Malabar Mail: Celebrating the spirit of the region

A big leap for Kannur

The Kannur airport kick-starts a change in the narrative about the district as the land of mindless political violence

Negativity sticks like velcro tape. ‘Bad Is Stronger Than Good’, reads the title of a study led by American social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister.

Kannur is perhaps alien to Prof. Baumeister, but the district’s recent history proves his theory of negativity biased. To outsiders, Kannur is a district of spine-chilling political murders, horrible bomb attacks, vandalism, and vengeance.

This image of Kannur is far from true. The negative tag has stayed in spite of the perceptible decline in political violence in recent times. Every time a political murder hits the headline, the image gets strengthened, no matter the umpteen number of positive events and developments taking place in the district. Perhaps human brain is hardwired by evolution to look for bad news.

Changing profile

True, some areas of the district bear the legacy of violent political rivalry. But changes in the socio-economic profile of the people are hard to ignore. It is time Kannur was re-branded to counter this perception. People’s desire for an image makeover of the district could not have been better articulated than a call by T.V. Subhash, District Collector, for “commemorating our cultural heritage”.

The district administration has drawn up a plan for what he calls “serious cultural intervention” for a change of perception. “Kannur is a place of culture, and what has to be encouraged here is a cultural consumerism to transform society,” Mr. Subhash says. He is keen on holding regular cultural festivals in the district.

Taking wings

Signs of the changing face of Kannur are already visible. The catalyst for the transformation is the Kannur airport, the State’s newest international airport that was commissioned in December last year. The infrastructure development that the airport is likely to accelerate is just one part of the story. The government has already decided to speed up steps to develop six roads to the airport. But equally important is the spin-off effects of the airport in other areas. Here is an example of the project’s knock-on impact on the district’s academic life: a college at Koothuparamba recently organised a truly international seminar attended by a host of scientists from abroad. Had it not been for the airport, the event would not have taken place.

The airport has also opened up new opportunities for tourism development. Muzhappilangad, a drive-in beach, was recently featured in a BBC Autos article as one of the world’s six best beaches for driving. “The beaches around Kannur, Thottada and Bekal [which is in Kasaragod] are pristine, and a string of homestays and resorts have sprouted up to give the in-the-know travellers on all budgets a beachfront view that should make Goa’s hoteliers weep,” reads a 2017 Lonely Planet entry of the best destinations in Asia.

Good triumphs

It may not be easy to shed the negative image at one fell swoop. But the desire for change is irrefutable. And, here is the rub: the negative perception will return with a vengeance the moment an incident of political violence occurs. But it is possible that decisive efforts, backed by strong political will, can change the narrative about the district.

And, the paper by Baumeister et al ends with this: “Good can still triumph in the end by force of numbers.”

(Malabar Mail is a weekly column by The Hindu’s correspondents that reflects Malabar’s life and lifestyle)

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 9:32:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/a-big-leap-for-kannur/article29036902.ece

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