Narendra Modi's 'Somalia' remarks: Bongs and Malayalis - The bond is beyond Karl Marx ! - By Nirendra Dev

Nirendra Narayan Dev Editor's Note: Nirendra Narayan Dev (nirendev1 [at] gmail [dot] com), an acclaimed senior political journalist, is an Assistant Editor with newswire 'Indo-Asian News Service' (IANS). He has been a special correspondent of The Statesman, New Delhi and is the author of acclaimed books including Modi to Moditva, Ayodhya : Battle For Peace, The Talking Guns North East India and Godhra A Journey To Mayhem. Nirendra was born and brought up in India's northeast and his father served with paramilitary force Assam Rifles. His blog is at

We have previously had an opportunity of talking to the author and have posted the audio recording of the interview.

WBRi also has the pleasure of publishing a series of short stories by Nirendra. Search with keywords "Nirendra Dev" to read his prior stories and articles on Washington Bangla Radio.

Subhash Mukhopadhyay (Bengali: সুভাষ মুখোপাধ্যায়) (16 January 1931 – 19 June 1981) was a physician in Kolkata who created the world's second and India's first child using in-vitro fertilization. Unfortunately, Dr. Mukhopadhyay was harassed by the state government, and not allowed to share his achievements with the international scientific community. Dejected, he committed suicide on 19 June 1981.

That was supposed to be golden era of Marxism politics in West Bengal.

Also by Nirendra Dev: The Uttarakhand Politico-Legal Battle: and Indian Media's Very Own Crisis of Credibility

Those of you are not moved by this tale, please see Pankaj Kapoor-Shabana Azmi starred “Ek Doctor ki Maut”.

May be in my subconscious mind, I always consider myself lucky. Lucky because, I am born Bong. That gives me an added advantage – something of a birth right – I am intellectual, I am patriot ! I know more than many other Indians!

My father always had other opinion. He used to taunt and literally curse me saying, “You (his eldest son) think like a Naga”. I have spoken about this in these blogs earlier also. But here is a small tale, among Nagas – the Ao tribe is also known as “Naga bangali” – whatever that means. Former Nagaland chief minister S C Jamir, now Odisha Governor, also an Ao Naga used to take it as a compliment!

Among various communities, I have often found similarities of Bengali traits in citizens of Kerala and also non-resident Keralites – Malayalis – or commonly known as “mallus”. Bulk of my friendship in media world is incidentally among “mallus” – and I always feel proud about it. Bengalis are certainly a class apart.

But who has ‘classified’ us into that high pedestal? Karl Marx? May be. Among several lacunae in their society, like most communities engrossed in them, we Bengalis find it distasteful to admit anything has gone wrong among us.

We also find it immensely blasphemous when others tell something wrong about us! “Arey oi beta-ra ki jaane (Arey, the hell about other people’s knowledge)”.

Hence, we have politics of Jyotism – succeeded by Didi’s dispensation blessed with Goddess Sharada Ma’s immense “kripa”.

The same “kripa” element works in Mallus also, I guess! The politics of violence is one of them. Everybody knows about it in Bengal and Kerala - but hardly anyone would speak about it. Hardly anyone would have also speak about long years of neglect of Muslims welfare in Bengal or tribal welfare in Kerala. Recall Basu’s famous “barbarous” description of BJP and Vajpayee government.

In Kerala and in Bengal, whatever we have is all virtuous rein! Jadavpur University students achieved that epitome when they screamed: “Manipur maange azadi”.

Under attack for the jingoism – they twisted intellectually – the target obvious is easy: Narendra Modi.

In Kerala too, Modi is a latest “villain”. How come he – a Gujju- compare Kerala – our God’s own country to Somalia.

In Lok Sabha, however, an Anglo-Indian nominated member Richard Hay did not mince words about deteriorating law and order situation in Kerala.

“I strongly urge upon the Government of India to intervene and  look into this heinous and barbaric crime that occurred in Kerala, a 100 per cent literate State, in daylight. Kerala is described as ‘Gods Own  Country’. Does that description suit Kerala? I call it a ‘Devil’s Own Country’ now,” said Richard Hay, who has been lately leaning towards  BJP.

Modi’s “Somalia remarks” is being used repeatedly to find fault with Gujarat’s development index.

But the fact of the matter is Modi is not the original author of such a commentary.

"The infant mortality rates in Kerala and Somalia are not comparable. But Modi is not the first politician to make such comparison with Somalia. Opposition leader VS Achuthanandan visited the tribal village of Attappadi in Palakkad district in 2013. When he met the media persons, he compared the child mortality rate of the village with that of Somalia itself. CPI(M) leader and Politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan visited the place later and said life in the village was worse than that in Ethiopia,” wrote Sreejith Panickar in a well-publicised article in Daily-O website.

So what does this bring about? Mallus and Bongs have something common to talk about.

My wife articulates it in her own wisdom: “West Bengal’s politics for last five decades has been essentially based on violent control of territory and merciless elimination of political rivals. Every Bengali worth his or her salt knows this. But when it comes to glib talks, most Bhadraloks will talk about jungle-raj in Bihar and insurgency-related killings in Assam and beyond”.

Hence my mallu friends are wasting no time to suggest that Modi has insulted Keralites!

The reality is otherwise. The “Somalia-Modi” controversy suits sickular media because essentially it suits Sonia-Rahul-own Congress party!

Moreover, Oomen Chandy’s principal rival in the state, the Marxists are also alongwise Congress when the target is Modi!

In 2013 itself, various media reports said, "A survey conducted by Thampu, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) dealing with tribal rights, found that out of the 300 tribals affected by malnutrition 200 were children. K.Venugopal, the district medical officer, said that 412 cases of anemia and 67 cases of malnutrition had been noticed by the health department”.

Taking it further: the Integrated Tribal Development Programme conducted a survey between 11 April 2013 and 19 April 2013 in Attappady, covering 7,565 households and a population of 23,599, and found that the number of tribal people with anemia/malnutrition was 463/69, the number of children aged below five with anemia/ malnutrition was 68/57 and lactating mothers with anemia and malnutrition was 62/0”.

Look no further.


The illustrious Verghese Kurien, the famous milk man, was once asked at Thiruvananthapuram, “why don’t you do something like Amul in Kerala also”.

His answer was near classic: “In Kerala, I have only one problem, there are so many mallus in Kerala”.

You need not be a student of prophecy; but Kurien could not have achieved even in West Bengal what he achieved in Gujju-land!  Dr Mukhopadhyay's illustration is a test case.