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Cult of violence: Will it take even Kerala off CPM's grip?

A few months ago, the car in which two CPM leaders were travelling get attacked in Kannur in North Kerala. There is no major hurt to the two leaders, known for their intemperate public behaviour, but they allege that it was a plot to kill them.

A few days later, a 21 year old Abdul Shukkoor, a member of the Muslim Students Federation, was on his way to an internet cafe, along with his friends, to get a printout for his university. In no time, he felt that he was being trailed by a gang of men.

Gripped by fear, he stepped up his pace which was matched by the gang behind him.

Young Shukkoor and his friends got really scared and started running. The men chasing them ran behind.

They ran into the first house in sight and pleaded with the household to save him. The patriarch of the house agreed. The men who chased wanted them out. The patriarch said no.

News spread in the locality that some terrorists were holed up in the house and people started gathering in and around the house and in the nearby paddy field. As tension mounted, the patriarch went nextdoor to get the phone number of the local police to save the boys.

AFP

The armed assailants broke open the door and barged into the house. They asked the boys if they weren’t the ones who attacked the vehicle of the CPM leaders; they said no and pleaded with the men not to harm them.

They also started crying.

One of the assailants took photos of the boys on his mobile phone and went out. He passed it on to somebody to confirm if the boys were the same who attacked the leaders’ vehicle.

In an hour or so, the men got their orders from some quarters who confirmed that the photos were indeed of the boys who attacked the vehicle.

What unfolded over the next few minutes was a chilling display of Taliban justice in full view of a large number people in literate Kerala.

After getting the nod of their bosses elsewhere, the gang of men brought the boys out and started severely beating them in front of about 200 people. Brutal and repeated punches on the eyes and faces; hacks and beating with iron roads - bleeding and severely hurt, the boys ran across the field and escaped because the assailants’ prime target was not them, but Shukkoor.

Shukkoor was brought out of the house. He was beaten with an iron rod and hacked to death in the paddy filed while he tried to run for his life. The huge crowd of people watched the gory spectacle in silence. Nobody tried to help the boy or raised an alarm.

When the police reached the spot, Shukkoor was dead with bleeding gashes and broken bones all over. They didn’t nab anybody, and nobody from the crowd told the police who were the people who killed the boy.

While the police conducted enquiries, the murderers roamed the streets in defiance.

This is not one of those nauseating accounts from Kandahar or Kinshasa, but a summary of the graphic description of a murder in the Kannapuram village of Kannur that appeared in a leading Malayalam newspaper. The kangaroo court and the murder were allegedly committed by a gang of criminals close to the CPM.

Shukkoor is one of the many victims of alleged CPM violence in the recent past. Prior to Shukkoor, another Muslim activist, Fazal, was also murdered in the district. Before Fazal, there were many others. Each is a story of barbarous rancor.

The scene is repeated a few days ago in another north Kerala town called Onchiam in Kozhikkode.

But this time, the victim is a hugely popular CPM-dissident TP Chandrasekharan who has successfully built a Marxist democratic alternative to the party. His Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) has been able to dent the CPM’s electoral chances both at the Parliament and local elections, and has been coordinating the state-wide movement of the CPM-rebels.

A number of Marxist intellectuals and cadres have gravitated towards Chandrasekharan and the Left Coordination Committee that he was part of. Of late, the erosion of intellectuals and cadres from the CPM has gained certain critical strength.

If Shukkoor mostly remained a local story of CPM’s allegedly murderous politics, Chandrasekharan’s murder has exposed the entire state to the vicious violence that the party has perfected in the northern district of Kannur before exporting to the nearby districts including Kozhikkode.

The gang that killed Chandrasekharan apparently came from Kannur and the murder had all the hallmarks of a Kannur style operation. Initial reports also indicated that the brains behind the murder wanted to create the fait accompli for an attack committed by a radical Islamist organisation. Interestingly, in the murder of Fazal, the party had tried to implicate the RSS.

In both the cases, besides misleading the investigation, the machinations could also have led to communal violence.

Unlike the other instances of political violence, Chandrasekharan’s murder was a tipping point: it has created a state-wide outrage against the CPM and its alleged practice of “annihilation” of political opponents. Nobody was ready to absolve the party of any involvement although it swore its innocence.

The most worrying aspect of the murder was the recent trend in which the CPM allegedly entrusts operations of political violence with criminal groups called “quotation gangs”. Although about 200 people lost their lives in a decade since the late 1990s in Kannur, these murders resulted from violence by party cadres, not just the CPM, but others as well.

According to the police, the murder of Chandrasekharan was a result of extensive planning.

The prime accused in the case was allegedly close the CPM leaders and the conspiracy was hatched at the wedding of the daughter of another party hireling who came out on parol of the Kannur central jail, which has allegedly become the den of a number of CPM-prisoners, most of whom are either on remand or spending jail terms for criminal activities including murders.

Local media highlighted the case-histories of two such prisoners, who have been patronised and protected by the party for murders. The authorities are too scared to handle the criminal gangs, who run their writ in the jail. The CPM gangs had apparently occupied a block of the jail and even ran an exclusive kitchen and gym.

Interesting transformation in the jail life of CPM cadres. Olden days, they will ask for books. These days, they want sumptuous food and facilities for body-building.

The ADGP in charge of prison in the state recently ordered their closure.

The free run of the criminals of the Kannur central jail was also laid bare when raids unearthed a large number of mobile phones and chargers. However, nothing has come of the subsequent investigations although there were charges that hundreds of calls were made from the jail to the CPM leaders.

The state government, although ruled by the Congress-led coalition, hasn’t made any sincere effort to cleanse the Kannur prison, which has in fact become a centre for planning organised crime.

In fact, the prison has become a threat to public safety with dreaded criminals get together to plan their strikes and come out on parol on demand. Some of the criminals who were involved in the planning and execution of the murder of Chandrasekharan came out on parol from the Kannur prison.

In Kerala’s popular culture, Kannur has been synonymous with political violence for a few years and now, it is synonymous with not only violence but also the dominant faction of the CPM apparatus in the state. Majority of the party’s state secretariat, including the powerful Vijayan, is from the district. It is an image that the CPM will find very hard to erase.

Eminent writer Maheswata Devi, who visited the grieving family of Chandrasekharan, urged people to “sweep away” the CPM from Kerala and West Bengal. On Chandrasekharan’s murder, the party is under direct attack by its own allies such as the CPI. The left-leaning intellectuals are embarrassed by the violence and loathsome public behaviour of some the top leaders of the party. The veteran conscious-keeper of the party has fired his most powerful shot against Pinarayi Vijayan and the Kannur lobby and it is waiting.

With West Bengal gone, Prakash Karat and the arm-chair central leadership is clueless.