Panakkad Thangals vanguards of peace, says MT Vasudevan Nair

MT Vasudevan Nair

The Kodapannakkal family at Panakkad in Malappuram district has been traditionally exercising spiritual and political power in the Muslim community, especially in northern Kerala. Eminent author and doyen of Malayalam literature MT Vasudevan Nair applauded the role of the Thangals (an honorific equivalent to the Arabic term Sayyid), on the death of Hyderali Shihab Thangal, 74, the Kerala State President of the Indian Union Muslim League, on Sunday. Here MT, as the litterateur is popularly known, recalls the inestimable contribution of the Thangal family to Kerala's secular fabric.

The Thangal family at Panakkad always wielded power through love, hence they were always seen in the midst of a large crowd. Crowds always surrounded the leading members of the family, be it Panakkad Syed Mohammedali Shihab Thangal or his brother Hyderali Shihab Thangal as they led the Muslim League successively over the decades.

In contrast, those who resort to repression will never bear with the masses around. Generally, they create enmity. It is easy to create a reign of terror or unleash violence. Anybody can create anger easily. Anyone can set fire easily. We don't see the pros and cons when we are part of a mob. We raise slogans, create a ruckus, throw stones... There is something peculiar about pelting stones. While pelting a stone you can see the results at once. Glass breaks immediately and that brings satisfaction to the stone-pelter. While setting a fire, the flames engulf everything around. The rioters see this as an opportunity to view the horrific results of their violent actions live.

The best example of provoking violence was told well by Shakespeare. All are waiting eagerly to welcome Roman general and dictator Julius Caesar who is arriving in Rome after a great victory. Among those waiting are some of his adversaries Brutus and Cassius. They are the ones who stab Julius Caesar to death in the senate hall. Each one took turns to stab Julius Caesar who had commanded the love and affection of the entire Rome.

Brutus' speech comes at a time when people are completely shocked and stunned: 'Not that I loved Caesar less, but I loved Rome more." Hearing this the crowd’s mind changed. Brutus did not kill the Caesar we loved.

Meanwhile, sentaor Mark Antony makes the speech seeking permission to bury the mortal remains of Caesar. Through his speech, Antony tries to restore the earlier image of Caesar. People were changing their opinion after hearing that speech.

But the same people elect Brutus and Cassius who had hatched the conspiracy against Caesar. By narrating this Shakespeare not only registered history but also established that a person with a gift of the gab is capable of turning people violent.

We have also left behind a similar era when we feared that something dangerous might happen to Kerala. But we stood up in such a testing phase. I am referring to the Babri Masjid incident. Everyone was sure of some kind of riots breaking out in Kerala (following its demolition in December 1992). In the midst of all the apprehensions, a man came to save us all from the big disaster, upholding the message of peace and brotherhood from the Panakkad Thangal family. He was Panakkad Syed Mohammedali Shihab Thangal, (the brother of Hyderali Shihab Thangal.)

Some people tried to term his stand as indication of his failure and weakness. I had referred to the Roman events to make them understand that it's easy to turn a crowd hostile and violent. Just as a little spark can burn the entire house, a crowd can become violent and even take up arms on hearing just a few spoken words. There is umpteen evidence on such violent history. 

Many times it's not possible to promote peace because since aeons people are like that. Spiritual feeling is needed to overcome the tendency of violence that is inherent among the people. And only those who can overcome anger and violence can nurture peace.

The Panakkad Thangals have strived diligently to sustain the peaceful atmosphere. Our belief system has something called humanity cutting across political boundaries. We need to do whatever is required to be done for upholding peace and humanity. This is what we call 'mahatvam' (greatness).

One of the principles put forward by the United Nations is “culture of peace”. We are losing this culture of peace gradually. We need to once again uphold the message of peace. The Panakkad Thangal family has been among those who have always been flag-bearers of such a culture. The people of Kerala are indebted to them because of their tireless efforts towards strengthening and sustaining peace and brotherhood.

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