Editor’s note: Kannur, the northern district of Kerala, hit the headlines for a spate of political violence that saw two murders in just 48 hours last month. The murders have given rise to fears that the cycle of violence, which had ebbed to an extent in the last few years, may be returning to haunt the regions. The new political context – the state ruled by the CPM-led LDF and the Centre ruled by BJP-led NDA – makes the situation in Kannur all the more complex, since the key parties that are involved in the violence are the CPM and BJP. Firstpost travelled to Kannur, probing the historical, sociological and communal dynamics of the political violence in the region. This is the fifth in a five-part series from ground zero.
Ten-year-old Vidyanand’s question 'why the issue that took the life of his father on 12 July could not be solved through talks' still echoes in the ears of his mother Sajini.
She herself has been trying to figure out the reason all these days. The 35-year-old widow could not find anything other than her husband’s allegiance to the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
She may not know that even mere association with a party can be fatal in a district like Kannur where politics is like religion to the people. Most parties in Kannur believe that they can create their political space in the district only through annihilation of their rivals.
In their mad pursuit for political supremacy, the leaders of the warring parties have no time to ponder over the question posed by innocent children like Vidyanand, who saw his father dying in front of him, or hear the desperate wails of women who have lost their husbands and sons.
The unintended victims of the bloody clashes are women and children. The series of killings and counter killings going on in the district for the last five decades have left scores of women without sons or husbands and many children father-less.
“I do not know what to tell 3-year-old Vijayanand when he asks about his father after he grows up. I have now made him believe that his father has gone out for work and will come back after completing it,” says Sajini.
Vijayanand was sleeping when the gang hacked his 38-year-old father C V Dhanraj to death in the courtyard of their house on the night of 12 July. Sajini said he was asking everyday when his father will return.
The families of all seven people killed since the Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by the CPI (M) was elected to power in Kerala in the 19 May Assembly elections have the same stories to tell.
The shades of the parties they belong to may be different but the colour of the blood that the killers have shed on the streets of Kannur and the agonies they caused to their family members are the same.
While the children, who saw the still bodies of their fathers, are in a state of perpetual shock, the women are clueless about how to bring up the children and take care of the aged parents in the absence of their husbands.
M T Padmini, who lost her only son in the current spell of violence, wished that the killers had spared her son and taken her life instead. The 28-year-old young man was the sole support for the family that included Padmini’s sick husband and her aged parents.
P M Bineesh, who was a supporter of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was hacked to death at Thillankary under Mattannur Assembly segment on the night of 3 September while returning with the medicines for his mother.
Padmini, who is disabled by rheumatoid arthritis, cannot even eat and pick anything without help. Similarly her parents, who are in their nineties, also cannot do their chores without support.
“Bineesh used to feed me and do all the household works, including cooking food and fetching water. I do not know how we will live without him. If they had killed me Bineesh would have taken care of the others,” says Padmini.
She still doesn’t know why her son was killed. Bineesh’s friends and neighbours are also groping in the dark about the motive behind the brutal murder.
“There was no reason for the CPI(M) to nurse any grudge against Bineesh as he was not an active worker of the RSS. He never interfered with the political choices of his family members, who traditionally supported the CPI (M),” said Rajan Puthukudi, BJP’s Mattanur constituency president.
“Bineesh only supported the RSS ideology. He never tried to impose that on us. He did not object our decision to vote for the communists. He took us for voting even in the last assembly election knowing that we will vote only for the CPI (M) candidate,” says Padmini.
The same is true in the house of K Mohanan, who was allegedly murdered by RSS workers on 12 October, at Pinarayi, the home town of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. A gang barged into the toddy shop, where Mohanan worked as a salesman, and hacked him to death.
Even though Mohanan, 50, was a branch secretary of the CPI (M), he never bothered with colour of the party when people approached him with their problems. The neighbours say he used to help everybody irrespective of their political affiliations. They called him Mohanettan and respected him like their brother.
“When I fell down from a coconut tree and broke my spine, Mohanan mobilised funds not only for my treatment but also the marriage of my daughter. He gave money even from his pocket for painting the house before the marriage. His death is a big loss for all of us,” says Ibrahim, Mohanan’s neighbour.
His wife Suchithra still likes to believe that her husband was killed by mistake. She wonders how anyone can kill a person who has done good things for others. She doesn’t know how she and her two children, who loved their father a lot, will live without him.
Suchithra did not wish this fate for anybody else. But two days later, tragedy struck again in the house of a 52-year-old woman barely 3 km away. Narayani’s only son Remith, an RSS worker, was stabbed to death allegedly by the CPI(M) workers in what looked like a revenge killing.
Narayani, who had lost her husband Uthaman in crossfire between CPI (M) and RSS workers 12 years ago, was living for Remith. After she lost him, Narayani made an open request to the CPI (M) leadership, to kill her too.
Killings and counter killing have been a routine affair in Kannur. In the past the parties targeted only those who attacked or betrayed them. The killings that followed were over disputes or differences over political and other issues.
The current series of killings show that the parties were picking up even innocent people. CK Vijayan, a journalist, who extensively covered the seven killings in Kannur since 19 May, said that none of them were either part of aggressive politics or involved in any kind of disputes.
“Most of them were poor workers who struggled hard to bring up their families. Some of them were highly respected in the area they live. They seem to have been killed to keep the scores even,” says Vijayan.
Raveendran, who was the first to be killed in the current cycle of political killings, was a saw mill worker. He was killed when a bomb hurled at the victory rally of the CPI (M) at Dharmadam exploded.
Dhanraj of the CPI (M), who was killed on 12 July, did not have any regular job. C K Ramachandran, a Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) leader who was murdered two hours later, was an autorickshaw driver.
Bineesh (RSS), who was hacked to death on 3 September, was a painter. K Mohanan, who was murdered on 10 October, was a salesman in a toddy shop while Remith, who was done to death on 12 October, was a taxi driver.
All of them were sole breadwinners of their families. These families are now at the mercy of the concerned parties for their future living.
In the past, the parties used to take good care of the families of the martyrs, but with the rise in the number of victims they have reduced the assistance. Still there is no dearth of people, who are ready to die for their parties.