Kerala's CPM leaders' great vanishing act

MM Mani, a local leader of the CPM in Kerala, who shot to global fame for his public confession that the party had plotted and killed its opponents, has reportedly vanished from his locality even as the police has registered a case of murder and conspiracy against him.

Local media, which tried to locate him in his village, curiously named “20 Acre”, said he was untraceable and his family apparently doesn’t know where he is!

His disappearance is attributed to the arrival of a police team in the district to re-investigate the cases of murder that he referred to in his sensational disclosure. The word going around is that he has gone into hiding to escape questioning by the police.

Opposition leaders alleged that he has been kept in hiding by the party leadership.

MM Mani (left) at the protest rally where he spoke of murdering political rivals. PTI

Mani’s vanishing act is one of the many recent disappearances of CPM leaders, accused of being involved in murders, that expose the contradiction between the assertions of the party leadership and its deeds on the ground. The trend is amplified by the relentless media pursuit of the sensational murder of a popular leader and CPM-dissident TP Chandrasekharan.

Pushed to a corner by a series of murder allegations, the last of which was that of TP Chandrasekharan, the CPM state leadership has asserted that the party had nothing to do with them and it would co-operate with the investigation.

But when the leads of investigation reach the party functionaries, they turn hostile.

They immediately attribute political motives in “framing” CPM leaders and organise protest rallies in which veiled or not-so-veiled threats are hurled at the police officers. If both do not work, the accused go into hiding.

In Kannur district in north Kerala, at least three leaders accused of roles in murders, are in hiding.

Two of them are wanted by the CBI in connection with the murder of a Muslim leader, who had left the CPM a while ago. The CBI team has been camping in the district, but have not been able to locate them. Frustrated by the alleged efforts of the local CPM unit, the CBI told the Kerala High Court on 29 May that the party was preventing the officers from arresting the accused. It also told the court that the CPM was sheltering them in “safe havens”.

A local bigwig of the party openly said on television that the party would not give up their leaders and would protect them at any cost.

Another  party veteran, who is in hiding, is wanted by the police investigating the murder of Chandrasekharan. Reportedly, his interrogation is crucial in garnering critical evidence to establish the conspiracy. He went into hiding in the nick of time, probably based on some leaked information. As in the case of Mani, his family also claim not to know where he is!

Information leaking from police to party leaders is a headache for investigators. Union minister from Kerala, Vayalar Ravi, recently said there were cells in the police that collude with the CPM. In fact, the details of allegations disclosed by a CPM leader, such as the names of the investigating officers and the nature of interrogation, collaborate Ravi’s suspicion.

Although the police has made many arrests in the Chandrasekharan murder case, the key suspects who executed the crime, are yet to be nabbed. Police believe that they are in “safe havens” in Kannur itself, possibly in “party villages” as they are otherwise known.

The frustration of the police in not being able to effectively search and locate suspects in “party villages” was evident in the state Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan’s recent statement that “there cannot be two states” within the state. He was forthright in admitting the existence of such villages where the party-writ superseded the rule of law.

It’s astonishing that the murder-accused can effortlessly slip into protected enclaves. When asked about their whereabouts, local CPM leaders say that they had been framed and hence cannot be given up. Another leader said they could have gone into hiding possibly because of the “nature of the police interrogation”.

Shockingly, the response of the leaders, one of them a former minister and a CPM state committee member, is not even nuanced. They are quite unabashed in their defence of the suspects and threats to police officers even as the state and central leaderships of the party continue their refrain of non-violence and cooperation with the investigation.

The alleged shielding of the accused and their defence has led to charges that CPM has its own “party courts” which decide who is guilty and who is not, in contravention with the law of the land.

Meanwhile, the police has registered a case against former industries minister Elamaram Karim for threatening the police officers investigating the case. At a public rally to protest the arrest of an area committee secretary in connection with the Chandrasekharan murder case, he had named a police officer and blatantly threatened him with dire consequences. Karim also said that the officer's children would be ashamed of him.

But on Thursday, when faced with a police case, he said he never threatened anybody, but only intervened to ensure citizens’ rights.