Gouri Amma: An icon and inspiration for women in Kerala

Vinson Kurian Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on May 11, 2021

K R Gowri   -  PTI

Leaders across the political class paid glowing tributes to her indomitable spirit

KR Gouri (affectionately called Gouriamma), who passed away on Tuesday in Thiruvananthapuram at the age of 102, was a female communist icon and an inspiration for generations of Kerala women.

Falling out of favour of both the party and ideology in 1994 was only an aberration and it did not cost her a wee bit of the adulation she commanded in the public domain. Not even after the fringe party that she founded would come apart in phases before her own eyes.

Leaders across the political class paid glowing tributes to her indomitable spirit and enviable grit to be on her own even beyond the ripe old age of 100. Stand-in Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Congress leaders Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala and BJP president K Surendran led the mourners.

Won 13 elections

Of the 16 elections on both sides of the formation of Kerala, Gouri Amma won 13 times. She was a Minister in Communist-led Council of Ministers in 1957, 1967, 1980, and 1987. She was the Minister for Agriculture and Social Welfare in the EK Nayanar Ministry from January 1980 to October 1981.

From March 1987 to June 1991, she was Minister for Industries, Social welfare, Vigilance and Administration of Justice in the second Nayanar Ministry. She was expelled from the CPI(M) in 1994 for anti-party activities, following which she founded the Janathipathiya Samrakshana Samithy (JSS).

The JSS would soon become a partner of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). Gouri Amma handled the portfolios of Agriculture University, Animal Husbandry and Coir in the Oommen Chandy Cabinet during 2004 to 2006. Later, she would part ways with even the UDF.

Controversy's child

She lived a charmed life, so to speak, and courted controversy often. The communist firebrand of yore and member of Kerala’s first Communist Cabinet headed by EMS Namboothiripad had the audacity to break ideological protocols by presenting herself within the confines of a Hindu temple five years ago.

She was the centre of an elaborate ritual at the temple, in her home district Alappuzha, where she was worshipped as a goddess as part of a ‘Nari Pooja.’ The annual ritual chooses a woman who is then considered as a Goddess for the duration of the pooja.

She had consented to be featured in the ritual allegedly at the behest of a local Sangh Parivar outfit, with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance allegedly wooing her after she was shunned by the CPI(M) a second time. For somebody who would swear by atheism all her life, this was coming of age, literally.

Her early life is the stuff of Communist folklore. In 1957, Gauri Amma was Revenue Minister and she married party comrade and Industries Minister TV Thomas in a typical party-arranged wedding.

When the Communist Party split in 1964, Thomas stayed with the CPI while Gauri Amma chose to join the newly-founded Communist Party of India (Marxist). The couple separated in 1965 on ‘ideological’ grounds.


Published on May 11, 2021

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