The Onam festival seems to be gaining the centre stage of a brewing communal controversy in Kerala. While groups affiliated to the Sangh Parivar made their own claims on the origin of the festival, Muslim leaders went ranting in viral videos that people from the Muslim community should not participate in the festivities.
At such a time, a Muslim youngster from Kozhikode – in an act of protest – conducted a ‘Payasam’ fest, publicly challenging an Imam, who had campaigned not to celebrate Onam.
Writer and Facebook activist Fayiz Umer placed a banner which says, “My smiling Onam wishes. I declare openly that if my religion vanishes by celebrating festivals, let it go,” and distributed the ‘Payasam’ in Kuttiyadi town.
He has claimed in a Facebook post that almost 200 people had participated in the event.
He also said that what he did was a protest against the Imam of a Salafi Masjid who had asked Muslims not to celebrate Onam.
According to local tradition, Onam – the most important festival on the Malayali calendar – is the time when Mahabali, whom Vamana had tricked into defeat just as he was about to establish himself as the ruler of all the worlds and sent to the netherworld, returns annually to visit his former subjects.
However, the RSS is allegedly trying to promote Vamana over Mahabali as the hero of the festival.
The RSS magazine, Kesari, carried in this year’s special Onam edition a cover story which presents the occasion as Vamana’s birthday.
Onam is also generally known as Kerala’s harvest festival.