Kerala remembers C. H. Mohammed Koya – Great Son of India, former and only Muslim Chief minister of Kerala!
-DR. ABDUL RUFF COLACHAL
Life and work of former Kerala chief minister C. H. Mohammed Koya, who worked to give Kerala Muslims a status as equal citizens that made them in due course stand with some prestige that they enjoy today, should help Indian Muslims to live with honour in India.
Muslims of Kerala state marked with profound sense of respect and admiration the 35th anniversary of C.H. Mohammed Koya assuming power as Kerala’s Chief Minister on 12th October 1979. C.H. Mohammed Koya was the first and only Muslim chief minister Kerala state has seen and contribution to the state he had made during his brief period of CM position as well as a minister for long period has been admired by one all.
A simple function was organized in Thiruvananthapuram on 20th October as part of the anniversary programme at Trivandrum Press Club in which many important persons praised the simple person C.H. Mohammed Koya that he was but highly productive nature of work done by Koya for the people of Kerala. Prominent people of Kerala who had personal experience with Koya also dwelt about this infallible character and concern for the backward Malappuram region with poor people which he developed as new district. Today Malappuram is no less important than other districts. Educational and economic levels of the region have improved stead fast, especially with Gulf jobs for them.
Among the speakers, M.M Hassan, the Vice President of Kerala state Congress party, Onakkur Joseph, Abdul Wahab, among others detailed their experiences with Koya, detailing his qualities as minister and human. Shockingly, the Muslim league leaders like E.H. Ahmad, former central minister, M.K. Muneer, son of CH Muhammad Koya and a minister in the UDF ministry of state, did not attend the meeting, citing some vague reasons. The electricity was cut a few times in the hall during the meeting for no specified reasons, though the state secretariat is just nearby. In fact, the electric problem started when the Imam of Palayam mosque began reciting relevant verses from Holy Quran. Maybe, that is only a coincidence and not a deliberate attempt to disrupt the meeting.
As the chief architect of modern Malabar and the force behind the establishment of University of Calicut, CH Muhammed Koya has done maximum for the uplift the region and people. One of most sincere statesmen in Kerala, C.H. Mohammed Koya was born on July 15 1927 at Attoli of Calicut district as the son of Ahmed Musliyar and Mariyumma. His father was a countryside doctor and a specialist in Yunani Medicine. The family had to face many hardships in their life. At high School was his primary experience of politics. His child education from his father and mother and the primary education passes at Kongannur Aided Elementary School and next stage education was at Velur Mappila Elementary School and Quilandi Board High School. He was the one of the great and unmemorable leader in the Kerala Political History.
C.H. Mohammed Koya was an Indian politician and the tenth Chief Minister of Kerala. He served from October 12, 1979 to December 1, 1979. His term of just 54 days is the shortest term ever by a Chief Minister to this date. He experienced his first taste of politics right from his high school. He was actively involved with the IUML. In his early years, he served a short term in the Kurumpranad District Muslim League committee and later in the Municipal Office in Calicut. In 1951, he was elected to the National Executive of the IUML and shortly afterwards, was elected the Councilor of Calicut Municipality. Mohammed Koya was elected into the Kerala Legislative Assembly from the Tanur constituency in 1960. C.H. Mohammed Koya defeated K.P. Kuttikrishnan Nair of the Indian National Congress.
Seethi Sahib guided CH to this path, it was. He would do nothing without consulting him. Of course there is no doubt that it was Syed Abdur Rahman Bafaqi who raised CH giving him all the necessary essential of life. But who influenced CH intellectually was Seethi Sahib, besides Ismail Sahib (one of the founding members of Indian Union Muslim League). His chief mentor, both in personal life and political career, was Syed Abdur Rahman Bafaqi Thangal, to whom he was indebted for all his achievements.
