The Kerala State Archery Championship was held yesterday. It is named after Thakakkal Palottu Chanthu. His archers (men and women) of the Kurichiyar community fought the British bravely for Pazhassi Raja, the Lion of Kerala. That is part of history.
Though two hundred years have passed since the valiant man passed on, members of Chanthu’s family still dominate the archery scene in Kerala. For years the family’s A Team and B Team have been clashing in the finals. Eight men and four women from Palottu took part in this year’s championship. A family member won the men’s individual championship as well.
Last year the Palottu women’s team was the runner up, but they were pushed to the third place this time. Perhaps the reason was that their star could not take part. She, PK Jayalakshmi, is a Minister in the Kerala State Government, in charge of Welfare of Scheduled Tribes, Youth Affairs, and Museum & Zoos. She did not go to the place in Cochin where the championships were held, but was following the event through telephone.
Trigger happy Italian marines
A fishing boat named St. Antony from Quilon, Kerala, went out sea a couple of weeks back as usual to catch fish. Out at sea, the boat was fired at by marines on the passing Italian oil tanker Enrica Lexie. Two poor fishermen aboard St. Antony died. This was on the 15th of February. The tragedy took place in an area where thousands fishing boats roam almost around the clock. The nation was shocked.
In some countries the State lends its navy men for a fee to safeguard merchant ships from attacks by pirates. That is fine. But the uniformed men so deployed should be sensible persons and follow laid down procedure. Warnings were not given as required while confronting pirates. Neither the Captain nor the others remembered that Kerala coast is not pirate infested. The ship did not inform the Indian Coastguard or Navy or police about the incident but tried to carry on quietly. On information from the boat which was attacked, the tanker was apprehended and brought to Cochin.
The Italians involved were arrogant from the beginning and have told apparent lies which they are still holding on to. The biggest falsehood is that it was a pirate boat that they shot at and there were five armed men in it. (There have been no pirate attacks from the Kerala coast in known history.) None of the people on St. Antony that day is unlikely to have handled a gun in their lives.
St. Antony’s owner driver and rest of the crew, I believe, were Catholics. Did Italy try to take advantage of that through Mar George Cardinal Alencherry (Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church) who was in Rome to receive his Cardinalship. A Vatican news agency, Agenzia Fides, published on their website a statement in the name of the new Prince of the Church. It indicated support to the Italian stand and that the Church could influence the Indian/Kerala Government through Catholic Ministers in the Cabinet.
The Cardinal denied that he had made such a statement. The agency published new interview, but did not apologize for any wrong reporting earlier. Anyway, this incident has created quite a bit of damage: 1) those on St. Antony are Latin Catholics and do not come under Mar Alencherry and this has caused a suspicion that the Syrio-Malabar Church did not support the Latin cause, 2) at least some Syro-Malabar Church members believe that the Cardinal did make the statement that originally came out and question his capability to be the head of the Church, and, 3) the Catholics have lost face.
The matter is before the Kerala High Court and we can be certain that justice would be done. And let us pray for the families of the dead fishermen. I like the answer the 17 years old Derrick, the son of one of the dead men gave when an Italian scribe asked what the boy wanted the Italian Government to do for his family. According to The Hindu the youngster said do what Italy would have done if the incident had happened in that country and the victim was an Italian. He added that there was no hatred for Italy, but the marines should get no mercy.
Let the grains rot
This is the season for harvesting the punja rice crop in Kuttanad. But instead of paddy in their granaries, the farmers are likely to get tears in their eyes. (Kuttanad, a weeping beauty.)
The problem is how to harvest. There is no labour. I am told that when 250 harvesting machines are required, Alleppey District has only 25. Because of the Mullaperriyar issue, renting the equipment from Tamil Nadu is not easy.
Does anyone remember the Communist theory of not mechanizing, so that more people would get jobs!