Pinarayi is the name of a village in Kerala's Kannur district (old Malabar region).
The village is the birth place and falls in the Dharmadom constituency of chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. But, the place is in now in the news for brutal political killings.
It was here 26-year-old Remith, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) worker, was hacked to death on Wednesday morning around 10 am near a petrol pump when he was returning home.
Remith was found in a pool of blood, said reports in local dailies. He was lying unattended, with blood oozing out of deep cuts on his face, neck and limbs, until the time he was taken to a hospital by a vehicle of the excise department. Remith met his fate 14 years after his father, Uthaman (also an RSS worker), was killed almost in the same manner - dragged out of a bus and hacked until he died.
Remith was killed allegedly to retaliate the murder of K Mohanan, CPI(M)'s branch secretary, at Koothuparambu, not far from Pinarayi.
This, according to the local media reports, marks the seventh such political killing so far this year. The BJP is observing a state-wide hartal to mark their protest on Remith's killing.
Kerala's political killings
The beginning of political killings in the state dates back to 70s, when Hindu-Muslim conflicts used to happen in Malabar. This gradually turned to RSS-Left conflicts on behalf of both communities and time to time, both parties kept taking lives on both side to keep the tally equal.
Scores have fallen since then--on the roads, party offices, campuses and even within the perceived safety of homes right in front of family members. Gradually, such incidents became routine and ceased to become a news. There is no accurate official estimates of how many political killings have happened in Kerala. Often, too trivial issues such as placing one party's hoarding on a spot previously used by the other, triggered conflicts that resulted in killings. Or, sometimes, just to equal the tally.
Why is the state, known as God's own country and takes pride in its high literacy level, fast turning into a hell hole?
In the recent period, political analysts say, conflicts between RSS/BJP local units and CPM workers to acquire and retain territories have resulted in political killings. The RSS and BJP local workers have become more aggressive in the southern state ever since BJP returned to power at the national level in 2014 and this was countered by CPM workers, they said.
“There is a feeling among the local BJP workers that there is support from above,” said M N Karassery, a well-known political analyst in the state. “On the other hand, the CPM workers in the state too feel that they have the silent support of the LDF-government to retaliate,” said Karassery.
Karassery is probably right.
According to a report in The Indian Express, the CPM's state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan urged the party workers to retaliate at political rivals physically.
“Every region should have a system to counter the attack from rivals. We should ensure that those who come to attack us do not return from our region. For this, the party should gain strength in every region. Young men and women should be given necessary physical training,” The Indian Express reported.
Though chief minister Vijayan is an admirer of Narendra Modi and the Centre, the left-hardliners and foot soldiers of the party on the ground doesn't seem to share the admiration. And the only language they understand, especially in the northern part of the state like Kannur, is that of violence.
“All political parties keep quotation teams (goons) to use when needed. This is nothing but political terrorism, which happens when political parties run out of ideas to fight with but only weapons. That's what terrorists also do.”
Rise of RSS-BJP
The rise of RSS-BJP clout in Kerala post May 2014, when the Narendra Modi government came to power, is bolstering the local BJP-RSS units to take on the rivals. This was subsequently boosted by the BJP's improved performance in vote share in 2015 local body polls and 2016 May state assembly polls. Withstanding the strong Left wave that swept through the state, the lone lotus bloomed in Nemam marking the first victory for the party in Kerala Assembly elections. The party has indeed begun to make strong inroads into the bipolar political landscape of the state.
In the assembly elections this year, the BJP's vote share rose to 10.5 percent as compared to the 6 percent in 2011 Assembly elections, but it has remained flat when compared with the 10.2 percent it scored in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Seen together with its ambitious ally, Bhartiya Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), the vote share is about 14 percent compared with the 16 percent the alliance clocked in local body polls last year. The BDJS contested in 37 seats and garnered 3.9 percent total vote share while BJP finished with 10.5 percent.
The fact that the BJP government is in power at the Centre and the party's new found strength in the state emboldened the state unit. Particularly, it caused more aggression among the “party villages” in northern side of Kerala, such as Kannur and Kasaragod districts.
On the other hand, the left parties too became increasingly aware about the rising threat posed by the RSS-BJP in the state and hence they too started reacting aggressively to any provocation from the RSS camp, often resorting to violent retaliations, with the silent support of the Vijayan government.
The bigger question is the silence of chief minister Vijayan, who is also holding the home ministry. “Had Vijayan acted on time, none of this would have happened. What is the need to deploy party workers to avenge the murder of CPM workers, when you can do so through due legal process seeking the help of state police and judiciary,” Karassery asked.
From a national perspective, Kerala is now passing through a phase of political transition. The RSS-BJP is gaining muscle, the Congress-led UDF front is facing an existential crisis and the left is trying to hard not to lose its hard-won dominant position in the state using all possible means, including that of violence.
One needn't be surprised if more heads roll in the days ahead. That will be so if the Vijayan government continues to remain a mute spectator despite the serious situation on the ground and succumbs to party's hardliners.
For now, the state is far from being the God's own country.