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Saddam a hero in Kerala village

Last updated on: April 26, 2006 13:03 IST

Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein may be a tired prisoner these days, but unknown to him, he is a political hero for a group of villagers in Kerala.

Most of the voters in the village known as Saddam Beach in Kerala's Muslim majority Malappuram district say the jailed Hussein -- who turns 69 on Friday -- is their hero and they will vote for the candidate who speaks against America and in support of Saddam.

"Naturally, this means that most of us will vote for the Left parties this time because they have always stood against American policies," explains Mohammed Bashir, who owns a tea-shop at Saddam Beach.

Last week, Bashir and his friends -- Arif, Sujanapal and Rajendran -- went around the village collecting funds to create election posters in Saddam's name. One such poster on a coconut tree read: 'Vote for the candidate who supports Saddam Hussein.'

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The village has some 600 voters. Left Democratic Front candidate T P Muhammad Kutty, whose Kondotty constituency covers Saddam Beach, says he is happy that many Saddam supporters will vote for him.

"This is a unique village, which is the finest example of how even ordinary people are against the anti-imperialistic policies of the US administration, and how the Indian government has been blindly supporting it," says Kutty.

The beachside village gained international popularity in 1991, when local Muslim leaders named it Saddam Beach during the first Gulf War to affirm their solidarity with the Iraqi leader.

Earlier, the village -- which has many expatriate Indians working across various Gulf countries -- was known as the Tipu Sultan Beach, named after the southern king who valiantly fought the British.

Fifteen years after the village was christened Saddam Beach, the new name has entered revenue records and government documents.

Posters of Saddam and Iraqi flags flutter along the roadside at Saddam Beach. Villagers occasionally stage demonstrations expressing solidarity with their fallen hero.

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Mohammed Bashir heads the Saddam Hussein Voluntary Trust at Saddam Beach. "We formed such a trust to help the victims of atrocities in Malappuram. We named the trust after Saddam Hussein because he is our role model. He is our anti-American hero," says Bashir.

But how does this affection for Saddam gets reflected in the assembly election? "The villagers have decided that we will vote only for those who speak against America and in support of Saddam Hussein," points out Bashir.

"I agree with the feelings of these villagers for Saddam Hussein. Most of their kith and kin work in the Gulf, and many of them who were in Iraq had to return because of the US invasion. So it is natural that they have been supporting Saddam," says Congress leader Shoukath Ali.

According to a study by the Thiruvanathapuram-based Centre for Development Studies last September, Kerala has the largest number of expatriates in India -- 1.6 million -- most of who work in the Persian Gulf.

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Last year, fishermen in the village built a fishing boat named Iraq with an inscription on it: 'Every Bush will be Ploughed Someday.' The fishermen have also named boats after Iraqi cities like Basra, Karbala and Baghdad.

Saddam Beach is a hub of anti-American feeling. Its nearly 2,000 residents have pledged that they will not buy and use American products like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, chocolates, garments and electronic items.

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