Social activist Najmal Babu denied Islamic burial by family, writer Kamal C Chavara adopts Islam in protest

Najmal Babu aka TN Joy- - pic from Facebook

By Najiya O,

Kozhikode: Former Naxal leader and social activist TN Joy aka Najmal Babu passed away on Tuesday, October 2 at Kodungallur, Thrissur district at the age of 70. However, it seems controversy, which was never far from him during his lifetime, has followed him after death too.

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Contrary to his wish to be buried the Islamic way in the premises of the Cheraman Masjid, his family cremated him at his brother’s place. In protest against the denial of his last wish, writer-activist Kamal C Chavara announced his conversion to Islam and accepted the name Kamal C Najmal.

TN Joy, who had converted to Islam and accepted the name Najmal Babu, had requested the Cheraman Masjid authorities at Kodungallur to allow him to be buried there after his death. The Masjid authorities informed the family about this and took a stand that they would bury him there if the family handed over the dead body. But the family preferred to cremate the body in the land of his brother on October 3 evening.

Screenshot of the Facebook post of Kamal C Najmal announcing his conversion to Islam

The body was kept for the public to see at the Kodungallur Health Care Institute where Najmal Babu had been staying for years, and at the Kodungallur Police Ground. Najmal Babu’s friends wanted to bury the body at the Masjid, but the family opposed saying they were an atheist family without any particular beliefs. Owing to the confusion, the RDO had reportedly agreed to postpone the funeral by 24 hours and to reach a decision. In the meantime, Najmal Babu’s brother approached the police who allowed the family to take over the body.   Rights activists protested against this. The police reportedly removed the protesters forcibly and assisted the family to take the body.

Proclaimed atheist and a co-traveller of the Communist movement Neelakanda Das and Devayani named their youngest son TN Joy in 1949.  Joy grew without any set of beliefs and entered the Naxalite movement in his youth. He served as the state secretary of the CPI (ML) before it split.  He was jailed during the Emergency and left the CPI (ML) after he was released. He was then actively involved in several protests and struggles including the recently-held protest of the Christian nuns. He also worked tirelessly to demand pension for the Emergency detainees. A renowned writer and intellectual, Joy was a constant presence in the socio-political as well as literature and cultural fields of Thrissur.

Letter written by Najmal Babu to the Cheraman Masjid authorities – from Facebook

Joy approached the Cheraman Masjid in Kodungallur way back in December 2013 requesting permission to be buried there after his death.  In the letter he wrote to the mosque, he had mentioned that he was ‘not a believer’ but was ‘worried at the discrimination faced by his friends’ community (Islam) following the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the Gujarat genocide’.  Interestingly, he announced his conversion to Islam in 2015 only. Though he had been active in the fight against Fascism and never associated himself with any religion, he was seen as a Hindu by most people. He then converted to Islam reportedly to express his solidarity with the suffering of Muslims and to strengthen the fight against fascism. VK Sreeraman made a documentary on Najmal Babu titled ‘The man who tried to beautify the world’ which is available on Youtube.

Meanwhile, noted writer and social activist Kamal C Chavara converted to Islam protesting against the denial of the last wish of Najmal Babu. He announced his conversion in his Facebook page and changed his name as Kamal C Najmal. He is expected to explain the political statement regarding his conversion to Islam at the protest meeting planned to be held at 11 am on October 5 in front of the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram, according to reports.

His FB post can be translated as below:

“It is an insult to live as a Hindu again

In a land where it’s not allowed not just to live, but even to die as a Muslim

It’s the need of the moment to be a Muslim

A struggle

Today here in India

Being a Muslim is a revolutionary act

A struggle

It’s not after having known or wishing to know about Islam

Nor seeing the greatness of Islam

In protest against the experience of Najmal Babu

I embrace Islam

My neck is ready for the first slash towards a Muslim.”

Kamal C Najmal, popularly known as ‘Kamalsi’ was detained in December 2016 following a complaint by the Sangh forces about a Facebook post. The complaint reportedly said that the Facebook post, which was an excerpt from his novel ‘Shmashanangalude Note pusthakam’ (Notebook of cemeteries) insulted the national anthem. He was released after some days due to widespread criticism. In January 2017, he was in the news again when he announced that he was burning his novel and that he did not want to be known as a writer anymore as he was reportedly threatened by unknown people, and the case of sedition against him was still ongoing.

Kamal C Najmal aka Kamal C Chavara – pic from Facebook