Not everything contained in the US diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks is news.
However, many cables are interesting not because they reveal new information about their subjects, but they give a clue about what interests the American government, what it keeps tabs on and how it views developments.
The American government has great interest in the fate of Communist parties in India, as evidenced by often long write-ups sent by its Ambassadors and Consul Generals. The Americans also kept a close watch on affairs relating to religious minorities, partly out of the feeling that they must protect such rights, to the extent possible, across the World.
A cable sent early last year from the Chennai Consulate describes the ongoing conflict between the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPIM and the local Christian authorities in Kerala.
The CPIM and most of the Churches in Kerala have a long history of antagonism, starting from the ‘Vimochana Samaram’ or ‘Liberation Struggle’ launched by the Catholic Church in Kerala against the state’s first Communist government in 1958.
The struggle, which was prompted by a Government reform program targeted at educational institutions, was soon widened to include the upper caste Hindus who opposed the Communist government’s land reform policies. It ultimately ended in the dismissal of the elected government by the Congress led Centre in the subsequent year.
Through the years, the Communists and most of the Kerala Churches have had an uneasy relationship, with the latter sometimes overtly making statements in favor of the Congress alliance.
The Church also saw the Communists as ‘Godless’ atheists bent on destroying religion, due to the puritanical nature of the party in its early decades.
However, as the years wore on, the CPIM too became yet another party, comprised of believers as well as non believers, including Christians, though there was never any love lost between the Church and the Communists.
The Communists continue to see religious leaders and organizations as “reactionary” forces that impede “dialectical progress”. In fact, for many Kerala Communists, “reactionary” ranks with words such as “fascist” and “imperialist” as a term of insult and abuse.
It was therefore not surprising that soon after its crushing 16:4 defeat by the Congress Party alliance in Kerala in the Parliamentary elections of 2009, Prakash Karat, the leader of the Party, urged all functionaries to return to ideological purity.
“..leading party cadres such as leaders of state committee, district committee, zonal/area committees etc. are expected to uphold progressive values in their personal and social lives. They should not organize religious ceremonies or personally conduct religious rituals,” he wrote in an introspective article titled “CPM, Rectification and Religion.”
However, as the US Consul General for Chennai Andrew Simkin pointed out, the ‘self purification’ efforts served only to give even more ammunition to the religious leaders to attack the Party with.
“The Catholic church was quick to react to the “double standards” in the party’s setting different rules for party members and leaders. Father Paul Thelakat, a spokesman of the Catholic Synod pointed out that the rules introduce “a kind of caste system within the party”.
“The CPM will have no future if it does not leave aside this outdated ideology,” he said. Manoj called it “duplicity in attitude.”
“In a rejoinder to Karat, Manoj said: “the party wants believers to stick posters, shout slogans… and become martyrs but will not allow them to become leaders and participate in the decision making forum of the party. This is sheer feudalistic attitude,” Simkin pointed out.
Simkin also pointed out that some Communist leaders, such as the young MP AP Abdullakutty, were returning to the fold of religion, abandoning the Party and joining the rival Congress.
“In an interview Abdullakutty, now a Congress member of the state legislative assembly, alleged that CPM leaders had criticized him for taking a pilgrimage to Mecca and attending Eid prayers.
“Later, he wrote in his blog: ‘Marxist indoctrination played a major role in my metamorphosis from a faithful follower of Islam to a hard-boiled atheist. Now the wheel has come full circle. When I recently visited Makkah to observe the Uumrah, it became a talking point for the media. Somewhere along the way I had regained my faith in Islam and I did not wish to keep it a secret. And I was prepared to face the consequences,'” the cable said.