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Mainstream, VOL LV No 6 New Delhi January 28, 2017

Tribute: P. Viswambharan | Varughese George

Tuesday 31 January 2017



by Varughese George

P. Viswambharan, who led the socialist movement in Kerala for several decades, passed away at his ancestral home in Kovalam in Thiruvananthapuram on December 9, 2016. He entered public activity through the Travancore Students Congress that was affiliated to the All India Students Congress. That was in the mid-1940s. Though the country was preparing for national independence, in Travancore the Diwan, Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyer, had been meditating about an independent Travancore insulating it from the Indian nation. The progressive forces in Travancore were fighting the Diwan against this idea and suppression of civil and democratic rights was rampant. The Travancore Students Congress convened its first State conference at Trivandrum in August 1947 and Asoka Mehta was to have inaugurated the conference, but the Diwan imposed a ban on the conference and clamped a black law forbidding any assembly. But the students held the conference violating the ban at the Trivandrum Railway station premises. The President of the Travancore Students Congress, K. Prabhakaran, and Secretary N.D. Jose were arrested. P. Viswambharan was the moving spirit behind the conference.

At that time he was a BA student of University College, Trivandrum. Asoka Mehta, who had to wait at Madras due to the ban, came to Trivandrum since then and confabulated with the young socialists about constituting the Trivandrum District Committee of the Socialist Party. In 1948, when the Socialist Party was formally formed, P. Viswambharan was appointed the District Secretary of the party. Meanwhile Jayaprakash Narayan deputed T.S. Ramaswamy from Nagercoil to help the socialists in Trivandrum to organise unions in unorganised sectors. T.S. Ramaswamy was a student of Lucknow University and an activist of the All India Students Congress. With Ramaswamy‘s help Juba Ramakrishna Pillai organised the scavengers union, S.M. Noohu formed the loading and unloading workers union and P.P. Wilson and Subbayya mobilised the estate workers. Thus the social base of the party was slowly being expanded in the Trivandrum district. In the 1954 elections to the Travancore-Cochin Legislative Assembly, eight party nominees including P. Viswambharan, won from the Trivandrum district that helped in the formation of the first socialist State Government in the country led by Pattom Thanu Pillai. P. Viswambharan was elected the Secretary of the Legislature Party.

In the elections to the Kerala Assembly in 1960 P. Viswambharan was elected from the Nemom constituency for the second time. In the Lok Sabha elections of 1967 P. Viswambharan was elected from the Trivandrum constituency. He was also the Secretary of the Praja Socialist Party in the State during this period. In September 1973 the Socialist Party and CPI-M began consultations on making a joint platform to fight the anti-people policies. The two parties decided to form united opposition fronts in all States and in Kerala it was known as the Left Democratic Front. P. Viswambharan was the first convener of the LDF in Kerala. The elections to the National Executive of the Socialist Party were held in Calicut in December 1974 during the national conference and P. Viswambharan, who was also the Chairman of the Kerala State Committee, had lost the election. Affirming moral responsibility he resigned the post of convener of the LDF.

When the Emergency was declared in 1975 P. Viswambharan showed his true mettle and courage. He activated all party units against the Emergency and coordinated party and underground campaign against the Emergency. Alongwith veteran Gandhians he toured all districts and conducted meetings against the Forty-second Constitutional Amendment. A detenus family distress relief fund to help the families of political prisoners was formed with M.M. Thomas as President and P. Viswambharan as Secretary along with Rev. M.J. Joseph as Treasurer. He was also the Secretary of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights during this period. Later he became the President of Janata Party and Janata Dal in Kerala. He retired from active politics since then. He was a great benefactor of the Janata weekly and wrote about Kerala politics on several occasions. On December 10 evening his body was cremated with full state honours in the compound of his house at Kovalam.

Dr Varughese George is a former Reader in History, Mar Thoma College, Tiruvilla (Kerala).

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