A Tamil Novel Every Indian Needs to Read

The heinous Coimbatore bombings occurred on Saturday, 14 February 1998. A total of 58 people were killed and over 200 injured in the 12 bomb attacks in 11 places, all within a 12 kilometer radius.

It was said that the bombs were planted by Muslim organization and communal frenzy was fanned up, resulting in a terrible communal riot. Communal tension has systematically been built up in the city well before the blasts. Earlier Coimbatore (Kovi) was known for communal amity as was the rest of Tamilnadu. The riots helped the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate C P Radhakrishnan to win the Parliament seat by a record margin of over 1,00,000 votes in the 1998 Lok Sabha elections.

However the whole truth was never told. The pain and sufferings of the people, particularly of Muslims remained untold for long, until Sumsdeen Heera, one of the victims of the communal flare up, penned a novel Mounathin Satchiyangal (Witnesses of Silence).

The novel, published by Ponnulagam Pathippagam, was released in a function held at Madurai in June 2015. The novel narrates how communal harmony was disturbed by Hindutva fanatics systematically over a long period, creating a communal mindset. The novel also paints a picture of the society, economic status and mobility of various communities and classes in the city.

It records how the people of lower castes were pulled in by the high caste Hindu organization and then used to tear the fabric of communal harmony. It also narrates the pain and death faced by the Muslims and other common people in the face of bomb blasts and riots. The novel also depicts how people of the oppressed castes also stood up against the Hindu fanatics to save Muslims.

The novel’s greatest strength is its grasp of the various political trends – not only the major parties but even smaller groups and tendencies - and their role in, or response to the communal situation.

The novel tells the story of Yasar, an young man who is transformed by the communal tension from an ‘ordinary Muslim’ and a seeker of peace and harmony. He ends up in jail as a result of the riots after the blasts, where he nearly goes insane under the torture. His only solace is Vaishnavi, a young communist woman. His narrates his story to a young corporate executive on the train journey.

The novel examines the communal bias in the police and state machinery, while taking care to remark on the few conscientious souls in uniforms. The author had taken pains to collect all the relevant documents including fact finding reports, charge sheets, report of the Commission appointed by government and news reports to present a true and powerful story of the Coimbatore riots.

Mounathin Satchiyangal is a fine novel which shows a mirror to a country where communal forces are in power, but which nevertheless has space for hope, especially from people’s movements and communist movements.

This novel should be translated into English and all Indian bhashas, to spread the message of hope and to show how ‘riots’ are created by communal fascists to win political power.

Liberation Archive