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 fourth in a five-part series from ground zero.
Not many hope that the move initiated by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to end the political violence in his home district of Kannur will bear fruits.
Many see the absence of Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s district secretary P Jayarajan and other senior leaders – at the all-party conference convened last week by district collector Mir Mohammed Ali after seven murders in a brief span of five months – as an indication of the party’s unpreparedness to end the violence.
Many expected the chief minister himself or one of his ministerial colleagues to preside over the conference and party state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan to attend it. However, they kept off the exercise saying that the effort for peace should begin from the local level.
“The argument is valid in normal cases of violence. But the scene in Kannur is totally different. While political violence in other parts of the country is mostly spontaneous, it is premeditated and orchestrated in Kannur. Therefore, it needs concerted effort at all levels to end the violence,” says IV Babu, a senior journalist born and brought up in Kannur.
He said Kannur had defied efforts made by not only government and political parties but also social and cultural leaders, including former Supreme Court judge late Justice VR Krishna Iyer, for peace in the past. This is because violence is deeply ingrained in the minds of the party workers.
Babu said that the party men from both the divides have been continuing their war cry in the social media even after the all-party meet resolved to give peace a chance in Kannur. The CPI (M) men do not seem to give any credence to the peace effort by the third-rung leaders.
“They go by only the top leaders. Unfortunately, leaders like Pinarayi and Kodiyeri are still not in a mood to give a strong message to the party men in the district. This is because they lack the moral authority to appeal for peace,” says Babu.
In fact, many consider the two as the pioneers of political murders in the district. The chain of killings in Kannur started with the ‘unprovoked’ murder of RSS activist Vadikkal Ramakrishnan, a sweet maker, at Thalaserry in 1969.
The murder was allegedly planned and executed by the duo. Even though Pinarayi was listed as the main accused in the case, he was let off in the absence of evidence. Both the leaders have, many a time, openly advocated violence.
AP Abdullakutty, who was expelled from the CPI (M) for praising Modi's style of development, had revealed that Pinarayi had asked party workers during his term as the state secretary of the party to follow the Bengal's communist style of killings of opponents.
Kodiyeri, on the other, threatened that his party men would make a bomb even at the police stations while he was at the helm of the home ministry during the last term of the LDF government led by VS Achuthanandan. Soon after the present government assumed power, he appealed to his party men to ensure that those who come to attack them do not go back in the same condition.
Nobody expects any credible move for peace from such leaders. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an earnest appeal to Pinarayi to take an initiative to bring an end to the political violence in Kannur in his first meeting after being sworn in as chief minister, he put the onus of ending the killings on the RSS and the BJP.
Later the chief minister sought to justify the murders of the RSS workers, including one in his own hometown, as revenge killings and asked the Prime Minister to direct the RSS men to drop arms.
“Nobody expects such a response from a chief minister who is duty bound to provide protection to the lives and properties of the people. If Pinarayi is not able to ensure this with the police under his command, he has no right to remain as head of the government,” says Prof MN Karaserry, a noted writer.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala believes that the chief minister will be able to end the violence only if he acts like a statesman. Unfortunately, Pinarayi is still behaving like a party leader, adds Ramesh.
Former BJP state president PS Sreedharan Pillai believes that the political violence can be brought to an end in a minute if Pinarayi wants peace to prevail in Kannur. He said that most of the murders in Kannur were committed with the knowledge and the consent of Pinarayi and other top leaders.
“Most court orders in convicted cases have reference to the role of CPI(M) leadership behind the murders. Some of them contain even directions to the Home Secretary to probe the conspiracy. Unfortunately, none of the governments has ever taken the court orders seriously,” says Pillai.
He said that he had personally taken up the court directions with successive chief ministers but none of them paid any heed to his pleas. Pillai said political murders would not have recurred if at least one top leader responsible for the conspiracy was brought before the law.
CPI (M) member and poet Umesh Babu is also of the same opinion. He does not expect Pinarayi to give a free hand to the police since he belongs to a school of new generation leaders who believe that they can protect the party’s preserves only by eliminating its rivals. He said most of the CPI(M) leaders from Kannur, who have a strong sway over the party as well as the government, are proponents of this theory.
“They are directly or indirectly involved in most incidents of political violence in the district. They are continuing the violent path since law never catches up with them. I strongly feel that violence will come to an end in Kannur once some of these leaders are brought before the law,” says the writer.
He does not expect this to happen as these leaders have the backing of powerful lobbies. He alleged that the investigation into the brutal murder of CPI(M) rebel leader TP Chandrashekharan during the term of the UDF government was brought to an end after it turned towards the conspiracy angle.
Babu said that the hands of the UDF government then were tied down by the business lobby in the Middle East. They mediated between top CPI (M) leadership and the government and got the investigation closed. He says that even the BJP government at the Centre is not free from the influence of this lobby.
“If it was free, it would have backed the efforts of Chandrashekharan’s widow KK Rema for a Central Bureau of Investigation into the conspiracy angle. Unfortunately, the central government opposed her plea in the court.
Rema firmly believes that the order to eliminate her husband has come from Pinarayi himself. She believes that Pinarayi gave the message to the party men by terming Chandrashekharan as a “kulam kuthi” (traitor).
Babu also sees the hands of the Middle East business lobby behind the bail granted to CPI(M) Kannur district secretary P Jayarasjan despite being listed as an accused under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in the case related to the murder of RSS functionary Kathiroor Manoj.
“Normally a person framed under the law does not get bail for six months. The Thalaserry sessions court granted him bail on the condition that he will not enter Kannur. The CBI which arrested him neither opposed the bail application nor appealed against the judgement,” says Babu.
He sees this as clear evidence that the CBI had acted this way under orders from the top. IV Babu also supports the observation of Umesh Babu regarding the role being played by the Middle East business lobby in Kerala politics. He said all the parties in the state oblige them as they are the main sources of their funds.
VK Rajan, who works for the CPI(M) mouthpiece ‘Deshabhimani’, says that the government alone would not be able to bring peace in Kannur. He said violence can be ended only if the RSS and the BJP were ready to drop arms
“The BJP, which is playing the communal card in other states, had chosen violence in Kerala as they have realised that there are no takers for their communal agenda in the state. The RSS and the BJP men are provoking violence. Our party men are only trying to defend themselves,” says Rajan.
Karaserry said it was not fair to blame one camp alone for the political violence. He said that both BJP and the CPI(M) were equally responsible for the continuation of the violence and both should resolve to fight each other ideologically than through arms.
“If they think they can build their parties with the help of arms they are living in the fools’ paradise. Nobody in the word has solved any problems through arms. Ideology should be fought with ideology, not with arms,” says Karaserry.
He said that the CPI (M) itself is a glaring example of surviving violent repressions. The British and the Congress had tried their maximum to uproot the Communists from the state but the party survived these attacks and became strong.
“The CPI (M) has similarly failed to check the growth of the BJP and the RSS in Kannur through violence. It has only helped them grow. Kannur today is the only district in the country with maximum RSS shakhas. If the CPI (M) does not realise this and continue to fight them with arms it will only strengthen the BJP,” said the writer.
He said that the BJP which secured 15 percent votes in the last Assembly election will capture power in the state if the CPI (M) and the UDF continue their strategy of countering them with the help of muscle power.