Resurrecting a forgotten freedom fighter

A rare picture ofM.P. Narayana Menon during his jail days.  

Historians of Calicut University have resurrected a freedom fighter of Malabar who made seminal contributions to the freedom movement.

M.P. Narayana Menon, nicknamed Mapila Menon owing largely to his close association with the Mapila tenants of Malabar, is being revivified and honoured on his 50th death anniversary.

A man who showed courage to take the freedom movement from the elite upper class to the lower caste and downtrodden communities of Malabar, Narayana Menon was feared and abhorred not only by the British but by some torchbearers of the freedom struggle as well.

He was shunned by several national leaders, including C. Rajagopalachari, for his association with the lower class.

Few other freedom fighters of Malabar were branded ‘confirmed criminal’ as Menon by the British, who jailed him for 14 years. Twelve years of his incarceration took place for his support to the Mapila Rebellion of Malabar in 1921.

His kindness and helping nature towards the Mapila tenants earned him the sobriquet Malabar’s Abu Talib. Menon ignored the sarcasm when he was called the Mapaila Menon. Rather he took pride in his association with the lower tiers of society.

Founder of the Kudiyan Nivarana Sangham, Menon became hugely popular among the tenants when he fought and won a case against Zamorin. His jail days won him many friends from the North with strong socialist views.

Widely called a socialist Gandhian, Menon had many disciples, including Communist ideologue E.M.S. Namboothiripad. The former Kerala Chief Minister wrote a book on Menon, describing him as his guru.

Largely ignored and forgotten, Menon is resurrected now thanks to a joint initiative by the History and Folklore Departments of Calicut University and the State Archives Department.

“His contributions and ideals of communal amity assume greatest value today,” said P. Sivadasan, head of the Department of History, and T.K. Rasheed Ali, programme convener.

An exhibition on Menon’s life is on at St. Mary’s College. Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan will inaugurate a series of seminars on him on Saturday.

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