Malappuram owes a lot to popular leader Bapu Kurikkal

Malappuram owes a lot to popular leader Bapu Kurikkal
Kodakkadan Mohammadali Haji

Kodakkadan Mohammadali Haji, a contemporary, reminisces about former minister and Malabar leader Bapu Kurikkal on his 50th death anniversary.

M P M Ahmed Kurikkal, former minister and Muslim Leader, had dreamt of the present-day Malappuram half a century ago. The district conceived by him, in fact, emerged.

to live up to his dreams. Bapu Kurikkal, as he was popularly known, was among the stalwarts who worked day and night for the formation of Malappuram district, which was carved out of the border villages of then backward Kozhikode and Palakkad districts. He chalked out a masterplan for a new district called Malappuram and tabled it in the Assembly.

The backwardness plaguing the district was a matter of deep concern for Kurikkal, who badly wished to elevate its status on a par with other districts in terms of education and employment. In his school days, Kurikkal displayed immense potential in garnering students’ support, though he was not a member of any party.

His brother Ummer Kurikkal was then the secretary of MSF (Muslim Students Federation) in Manjeri and Korambayil AhmedHaji, the president. Bapu forayed into politics

by organising a reception to Congress Socialist Party leader A K Gopalan, who spearheaded the historic Hunger March from Kannur to Madras in 1945. Later, he became a

Congress man and contested as an independent candidate from Mannarkkad in the 1952 General Elections.

Though Bapu had the strong support of the Praja Socialist Party (PSP) and Muslim League, he could not taste success in his maiden attempt. Slowly Kurikkal switched sides to Muslim League and became a full-time League worker. The epicentre of Muslim League activities in those days was Ernad taluk committee. Bapu, in no time, rose to the position of Ernad taluk secretary and Panakkad P M S A Pookoya Thangal was the president of committee.

Manjeri thus emerged as the hub of major political discussions and party meetings with all top national leaders arriving in the town at frequent intervals. Kurikkal worked at the grass-roots level, understood the pulse of the layman and helped establish a strong base for the League even in the most remote pockets of Ernad and Valluvanad. Kurikkal’s dedication was such that he swam the river to campaign in the Vazhakkad region while contesting from Kondotty constituency. No wonder he represented the constituency twice in the Assembly.

Bapu Kurikkal

In those days there were no proper roads beyond Omanoor. Kurikkal would walk several kilometres day and night for electioneering. In the 1967 state elections, he won from

Malappuram and became part of the EMS Ministry.

In my memory, Manjeri had witnessed only three massive gatherings – all of which were testimony to Bapu's popularity. The first time people flocked in large numbers to Manjeri was to witness the marriages of his three daughters and two nieces. Though the wedding party lasted till dawn many had to leave disappointed owing to heavy rush. The party also played host to playback singer K J Yesudas’ first musical nite in Malappuram district. The day Bapu was given a ministerial berth in the state cabinet, the hundreds of people gathered in Manjeri, for the second time. And for one last time, a massive crowd took to Manjeri streets for the funeral of their beloved leader in 1968. Several fishermen had rushed all the way from Neendakara in Alappuzha, as Kurikkal's body was about to be taken to the cemetery. I still remember how the grief-stricken men broke down when they were told the body cannot be shown. Their tears were indeed a glowing tribute to their beloved Fisheries Minister who was in the forefront of implementing reformative policies.

M P M AhmedKurikkal

- Born on August 23, 1921 in Manjeri.

- Studied at Malappuram Government School and Malabar Christian College, Kozhikode.

- Entered politics through Congress.

- Joined Muslim League in 1950. Became its state vice-president and parliamentary party leader.

- Elected to Kerala legislative assembly twice from Kondotty and once from Malappuram. In 1967 became Minister for Local Self-Government and Fisheries under the EMS Ministry.

- Passed away on October 24, 1968 while he was a minister.

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