1. PN Panicker, the founder of the Kerala Library Movement and the architect of Kerala attaining cent percent literacy in Jun '91 had passed away on 19 Jun '95. The government of the day had declared 19 Jun as the 'Reading day'(Vaayana dinam) and the week following it as the 'Reading week'(Vaayana vaaram).
2. It was the culmination of an idea conceived and executed by the PN Panicker Foundation under the patronage of the late Justice VR Krishna Iyer. The close associates and well wishers of PN Panicker were, however, sad that the Kerala Library Council (The metamorphosed product derived from the Kerala Grandhasala Sangham, founded and nurtured by PN Panicker since 14 Sep ’45 when he’d Sir CP Ramaswamy Aiyar, the then Diwan of Travancore, inaugurate the conglomeration of the Travancore Grandhasala Sangham at Ambalappuzha bringing together 47 rural libraries under its umbrella. The government had taken over the Sangham in '78, on PN Panicker's insistence) had not come forward to celebrate the 'Vaayana dinam and vaaram' for the last 21 years. It was, in fact, irked by the stupendous success and popularity that the event was acquiring over the years.
3. Since the programme was institutionalised through a series of government orders, promulgated by successive education ministers of the state, the run up to the week long event began with a preliminary meeting of the Collectors, the connected officials and the Foundation at the education minister's behest and was thereafter, taken on by the Collectors to put down a carefully laid out plan to celebrate the event in all the districts across the state; publicity material and other resources were provided to the Foundation by the government.
The Discordant Note.
4. The change in attitude was felt in ’16 itself when the education minister stayed away from the preparatory meeting that was called for in connection with the Vaayana dinam and vaaram. The files in the ministry containing the proposals, put up by the Foundation, were deliberately ignored or kept pending without action and a few, even went missing! The final crunch was when the resources, for the conduct of the event, were drastically cut without warning. Further, the ‘Vaayana vaaram’ was expanded to the ‘Vaayana pakshaacharanam’(Reading Fortnight) and the following factors were cited:-
(a) The library movement was the concept of King Swathi Thirunal, nurtured
and given an impetus by EMS Namboodiripad.
(b) There were many people responsible for the library movement and PN
Panicker was just one among them.
(c) The fortnight’s celebrations was to cover the late IV Das’ birthday, who
was the secretary when the metamorphosis of the Kerala Grandhasala
Sangham to the State Library Council took place.
5. The Foundation was still able to conduct the Vaayana dinam and vaaram, last year, despite the impediments thrown up at every stage. The trio of Mr. Pirappancode Murali, Mr. Balakrishnan Nambiar and Adv. Appukkuttan, through a few staff members of the education minister’s secretariat, were behind the ‘keep the Foundation out of the Vaayana dinam and vaaram celebrations’ diktat. That a motley crowd could carry out its sinister design and sabotage the existing government orders surprised me, I must confess.
Why are these people denying PN Panicker his rightful place in history?
6. Therein lies an unpalatable story. If my memory serves me right, it was in ’74 that litterateur, Thayattu Sankaran became the President of the Kerala Grandhasala Sangham. He was unable to digest the enormous faith and loyalty that the Sangham volunteers had towards PN Panicker, which he’d experienced first hand, during the numerous trips undertaken across the length and breadth of the state during his tenure. On return from the last trip, he’d written a stinging article about PN Panicker – going to the meanest, personal and ungentlemanly levels – in the then fortnightly, Kalakaumudi. The article was widely condemned by every section of the society because it contained falsehoods, innuendos and distortion of facts and was termed as the vituperative outburst of a jealous man! Thayattu Sankaran repented his action towards the end and had apologised to PN Panicker but the damage was done!
7. I’m told that Murali, Nambiar and Appukuttan are from that genre. Their weak alibi is that the precursor to the Kerala library movement was actually the Grandhasala movement in Malabar. This is a blatant distortion of the truth as everyone knows that it lost steam soon after its inception. The phenomenal growth of the Kerala Library Movement happened through the nurturing and tireless efforts of PN Panicker. In fact there's a saying that, "No land can be found in Kerala that has not felt the footsteps of PN Panicker".
8. Their pathological hatred towards PN Panicker was witnessed on 14 Sep ’15 when the State Library Council celebrated the 70th anniversary of the formulation of the Travancore Library Association at Ambalappuzha without any mention of PN Panicker - the organiser of the event - throughout the programme, as well as in the handouts/brochures published during its conduct!
9. If I were to come across these worthies, I’d like to tell them a few facts and end up with a query, which are:-
(a) We’ve been brought up by the sane advice, from our elders and teachers, that
one must never hold a grudge against anyone.
(b) Even if the differences were too acute, no grudge should be borne against any
person after his/her death.
(c) It is 22 years since PN Panicker has passed into the mist of time. What wrong
has he done that you continue to hold a grudge and dishonour him even today
because the world knows him to have been a person of spotless integrity, great perseverance and an honourable man?
It’s still not late and it’s my fond hope that the Pinarayi Vijayan government will correct the waywardness and ask the PN Panicker Foundation to take charge of this year’s ‘Vaayana dinam and vaaram’ celebrations, forthwith!