Politics News

‘Play Evergreen Film Song, No Wreaths or Church Funeral’: Last Wishes of Cong Veteran PT Thomas

In death, too, Kerala Congress working president and four-time MLA PT Thomas sent out a strong message. His last wish: no wreaths or funeral at church or even religious service, but play the evergreen film song Chandrakalabham chaarthi urangum theeram during a service where the public can pay homage.

Known for taking a stand, even if it meant ruffling a few feathers, the quintessential firebrand leader fondly called ‘PT’ died of pancreatic cancer at CMC Vellore on Wednesday. He was 71. He is survived by wife Uma and sons Vivek and Vishnu.

The Congress veteran’s strong secular and sociopolitical values set him apart. Belonging from a Catholic family, he married Uma, a Hindu Brahmin, who did not convert to Christianity against the wishes of many. He did not even insist that his sons be baptised at birth, leaving the choice to them as adults.

Thomas was the sitting MLA from Thrikkakara in Ernakulam, from where he won in 2016 and 2021. He was also elected MLA from Thodupuzha twice from 1991-96 and 2001-2006.

Thomas related his dying wish to dear friend and social activist Dijo Kappan. After he realised the gravity of his medical condition, he told Kappan that he wanted to be cremated at Ravipuram crematorium in Kochi. As per his wish, his eyes were also donated on Wednesday.

In a note to his family, written on November 22, he asked them to place a part of his ashes in his mother’s grave at the cemetery in Upputhodu St Joseph’s Church, Idukki district.

Penned by poet Vayalar Ramavarma, the song Chandrakalabham chaarthi urangum theeram chosen by Thomas is about nature’s beauty. The poet talks about the Earth filled with greenery and moonlight and caring hearts, putting forth a significant question: Will a person be given a chance of a life again on this captivating coast? The song reminds one of the importance of life on Earth and conserving the beautiful planet.

It was then only fitting that the Congress leader would choose the song for his final moments.

His support of the Gadgil committee report that recommended the protection of the Western Ghats even aggravated the influential Catholic Church. Ironically, in 2014, a church-backed collective called ‘Committee for protection of high ranges’ organised a fake funeral service in his name as a form of protest against his support for the Gadgil report.

His vehement backing of the report came at a heavy cost. His position was a source of discomfort to the Idukki diocese of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, and the Idukki bishop openly opposed his candidature. For his uncompromising stand, the Congress denied the Idukki seat to him in 2014, which he had won in 2009 by 74,796 votes. The decision to drop him was made at a four-hour meeting between Congress leaders and the AICC screening committee in New Delhi.

Except for Thomas and N Peethambara Kurup, a tainted leader from Kollam, all 11 sitting Congress MPs from Kerala were issued tickets again. The result was that the Congress lost the seat to LDF candidate backed by the church.

Born in 1950 to an agrarian Catholic family in Idukki, which migrated from Meenachil Taluk in Kottayam, Thomas took his first steps in politics when he was in school. He took part in the agitation as a member of the Kerala Students’ Union for the formation of the Idukki district. He became a college councillor at Newman College, Thodupuzha, and shot to fame as a firebrand leader at Maharaja’s College and later at Government Law College, Ernakulam.

Thomas, who approached legislative business in all solemnity, was a mentor to many in the Congress. He often used the Assembly rulebook to put the treasury benches on the backfoot. His frequent harsh one-liners often targeted chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and disturbed the ruling front.

“He was a fine human being, firm on his principles, his love for nature and for democracy. He was the foremost politician of Kerala not to be swayed by the disinformation campaign launched by vested interests against the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report,” said Madhav Gadgil in his condolence message.

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