Latest political murder in Kerala's Kannur brings Congress back to the killing field in P Vijayan's state

A 30-year-old Youth Congress (YC) leader was murdered at Mattannur in Kerala's northern district of Kannur, a hotbed of political clashes between Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Sangh Parivar, pushing the state’s main Opposition into the killing field after a long time.

SB Suhaib, Mattannur YC block secretary, was hacked by an unidentified gang after they hurled bombs at a tea shop at Edayannur, where he was having tea with two of his friends at 11.30 pm on 12 January. Suhaib died on the way to Kozhikode Medical College Hospital. Riyas (36) and Nushad (26), who were injured in the attack, have been admitted to a private hospital at Koyili near Kannur.

Alleging the hand of CPM activists behind the murder, the Kannur district Congress Committee (DCC) has called a dawn-to-dusk shutdown (hartal) in the district. DCC president Satheeshan Pacheni said the attack was related to a clash between activists of the Kerala Students Union (KSU) and the Students Federation of India (SFI), the student wings of the Congress and the CPM respectively, at the Edayannur Higher Secondary School a month ago.

File image of Pinarayi Vijayan. News18

File image of Pinarayi Vijayan. News18

Suhaib, who was in judicial custody along with two others in connection with the incident, was murdered two weeks after he was out on bail. Pacheni told Firstpost that the party had not taken any precaution because the reason for the clash was a minor incident. It erupted after trade union activists of the CPM tried to disrupt a KSU meet at the school. A group of YC workers, led by Suhaib, intervened when workers of the Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU) beaten up the students.

"There have been several such clashes between the workers of the two parties in the district in the recent past but none led to any bloodshed. The murder of Suhaib shows that the CPM wants the reign of terror to continue in Kannur," Pacheni said.

DCC general secretary Chandran Thillankeri, who is in charge of the Mattanur area, has blamed the police for the murder of his party colleague. He said that the police had not taken any step to increase security despite tension prevailing in the area following a series of clashes since December. "Five RSS workers and two CPM activists were hacked in two separate incidents of clashes at Mattanur before the clash between the KSU and SFI activists occurred on Monday. Several steel bombs and explosive were seized subsequently. Yet, the police did not take any step to prevent violence," Thillankeri said.

CPM district secretary P Jayarajan denied involvement of the party in the murder. Condemning the incident, he said that the party will inquire into the incident and take stern action if any party worker was found involved in the murder.

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president MM Hassan dismissed the denial. He said that the video clips of CPM leaders threatening Suhaid circulated on social media just two weeks ago was sufficient evidence to prove the party workers' role in the murder. Hassan alleged that the CPM was trying to keep Kannur as a battlefield. The Congress has been maintaining restraint despite many provocations in the past. The CPM is pushing the Congress into the killing field.

The Congress was part of the violence before the Sangh Parivar entered the scene. Clashes were common between the cadres of the two parties till four decades ago. They took on an aggressive form during the period of Emergency when the CPM was in an unofficial alliance with the Jana Sangh, the precursor of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Congress and the CPM continued the killing spree until the BJP came into being in 1980. The Congress withdrew from the field after the CPM started targeting the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that challenged the party in its bastions. The clashes between the two since then have claimed around 300 lives.

The district witnessed 69 political murders between 2000 and 2016, according to data gathered by 101 Reporters from the police in response to an RTI request. Of these, 30 were from the CPM and 31 from the RSS-BJP combine. The rest were from the Muslim League and the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), a political arm of the radical Popular Front of India (PFI).

There has been a marked rise in the political murders during the term of the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) governments. Data accessed by The News Minute showed that Kannur contributed to 50 percent of political murders in the state during the two LDF terms between 2000 and 2016 as against 20 to 30 percent during the UDF regime in this period.

The current spree of murders in Kannur started on the counting day after the May 2016 Assembly election, when one CPM worker was killed in a bomb attack on the victory rally of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at Dharmadom. Since then, 10 people were killed in Kannur district and seven others in the rest of the state. There have been no incidents of murder in the district since Vijayan initiated peace talks with the RSS and BJP in July this year following pressure from the Central government and Governor P Sathasivam.

The lull ended last month, when a 26-year-old RSS activist was brutally hacked to death at Koothuparampa, allegedly by SDPI workers. The death of Suhaib came less than a month after.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said that the political violence had increased since the Vijayan government had come to power. He said the murder of Suhaib was the 21st political murder in the last 17 months. "What is happening in Kannur is red terror. The government has allowed the party cadres a free run in the district by tying the hands of the police. If the situation continues like this, the Congress will be forced to hit back in the same manner as the CPM," he added.

Umesh Babu, a political observer, said that the CPM was trying to annihilate political opponents systematically with police protection. The police under the LDF regime are taking orders from CPM leadership. The CPM workers had unleashed attack on the office of the Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) at Badagara near Kozhikode and its workers in the presence of the police, he pointed out.

"Instead of taking the assailants into custody, the police took away 14 RMP workers and detained then in a different police station under the guise of providing protection against further attacks. Such things are unheard of in a democratic society," Babu told the Firstpost.

He said that the CPM had thought that the RMP would die a natural death after the murder of its leader TP Chandrashekharan. The RMP chief was hacked to death after he questioned the ideological deviation in the CPM. The party is trying to uproot RMP party after his widow K Rema took over the reins of the party.

Babu said that the CPM cadres were continuing the reign of terror as they were assured of full protection by the government. Kerala will go into anarchy if the situation continues like this, he added.

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Updated Date: Feb 14, 2018 10:51:18 IST

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