Lamp Lighting Controversy, Enough With Petty Squabbles

The cultural history of contemporary Kerala is constantly marred by controversies on cultural icons and quibbling over whether they belong to any religious identity. With the furtive silence maintained by the intelligentsia, including historians and academicians, such controversies tend to degenerate into petty and shallow communal-casteist bickering completely negating their potential to creatively pave the foundations for a more harmonious social fabric. The recent lamp lighting row involving superstar Mammootty and P K Abdu Rabb, minister of education, at a function held in the state capital is another case in point; another opportunity missed in furthering the discourses on the existing concepts and practices of secularism.

Lamp-controversy-2Minister rapped for refusing to light lamp
Mammootty, one of the superheroes of South Indian film industry, was among the chief guests along with P K Abdu Rabb, at the P N Panicker commemorative function held in Thiruvananthapuram. Rabb was chairing the function and Mammootty was invited to light the lamp as part of the inauguration. The actor did it promptly, but when he handed the candle over to the minister to do the same, the latter refused. According to media, the minister refused to light the lamp as it was against his religious beliefs.

Mammootty is then reported to have handed out a lesson in secularism to the minister. “I am a person who follows Islam and am also on a Ramadan fast, but I have always lit lamps at functions and see no problem in it,” the superstar made his views clear then and there. He added that lighting a lamp can’t be considered as a practice of any particular religion. The actor, known for his secular beliefs, also said that it was the high time political parties put an end to such beliefs, referring to the minister’s political ideology. The star even dared to advise the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the political party to which the minister belongs, to put an end to such intolerance and held that the practice had no theistic implications. The minister, though stunned by the quick response of the star, stuck to his stance.

Mammooty trolled on social media
However, IUML supporters didn’t take too kindly to the star’s stand and started trolling him on social media where the issue has snowballed into a controversy. The IUML-backed pages and groups on Facebook have come down heavily against the actor. The official page of P K Abdu Rabb was inundated with posts in support of the Minister though the party is not in a mood to take up the issue. “We will not interfere on the personal beliefs of Mammootty and P K Abdu Rabb,” Muslim Youth League State President P M Sadiqali said.

Meanwhile, the Minister informed that he has not taken the issue seriously and there is no need to make a controversy out of it. “I don’t light lamps at any function. So when he asked me, I cleared my stand. There is no need to make it a big issue,” the Minister told the media.

The rift in secular camp
The row has once again brought forth the lack of clarity in the secularists’ camp on issues where tradition and democratic practices come face to face. While a good chunk among them vehemently supports the stance Mammootty has taken, there are skeptics aplenty in the same camp who term such a stance as contrary to secular ideals and ‘soft-Hindutva’ motivated.