BM KUtty
Pakistani-Malayalee politician BM Kutty dies in Karachi on Sunday. Image Credit: Social media

Dubai: “Kerala should be proud of me. I have kept the Malayali flag flying in Pakistan,” BB Kutty, a Pakistani-Malayali leftist politician and human rights activist had told Indian media during his book launch in 2011.

Biyyothil Mohyuddin Kutty, widely known as BM Kutty, who migrated from Kerala, India to Pakistan in 1949, died in Karachi on Sunday after a protracted illness. He was 89.

A sublime political worker and human rights activist, BM Kutty came to limelight when he launched his autobiography “Sixty years in self-exile: No Regrets; A Political Autobiography” in 2011.

He narrated his story about his journey from Kerala to Karachi explaining why he had opted to stay in Pakistan.

He was general secretary of Pakistan Peace Coalition, a group that has been working to promote peace process between India and Pakistan.

Intellectuals, journalists and politicians have expressed condolences on Kutty’s death and paid him rich tribute for his services for Pakistan and the community.

“Sad to learn about the death of veteran left activist BM Kutty. Originally, from Kerala, Kutty came to Pakistan as a young man and became a key figure in the politics of his new homeland, championing progressive causes. He was a close confidant of veteran Baloch leader GB Bizenjo,” tweeted Talat Aslam, a prominent Pakistani journalist.

Marvi Sirmed, a television anchor, wrote: “B.M. Kutty, Pakistan’s veteran rights activist, passes away after a prolonged illness. His life marks an endless struggle for peace, justice and classless society. Rest in peace Kutty sahib, you’re survived with hundreds of your students and followers.”

Kutty, a renowned political analyst and one of the pioneers of leftist politics in Pakistan, was a remarkable person in many ways and was very well respected amongst intellectual and political fraternity.

Journey from Kerala to Karachi

Born in 1930 in Tirur, Kerala, Kutty had migrated to Pakistan at the age of 19. He abandoned his home in Kerala and chose self-exile in Pakistan, for reasons that failed to convince many. The eldest of five siblings, he belonged to a Malayali Muslim family of peasants and landowners and was raised in middle-class circumstances.

During his student days, Kutty developed socialist and leftist political views, and joined the Kerala Students Federation affiliated with the Communist Party. In 1946, he also joined the Muslim Students Federation under the All-India Muslim League. He attended Mohammedan College in Chennai, where he studied for four years and took science subjects.

In June 1949, he left on a journey to explore new cities and landed in Bombay. In August same year, he along with a friend embarked on a train expedition via Jodhpur, Munabao and Khokhrapar, and arrived in Karachi, Pakistan where he eventually settled and acquired citizenship.

While millions of Muslims moved from India to Pakistan after 1947 to escape communal violence, Kutty says his migration to Pakistan was motivated purely by his “love for geography” and a desire to visit cultural heritage.

Early days in Karachi

In Karachi, Kutty found a job with Larsen & Toubro and worked there for a few months before leaving again on a trip to Lahore. There, he met his wife Birjis Siddiqui, an Urdu-speaking lady with origin from Uttar Pradesh. They married in 1951 and had four children together, as well as several grandchildren. Birjis died in 2010.

Kutty’s nearly 69-life in Pakistan was a roller-coaster ride. He served as political secretary to the governor of Balochistan. His nearly seven decades in Pakistan have seen him take part in many political movements. The high point of his career was his association with Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo, the governor of Balachistan province in 1972.

Kutty's political journey

Between 1950 and 1957, he was associated with the Azad Pakistan Party in Lahore and later with Pakistan Awami League in Karachi. From 1957 to 1975, he was actively involved in the politics of the National Awami Party (NAP). After NAP was banned in 1975, he worked with the National Democratic Party till 1979 and with the Pakistan National Party from 1979 to 1997.

From 1998, he has been associated with the National Workers Party as its central information secretary. He also served as the joint secretary general of the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) for three years.

From Kerala, how did he land up in Karachi?

Kutty was influenced by the Left movement in Kerala and, when he finished college in 1949, he thought he would go to Bombay (Now Mumbai), rather than returning to Malabar. There was a sizeable number of Malayalis in Karachi in a variety of businesses – mostly pan shops, beedi (cigarette) -making units and restaurants.

In his book, Kutty wrote: “Karachi stirred my imagination, so from Bombay I took the train to Jodhpur and, after an overnight stop in Munabao, we walked to Khokhrapar, Karachi. Passports had not been introduced yet.

“We exchanged some currency at Khokhrapar. The notes were the same Government of India notes, only ‘Government of Pakistan’ had been superimposed on top.

Kutty served his adopted country in a variety of roles. He has been a dependable manager in business firms, a trade unionist, a journalist, a publisher, a political worker, a leftist intellectual, a trusted negotiator, a firm campaigner for peace and, last but not the least, the author of an extremely readable autobiography -- Sixty Years in Self-Exile: No regrets; A Political Autobiography.