At the tender age of three, when children play with dolls, Niveditha Subrahmaniyam was in jail. Niveditha is, now, the BJP candidate from the holy town of Guruvayur in Kerala. She was in jail with her mother, who had been imprisoned for her campaign against the Emergency 1975.
She hails from a family of fighters — born to parents who refused to yield to unconstitutional diktats of the powers that be. It was a protest against the Emergency imposed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that landed Niveditha in jail in 1975. Thanks to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which rose to the occasion, Indira did not succeed in forcing her hegemonic designs.
Kerala witnessed one of the worst reigns of state-sponsored terror during the Emergency. Hundreds of activists and RSS cadre were crushed under the police boot. As many as 7,314 people were jailed all across the state.
Niveditha’s mother Radha Balakrishnan attended a protest meet in Palakkad district with other like-minded women. Unfortunately, she had also taken baby Niveditha to the agitation. Police swooped down on the protestors and arrested the women. The cops did their best to split the child from her mother, but the baby clung to Radha. Both mother and child were then moved to a prison, which operated in the Palakkad Fort. They languished there for almost a month.
Radha and her husband Anedath Balakrishnan Nair were actively involved with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in Kerala right from the Jana Sangh days. The couple fought shoulder to shoulder with the Sangh in its efforts to end caste discrimination. When Sangh fought against casteism in the Ootupura (dining hall) of the famed Sri Krishna Temple in Guruvayur, Balakrishnan, Radha and their children led from the front.
During Nilakkal Movement, Karunakaran, the then Kerala Chief Minister, mocked Hindus who were up in arms against the devious plans to erect a Church at Nilakkal on the way to the Sabarimala temple. This upset Radha who with a team of women decided to prevent Karunakaran from entering the Guruvayur temple.
An ardent devotee of Lord Guruvayurappan, Karunakaran was a regular visitor to the shrine, but Radha’s campaign forced him to return from Guruvayur without having darshan of Lord Krishna.
The success of Nilakkal movement in 1983, with Kummanam Rajasekharan as convener, emboldened RSS and Hindu community in Kerala. Later, when Jana Sangh morphed into BJP, Radha became state president of Mahila Morcha. She was an active member until she passed away on 10 June 2012.
It is now Niveditha’s turn to carry forward the legacy of her parents. She is contesting against current and two-time sitting MLA KV Abdul Khader of CPI (M) and PM Sadiq Ali, IUML. Her candidature will also go a long way in empowering women in the state where despite the high female sex ratio, there exists widespread misogyny.
originally published in https://swarajyamag.com/politics/keralas-youngest-political-prisoner-is-bjps-candidate-from-guruvayur