At 97, K R Gowri Amma still has fire within

Gowri Amma is the only woman in Kerala to have piloted many important bills like land utilisation, women commission and criminal code.

ALAPPUZHA: K.R. Gowri Amma, 97, sat in the big hall of her old house in Chathanad. Overhead hanged a large marriage photo of her with T.V. Thomas. The only member of the first EMS cabinet alive now, she still keeps abreast of the developments around. She spends an hour every day reading newspapers before taking a bath. On Monday, the nonagenarian talked to Deccan Chronicle about her roles from a practising lawyer at Cherthala Munsiff Court in the late 40s to a divorcee and politician who had served in various ministries.

Asked about the landmark land reforms bill she piloted in 1957, she outrightly refused to claim her personal imprint on it. Instead, she gives credit to her party. "I was the person who happened to be its presenter in the Assembly," she says. "The landlords were driving out people from Purampokku. Hence, the government came up with the policy that tillers get their land." She plunged into politics in 1948 influenced by her elder brother Sukumaran, who had participated in the Punnapra-Vayalar revolt in 1946.

Born to a landlord, K. A. Raman, she recalls her Kalathiparambil family owned some 2,000 acres of paddy fields in Cherthala. She was one of few girls who went to Thuravoor English School. When she joined the Communist Party, she had to sacrifice her highly-paid profession. Asked about the power struggle within during the cabinet formation in 1957, she turned garrulous saying there was no factionalism like we see today. But she did not know why T.V. Thomas, "who was a strong Opposition leader in the Thiru-Kochi Assembly" was not made the chief minister.

"I was not a member of the state committee then. I was made one after becoming a minister, impressed by my debates in Assembly," she says. "The party was disciplined than now. Nobody was allowed to question the party’s decision." Asked if it was the party secretary M.N. Govindan Nair who sidelined her husband, she said there were a lot of buzz about it then. "I didn't believe in such talks. I still don't think either caste or religion payed any role. However, people had cast aspersions on Mr Nair after the Devaswom Board controversy," she recalled. "K. Sukumaran was chosen as its president. But some asked should a stalwart like Mannathu Padmanabhan work under him. And subsequently, Mannathu was made the president and Mr Sukumaran a member. In protest, Mr Sukumaran gave up the post sparking a caste row. It was Mr Nair's decision."

Gowri Amma is the only woman in the state to have piloted many important bills covering land utilisation, women commission and criminal code. She polished her debating talent locking horns with stalwarts like Pattom Thanu Pillai, P.T. Chacko and Narayana Kurup. "They all respected women. I always felt safe in public places even in midnight then," she says. Of all the chief ministers who ruled the state for the past six decades, EMS could make some impact as he had a good team in his cabinet and the party rallied behind him. Though her colleagues used to call K. Karunakaran a karinkali, she never held such a view. "In my eyes, he was an efficient administrator."

But she turned furious when asked about V.S. Achuthanandan. "What I would talk about a person who always laughed comically at me whenever I landed in trouble?" "After we won the polls in 1987, it was widely perceived that I would be the party's chief ministerial choice. Then what happened?" "I never regretted. History will judge you not on the post you get, but how you handled the job."

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
Next Story