The outspoken claim of a CPM leader in Kerala that the party has indeed plotted and killed its opponents landed the Marxists in an absolute mess.
In his brazen display of medieval thuggery, the local leader seemed to have taken a cue from the party’s state leadership which has unleashed an offensive against the tide of public outrage for its suspected involvement in the murder of a popular CPM-dissident TP Chandrasekharan three weeks ago.
The star of the foolish street-corner spectacle that plunged the CPM into a fresh crisis is MM Mani, secretary of the party in Idukki, an eastern district adjoining Ernakulam and Kottyam. Ironically, the meeting where he blurted out was convened to tell the party workers that the CPM was not involved in the murder of Chandrasekharan.
Unfortunately for him and the CPM, the shocking footage of his speech found its way to the state’s TV channels.
His speech was surprisingly vivid in details of the murders that he said the party had planned and executed. He said, the party had made a list of 13 people and killed four of them - all Congress functionaries. “One, two, three, four...” he said narrating the sequence of murders.
“The first one was shot dead, the second was beaten to death and the third was stabbed to death,” he said with absolute derision, citing their names and other details.
The murders he narrated were in fact among the most sensational in the district - three of them in the early 1980s and the fourth in 2004. In the first three, nobody had been convicted for lack of evidence. Mani’s admission to the party’s involvement has provided fresh evidence for the police to reopen the cases.
The chief minister and the home minister said his speech would be examined and action would be taken. The DGP has also asked the district police chief to take action including re-examination of the case-diary. The families of the victims said they would go to court asking for new investigation.
Sensing trouble, Mani tried to swallow his words and said he was only explaining the travails and attacks that the party had gone through since the days of the British rule. But in his clarification, he appeared completely incoherent except when he parroted the party state leadership’s refrain, when faced with trouble, that “we will face the case politically and legally.”
Mani appeared to have taken a cue from the state leadership which has been digging into the past to make a case that the murder allegations were part of a conspiracy to destroy the “communist party” since the British days. In fact, presenting evidence of persecution and stories of resistance of the past, to justify its offensive in the present, was a ploy that the party secretary Pinarayi Vijayan adopted at a recent public meeting.
Probably Mani tried to mimic the logic, but failed miserably.
There was absolutely no response from the party’s leadership on the embarrassment caused by Mani.
Facing an unprecedented public ire in the murder of Chandrasekharan, the CPM has adopted an aggressive offensive against the police and the media. On Saturday morning, the former industries minister Elamanam Karim threatened a deputy superintendent of police who is part of the investigating team. He warned the officer that the government would change soon, hinting that the party would target him. He also said that the officer’s children and family would be ashamed of him.
Karim’s menacing words also targetted the media. Interestingly, almost the entire block of the state’s media, both print and electronic; except the party mouthpieces; have been relentless in its investigation of the alleged role of CPM in the murder. Earlier, Karim had demanded that the media should reveal their sources of information on the case and threatened them with legal action.
Although the CPM has been allegedly involved in many political killings, the murder of Chandrasekharan emerged as a symbol of alleged political brutality of the party.
Chandrasekharan was unarmed, had not been involved in a fight and was hacked beyond recognition by a hired criminal gang. Although the CPM has washed its hands off the murder, investigation of the case has led the police to several CPM functionaries including an area secretary and criminals whom they had allegedly hired for the murder.
One of the arrested, who reportedly participated in the murder, had hammer-and-sickle tattooed on his forearm.
The slain leader TP Chandrasekharan was extremely popular in Onchiam in Kozhikkode district and his Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) had nearly extinguished the CPM from its erstwhile fortress.
In a related development, veteran editor S Jayachandran Nair of “Samakalika Malayalam,” a magazine published by the New Indian Express Group, dropped a serialised poem by a writer close to the CPM for his justification of the murder of Chandrasekharan.
Nair, a tall figure in the state’s literary journalism and the producer of two Cannes fame films, said it was a mark of his protest against the author who trivialised and justified the murder while many like him were heart-broken.
The stoppage of publication was a firm voice in the state’s cultural scene because the proxies of CPM, most of whom are well-entrenched in the party-media and party-affiliated cultural circuits, have either remained silent on the murder or appeared ambiguous in their stand.
One of the most popular poets in the state, who has a cult-following, said he was scared to speak up. Other fellow-travellers used creative ambiguity and trivial logic to avoid speaking against the party.
However, protest meetings involving several opinion-leaders, proponents of alternative left and non-affiliated writers are springing up in different parts of the state.