BOOK Ponneelan bases his third novel ‘Marupakkam' on the 1982 Mandaikadu communal clashes. Syed Muthahar Saqaf

P rominent writer and Sahitya Akademi winner Ponneelan's recently released novel ‘Marupakkam' revolves round the Mandaikadu communal clashes and reflects the current political scenario across the nation.

The novel codifies the distinction between ‘religion' and ‘religious fundamentalism' and comes out with a strong message -- that communal forces can play havoc and even destroy the social fabric of the country.

The novel ensures that there is an unbiased presentation of facts and of every section of society associated with the tragedy, says Ponneelan during a recent interview.

Drawing satisfaction from his latest work -- his third major -- Ponneelan talks about the efforts he had put in for over two decades to identify, collect and register the causes and subsequent developments following the Mandaikadu clashes in 1982 and also the social and cultural impact of the same.

Clarity of thought

“Since I wanted to discover the real causes that led to the clashes, I did not mind toiling hard,” he says. His balanced approach while doing interviews and his clarity of conviction went down well with all groups.

Though the apparent clash was between two major communities of the coastal Kanyakumari district, in reality it was something totally different. Behind both the rival communities, there appeared to be a cluster of petty groups.

Each group was found blowing up the issue to suit its whims and fancies, further complicating the issue. Every issue helped Ponneelan understand and assess the problem better.

Creating waves

It is only four months since ‘Marupakkam' has been released. But it has already started creating waves. The literary circles have welcomed the book and its initiative. Universities, colleges and literary associations have been organising seminars to hold discussion on the novel, across the State. “Already seminars have been held in 10 centres, where not only literary personalities but also people of different walks of life have seriously reviewed the contents of the novel,” says a proud Ponneelan.

As to allegations that Ponneelan favoured one group, he responds: “A majority of the people who have read the book feel I have presented the facts in an unbiased manner.” Already the first edition has sold out and the second edition is being printed.

It was the visit of the late Kundrakudi Adigalar of Kundrakudi Mutt, who made the trip at the request of the then Chief Minister M. G. Ramachandran that helped in restoring normalcy in this coastal village.

What is Ponneelan's message? Humanism is the base for every religion. Communalism is an artificial factor which came into existence only to destroy humanism. By maintaining unity, people can defeat this and lead a harmonious life.

Referring to his other two novels, Ponneelan says, “While ‘Karisal' dealt with economic struggle, ‘Pudhiya Darisanangal' was about political struggle. ‘Marupakkam' deals with cultural struggle.”

The novel comes out with a strong message -- that communal forces can play havoc and even destroy the social fabric of the country.