddhist and egalitarian ethical traditions and cultural legacies of Kerala. I remember using his articles in my doctoral dissertation on caste and gender in fictional narratives in post colonial India titled Representing the Margin.

Vatadage or Vattam at Polonaruva, Sri Lanka.  Photo from internet

Vatadage or Vattam at Polonaruva, Sri Lanka. Photo from internet

After many decades of dedicated and democratic teaching and dissemination of empowering counter hegemonic knowledge  he had retired as the Professor and Head of History at D B College Sastamkotta in Kollam district of Kerala.  He has published five books on Kerala history, politics, culture and society.  He has also published 12 erudite research papers on the historic struggles of the people in Kerala against the elite caste Hindu hegemonic culture that is exploiting them in the field of religion, politics and social life.  His critique of caste and cultural elitism is all the more relevant in Kerala in the context of growing Savarna hijacking strategies that monopolize and police the academia and media in a covert and consensual way in tandem with the right wing regime and its appeasing policies towards the monopoly social groups.

Pattanam Buddha fragment at Nileeswaram Temple, Pattanam.  In Anuradhapuram style and belongs to Teravada stage of early 6-8 th century AD.

Pattanam Buddha fragment at Nileeswaram Temple, Pattanam. In Anuradhapuram style and belongs to Teravada stage of early 6-8 th century AD.

We can imagine the kind of pressure and antagonism that he has faced while dealing with grave issues of social inequality and caste chauvinism in public service and public funded institution.  Even today those  organic intellectuals from the Avarna or former untouchable social background, who write and speak against the lingering Savarna hegemony and the so called ‘leading fallacy’ of caste Hindus in public life and institutions, face serious threats and pressure from the monopoly groups who dominate the institutional structures through clicks and conspiracies.  The Savarna consensus and hidden agendas are engulfing the academia and media in Kerala at present.  The voicing and recovery of the minor histories and heterologies of the subaltern by Dr M S J gain significance in this alarming anti democratic context of growing social inequality.

Mavelikara Buddha at Buddha Junction Mavelikara, again in Anuradhapura style 7-8th century.

Mavelikara Buddha at Buddha Junction Mavelikara, again in Anuradhapura style 7th or 8th century.

Prof Jayaprakas has provided us some vital critical perspectives and analytical models for the study of culture and history in Kerala especially  in the historic contexts of the Vedic hegemony and Brahmanic internal imperialism.  He has been a consistent critic of caste and its various neo avatars in various walks of life.  He has shown the courage to challenge and resist Savarna or caste Hindu appropriation of public culture and popular institutions in India.  He has also enlightened the people in Kerala on their true Buddhist and Jain heritage and past that was erased by Brahmanical Savarna feudal rule that got established itself through bloody repression and pogroms or religious persecution.  Caste and untouchability itself were inhuman means of this persecution that degraded both the subaltern and the sovereign from the middle ages onwards.

Buddha at Bharanikavu Pallykal near Katanam in Kayamkulam.

Buddha at Bharanikavu Pallykal near Katanam in Kayamkulam.

A few months ago Prof Jayaprakas telephoned me after seeing my web posts on the discovery of the Buddha fragment at Pattanam.  He was also keen in following the new media regarding various modes of resistance against the onslaughts of hegemonic elite culture and neo nationalist propaganda.  Even while he was recovering from a stroke he told me that he would come and visit Pattanam with me in a few weeks in last November.  Unfortunately we lost him at this early age of 63.

Siddha of Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism at Kayikara Asan Memorial.

Siddha of Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism at Kayikara Asan Memorial.

But it is also a matter of pride that he died on the dais.  He breathed his last while voicing the real and muted history of Kerala.  He was talking about the sidelined history of Tachil Matu Tarakan who was instrumental in the creation of Alapuzha as a major port.  According to media reports he talked about 10 minutes and then collapsed (Matrubhumi daily, 11 May 2013).  He was speaking in the Carmel Hall at Alapuzha around 4pm.  He has also educated the common people through his numerous Malayalam articles in various popular periodicals. It is the task of public academies like the Sahitya Akademi to collect and publish his popular writings at least posthumously.

MSJ, Pen and Ink on Paper by Ajay Sekher.  20*30cm. 11 May 2013 on reading the news of his demise.

MSJ, Pen and Ink on Paper by Ajay Sekher. 20*30cm. 11 May 2013 on reading the news of his demise.

His works include; Sri Narayana Guruvum Samrakshita Viplavavum,

Ezhava Sivan Indian Viplavatinte Vithu,

Matetara Bharatavum Gurudeva Darsanangalum,

A Study on the History of Ezhava in Kerala and

The History of Nivartana Agitation.

A pre-historic menhir locally called Pulachi Kallu near Thrissur.  Took it in 2011 while teaching at Govt College Thrissur.

A pre-historic menhir locally called Pulachi Kallu near Thrissur. Took it in 2011 while teaching at Govt College Thrissur.

It is very important to continue the contemporary critique of caste and Brahmanism that Prof M S Jayaprakas has ethically actualized as a continuation of the Kerala renaissance legacy of anti caste activism as initiated in late 19th century by Narayana Guru himself.  He was also active in human rights organizations.  Though generations of writers and public intellectuals like Sahodaran or Mitavadi continued this caste critique in the first half of 20th century it was abandoned by late 20th century writers from the Avarna social strata.  Lack of publishing opportunities and censoring editorial policies monopolized by the Savarna interests blocked the caste critique of the Avarna in late 20th century that continue even today.  All sorts of obscurantism and elitist patriotic discourses are resurfacing in the guise of neo Nationalism, Neo Gandhism and language oriented cultural elitism; and classical claims of linguistic and cultural groups.  Parochialism and superiority or high cultural claims over language and region are also on the rise all across India and especially in Kerala.

The shrinking Sastamkotta Lake in Kollam, the only fresh water lake in Kerala, highly significant in cultural and natural history of the state.

The shrinking Sastamkotta Lake in Kollam, the only fresh water lake in Kerala, highly significant in cultural and natural history of the region especially in relation to the ethical and democratic culture of Buddhism in Kerala.  Photo from Internet

The ardent cultural politics of the Avarna and the urgent countering of the omnipotent high tech discourses of Neo Hindutva and Moditva are going to be a cultural and political emergency in the present and near future.  Dr M S J has provided us with a basic insight and framework for this counter hegemonic and counter fascist  democratic activism and ethical academics.  There is an urgent need to translate and republish his works and to make it available to the people while the Parivar is aiming to siege Delhi.

3 thoughts on “Deconstructing Historiography: M S Jayaprakas and Counter Hegemonic Narratives in Kerala

  1. Mohan M M

    Can you please tell me from where I can buy Dr. Jayaprakash’s books. from M.M. Mohan, Kochi
    cellphon: 9847115008

    Reply

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