Book chapter / Left-Right Politics around Hindu Temples in Kerala

Nirmala V.U. “Temple as a Site of Contestation: The Left’s Engagement with Hindu Identity Politics in Kerala.” In Left Politics in South Asia: Reframing the Agenda, edited by Ravi Kumar, 271-307. Delhi: Aakar Books, 2019.

Abstract: Scholars have identified the hegemony of the Left in Kerala civil society as a reason for progressive and democratic results, but the literature is relatively silent on the strong right-wing currents in the soco-political life of Kerala. This chapter examines the consolidation of right-wing, Hindu religious politics in Kerala against the backdrop of the growing political visibility of the right-wing forces and their social base of mobilisation.

The growth of Hindu right-wing parties in Kerala is explained with reference to politics around Hindu temples in the state and the Left’s political efforts to check it in various ways. The chapter also critically examines the efforts of the Left in engaging with the identity politics of Hindu religion. It broadly looks at how this engagement is helpful for the parliamentary parties of the Left to bring out a cross-religious mobilisation of classes for common struggle.

The chapter examines the following questions:

  1. How does the transformation of temples from being sites of production and ritualistic authority (to control a caste-ridden society) to devotional centres become meaningful to the political Left and Right in Kerala?
  2. How have the Leftist political parties engaged with the idea of ‘wounded Hindu self’ propagated by Hindu right-wing organisations?
  3. How have the Left countered the Sangh Parivar through engaging in temple administrative reforms from above and below?

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Reposted from Kerala Scholars eGroup