Veteran Communist Berlin Kunhanandan Nair dies at 97

Veteran Communist and journalist Berlin Kunhanandan Nair, who was a repository of the history of the Marxist party in Kerala, died on Monday. He was 97.

Nair, who had not been keeping well for the past few years, breathed his last at his ancestral home at Narath in Kannur district of Kerala.

Though he never held any top position in the CPM, he had a close camaraderie with many party stalwarts, including EMS Namboothiripad, A K Gopalan and E K Nayanar.

During his around three decade-long career as a journalist in East Germany, Nair was in touch with so many leaders of the erstwhile socialist block.

Nair became European correspondent of the Left publications in India in the early 1960s. He was the correspondent of the now defunct pro-Left weekly "Blitz" and his long stay in erstwhile East Germany earned him the prefix 'Berlin' with his name. He had also worked at the CPM's state office, AKG Centre, in Thiruvananthapuram.

He started political activism at the age of 12 as the founder secretary of Balasangham -- children's wing of the then undivided Communist Party -- in 1935. 

He became a party card holder in 1939. A year later he was jailed in connection with Morazha incident, a famous peasant movement that occurred in Morazha in Kannur during the independence struggle.

Nair was the youngest representative of the Communist party's first party congress held in Bombay in 1943.

Kunhanandan nair at his house in Kannur in 2021. Photo: Manorama

He worked underground in Bombay for the party during the 1945-46 period.

Later, he worked for the party in Calcutta and New Delhi. When EMS Namboothiripad became the general secretary of the undivided Communist party in 1957, Nair was appointed his private secretary.

In 1958, he went to the Soviet Union and graduated from the Party School in Marxism-Leninism and Political Philosophy. Nair had attended the 21st Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that took place in Moscow in 1959.

Nair is the author of the investigative book, “Devil and his dart : How the CIA is plotting in the Third World.”

Once a staunch supporter of Pinarayi, Nair stood with V S Achuthanandan during the intense factional fight in the CPM in the 2000-15 era. He was expelled from the party in 2005 for his public utterances against the party. In 2009, when the now Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president K Sudhakaran contested the Lok Sabha polls from Kannur constituency, Nair publicly campaigned for him, challenging the CPM.

This infuriated the party and the CPM workers were restrained from keeping in contact with Nair. It was during this period that Achuthanandan, then a party central committee member, paid a visit to Nair's house in July in 2011 which became a controversy.

In 2015, he was taken back in the party. That year, he donated four cents of his land in Kannur to build a local committee office for the party and also donated his personal library collection.

Nair's autobiography titled “Polichezhuth”, which exposed a series of inner issues within the CPM, had ignited a huge political controversy. The book had a series of criticism against Vijayan. Last year, Nair had expressed regret about making some personal attack against Vijayan. He had said that he was ready to apologise to Vijayan.

Vijayan, Satheesan mourn Nair

The chief minister condoled the death of Nair. In his condolences message, Vijayan remembered Nair as a person “who spent decades conveying the news of the East Germany and the Socialist Bloc to the world.”

Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan said Nair's two books – Polichezhuth and Olicamerakal Parayathath (What hidden cameras don't say) – would remain as a guide to those interested in political history. 

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