Despite being one of the youngest members in the Assembly, he was known for his charisma and the flair with which he discharged his duties. When Muslim league quit the political alliance at State level, Mohammed Koya resigned Speakership and contested the ensuing Parliamentary Poll successfully from the Calicut constituency. Again, in the State Assembly elections held in 1967, he won by a vast majority, contesting from Mankada constituency. He was the Education Minister in the cabinet headed by Shri E.M.S. Namboodiripad. He continued to retain his Education portfolio in succeeding ministries headed by C. Achutha Menon, K. Karunakaran, A.K. Antony till the Ninth ministry headed by P.K. Vasudevan Nair. As Education minister he was instrumental in formulating many plans that has helped Kerala reach the forefront in the education sector in India. On June 9, 1961 he became the Speaker of the Kerala Legislative Assembly after the sudden demise of K.M. Seethi Sahib. He took oath in the name of Allah at the legislative assembly.
On October 12, 1979 C.H.Mohammed Koya became the Chief Minister of Kerala and his term continued to December 1, 1979. He was the Deputy Chief Minister in the next United Democratic Front (UDF) ministry headed by K. Karunakaran. Continuing in the seat even after the ministry was re-constituted in 1982, after the General Election, Koya stayed there till his untimely demise in the ensuing year, but could not become CM again.
CH Muhammed Koya was a good leader among minority Muslims in Kerala. C.H was the main architect cum founder of Calicut University. Northern Kerala was very backward in the educational field. The university was established to uplift its people and make them capable of facing the challenges of the modern life. C.H.Mohammed Koya Library is an Academic library, affiliated with Calicut University has a collection of 95000 volumes, promoting quality research. The C H Mohammed Koya Library in the campus of the University of Calicut and the Haji C.H. Mohamed Koya College for Advanced Studies under the University of Kerala at Thiruvananthapuram are named in his honour.
CH maintained good ties with the Arab leaders as well. It was following C.H.’s efforts that Arabic teachers in Kerala began to enjoy equal opportunities as their colleagues in government run schools and colleges. Former chief of Sharia Court, Sharjah said: “The history of Indian Muslims is incomplete without the name of Muhammad Koya” It is impossible to speak of CH without a personal touch because it was he who led me to active politics. I had never cherished a dream to enter politics. The only ambition in life was to become a lawyer. I would not say that he disliked me becoming lawyer, but he disallowed me. Whenever I would enter court, he would send for me. Once during a conversation, he asked me to enter the ‘Court of people’ than the ‘Court of law’. Some elders disliked the youthful fervor put forward by people like CH and me. We were trying to infuse new ideas and tactics. When criticism would take serious turn, I used to say to CH “why to enter these quarrels. Why not pursue a career in academics or profession?” CH replied, “My friend, tomorrow we are the ones to lead. How will that happen if we fear these old ones?” He was a true leader forever!
After the partition, many leading Muslim personalities, fearing Hindu fanaticism and anti-Muslim crimes, left for Pakistan. It was iron-willed choice of Seethi Sahib to stay back on his motherland that later paved a path for a political leadership for Muslims in India. Later when Jawaharlal Nehru asked him to dismiss the League, he replied in a convincing tone “I have no authority to do so” referring to the trust that the community had put in him. “Let us have a mainstream of our community and let us also have to merge that mainstream with the national mainstream, keeping the identity of our community as enshrined in the constitution” wrote CH when he was at Delhi. ‘What a quotable quote has Ch written’ exclaimed the colleague who read the letter. Once when he was the chief minister, the opposition leader said in protest, “Chief Minister, you should understand that we are sitting here as opposition”. CH replied, “Honorable opposition leader, I understand what you mean by ‘opposition’. But it is not right to say ‘sitting’ opposition because you are always ‘standing opposition’. The assembly burst in laughter. CH gave instant replies that sealed the lips of his opponents. Although many had differences political differences with him, everyone around him enjoyed his sense of humor.
Satire was the domain special to CH. His literary reviews were also full of humor. He brought to life the characters in the novels of Vaikom Mohammed Basheer- the legendary novelist of Kerala whose works have been translated to several European languages.
Unlike the hypocritical attitude of other political parties, Indian Union Muslim League never hesitated in declaring that it stood for the interest of its community. C.H was bold enough to declare this even in his short-lived Chief Ministry. He spoke thus while being the Chief Minister of Kerala in the assembly, “I am a sincere Muslim. I will not compromise on the privileges of my community. Nor will I snatch the rights of other communities.’
