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Saturday, June 19, 2021

A renaissance figure

As communist and politician, law-maker and administrator, K R Gouri Amma leaves behind an unmatched legacy.

By: Editorial |
Updated: May 12, 2021 8:33:25 am
Gouri Amma was a product of a remarkable phase of Kerala history that witnessed a tradition-bound, caste-centric feudal order make way for a society that was more modern and progressive.

Alegislator for 46 years, minister for 16 in five different ministries, piloting pathbreaking legislation like the Kerala Land Reforms Act and spearheading the first technology park in the country in Thiruvananthapuram, and life-long communist. K R Gouri Amma, who passed away at the age of 102 on Tuesday, was peerless in Kerala politics and the Indian communist movement. She broke every stereotype and social barrier in her remarkable journey. It is one of the CPM’s historic blunders that it refused to appoint her as Kerala Chief Minister after projecting her in the 1987 campaign.

Gouri Amma was a product of a remarkable phase of Kerala history that witnessed a tradition-bound, caste-centric feudal order make way for a society that was more modern and progressive. Born in an oppressed caste, her father was particular that she received a good education and joined a modern profession. She practised law for a while but was drawn to communism under the influence of her elder brother, who was a CPI leader during the Punnapra-Vayalar struggle in 1946. She was involved in organising peasants and coir workers in the 1950s and faced the brunt of police torture when the CPI was forced to go underground in 1948-51. Gouri Amma was elected as MLA in 1957 and as revenue minister in the first communist ministry in the country, she piloted the landmark tenancy and land reform laws. With her husband, a no less prominent communist, T V Thomas, staying on in the parent party and she preferring the breakaway CPM, her marriage did not survive the split in the communist movement.

Gouri Amma was far too strong and proud a personality to subsume herself in a collective identity or be intimidated by party discipline. She survived expulsion from the CPM in 1994 to float her own outfit and joined Congress-led UDF governments. In her last years, the CPM reached out to facilitate her return to the party. By then, Gouri Amma had transcended the confines of party and ideology, to become a figure loved by all of Kerala as their own.

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