CH was persistent in fighting for the rights of his community. But at the same time he would not snatch what was due to other community. This is what CH taught us. He had to face great criticism even from his own circles. But at the same time he had a sense humor even while facing hardships. He would not leave anyone from criticism. Once there were rumors in the press about differences between him and then chief minister, K. Karunakaran. While talking to the press reporters, he said, “It is true that there are differences between me and chief minister. When having tea, he drinks it with sugar while I have without it.”
Whenever his community’s prestige was questioned, CH fought back with this pen and tongue. Once when he was the Minster of Public works, the opposition raised questions about the lack of construction of roads and bridges. CH gave a ‘befitting excuse’ to them saying, “I like to build them as soon as possible. But the honorable Chief Minister seated here does not require roads and bridges to travel. His car can go over any marshy paddy fields. But my fellow MLAs cannot do so” joked CH while hinting to the chief minister to speed up the concerned files. Even his own colleagues could not escape his criticism. The political sincerity that CH held was the path that Syed PMSA Pookoya followed, what Syed Bafaqi led and what Seethi Sahib preached. When the Communists government came to power in Kerala, the Vasudevan Nayar, the then Chief Minister, tried to lure to CH saying “CH! How long will you sit there in opposition?” He responded immediately saying “As long as you sit there (as ruling party), I will be seated here”!
Some Muslim leaders from Kerala had gone to Delhi accepting the invitation of Ms Indira Gandhi, the then Indian prime Minister. As they reached her home, they had to wait for some time. When they saw the children playing in the compound, CH intended to play with them. When others refused, he convinced them saying “My dear friends! They are the future prime Ministers of India”. How can we forget that simplicity of CH?
Anti-Islamic Hindus, among others who could not stand a Muslim becoming CM, had accused him of being a communalist. But the same accusers addressed him as the greatest nationalist when he died. Those who called him a radical later called praised him as a broad -minded politician.
Now the Muslim League functions as a subordinate party of the Congress party.
In pursuing as a national policy of secular, democratic India to deny Muslims any chances for becoming Premier and Chief-ministers, Kerala political parties and leaders promote only non-Muslims to become chief ministers of the state, while they deliberately and very tactfully oppose any Muslim leaders becoming chief minister.
Koya’s help made Muslims deserving dignity and his good intentions and best wishes have kept the Muslims in Kerala in good stead, though prospering in Mideast and in turn making Kerala economically strong. His Honesty and Public awareness is very popular and well known to all Kerala. He was the representative of the Indian Union Muslim League.
Today, Muslim leaders are available in the ruling Congress party to be considered for promotion as chief minister but for some bogus and vague Hindutva reasons the party leadership refuses any senior Muslim leader to assume chief-minstership. Besides, the Muslim League (AIML) which is a collation partner of ruling UDF with second largest MLAs to sustain the government against the LDFs rigorous efforts to win over a couple of MLAs to pull down the Congress led government. However, the Muslim League does not resort to blackmail tactics to get from UDF at least Deputy CM post which legitimately deserves.
it is really Indian absurdity that even though Muslims in Kerala constitute about 30% of the population, Muslims are denied their right to become the CM of the state. By appeasing anti-Muslim forces in the country, the Congress party has deliberately kept the Muslim leadership in its control, not allowing them to become really genuine leaders of the community and state and country. As a result, Muslim leaders just work as paid vote bank agents and are deceiving the community.
Indian Parliament could pass a law to make a minority member Deputy CM, if Hindu leader is the CM so that Muslim leaders also get a chance to become CM in due course. Secular democracy is not joke.
H. Mohammed Koya who did everything possible to uplift his community and region, apart from working for the Kerala state, died on September 28 at the Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad in 1983.
Before death, Mohammed Koya served the cause of Kerala state, its poor people, development of backward regions. Muslims in the state gradually got empowered by his compassion towards the poor. By founding Calicut University in Malappuram, he helped the poor Muslims also to get educated in order to make a better living.
Kerala Muslim leaders have lessons to learn from Koya’s illustrated life.
A great son of India. May Allah enlighten his grave!
*د. عبد راف *
Educationist, Prolific writer, Specialist on State Terrorism; Chronicler of Foreign occupations &
Freedom movements (Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan,
Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc.) Chancellor-Founder of Centor for International
Affairs(CIA); Commentator on world affairs & sport fixings, Expert on
Mideast Affairs, university teacher; Author of books/ebooks; Editor.