Kerala loses fragile peace as twin murders of CPM, RSS workers revive spectre of political assassinations

The brutal murder of two persons—one a CPM worker and another an RSS activist—within a span of one hour on 7 May night has stirred ‘Kerala’s political killing field’ after three months of relative peace.

The strong sentiments evoked by the murder of the Youth Congress leader SP Suhaib at Mattannur in Kannur district on 12 February had raised hopes among the people that the parties involved in the violence will give peace a chance.

 Kerala loses fragile peace as twin murders of CPM, RSS workers revive spectre of political assassinations

CPM flag. Reuters

The hopes were shattered when unidentified gangs hacked to death 45-year-old K Babu, an active CPM member, at Pallur in Mahe at 9.15 pm and RSS activists Shinoj Parambath at New Mahe an hour later in what is believed to be a retaliatory attack.

The CPM and the RSS have blamed each other for the murders and organised a shutdown in protest at Mahe and Kannur on 8 May. Though Mahe falls under the Union Territory of Pondicherry, the CPM and RSS units there are controlled by their Kannur district committees.

Police have confirmed that the two murders are part of the political violence raging in Kannur district. The first information report (FIR) filed by the police said the murders were a continuation of political clashes between the CPM and the RSS cadres going on in the area for the past few months.

Police sources said the house of Babu, who is a former member of the Mahe municipal council, had come under attack nine months ago. In fact, the current attack on him came soon after an RSS camp at Kuthuparampu in Kannur district.

Kannur has for long been a hotbed of political violence between CPM and Sangh Parivar. The district witnessed a spurt in political murders since the current government led by the CPM came to power in May 2016. The tally touched 12 with the latest two murders. Of these seven belonged to the BJP-RSS combine, four to the CPM and one to the Congress.

Each murder followed peace meets at various levels but they have failed to end the cycle of violence in the politically tumultuous district. On the contrary, the culture of political violence has been spreading to other areas and bringing more players into the killing field.

Political observers believe that the cycle of violence going on in the district for the past four decades can be brought to an end only if the conspirators behind the killings are brought to book. Political analysts like NP Chekutty doubts whether the state police will be able to do this.

The widow of TP Chandrashekharan has been waging a political and legal battle for more than five years for bringing to light the conspirators behind the murder of her husband. Though the then Congress-led United Democratic Front government was successful in bringing to book the killers, who included some middle-level leaders of the CPM, the conspirators were spared.

K Rema, the wife of Chandrashekharan, believes that the conspiracy to eliminate her husband was hatched at the highest level in the party after he floated a parallel organisation following his expulsion from the CPM. She suspects that the order to kill her husband may have come from current Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and executed by Kannur district secretary P Jayarajan.

Chekutty believes that the CPM is able to continue the political killings in Kannur with the active support of a section of the police. The party has developed a perfect system to shield the party workers involved in criminal cases in the district by harbouring the actual culprits and producing dummies in their place in collusion with the police.

It came to light when Kannur district superintendent of police Shiv Vikram alleged that his subordinate officers, including a deputy superintendent of police, had tried to sabotage the probe into the Suhaib murder case by leaking vital investigation details to the culprits.

Though he ensured the arrest of the real culprits by personally questioning all those brought by his subordinates, the Congress party does not believe that the current investigation by the state police will unravel the conspiracy.

The party was relieved when the state high court ordered a CBI inquiry into the brutal murder of Suhaib at Mattannur in Kannur district on 12 February. However, the state government got the order reversed in the Supreme Court by fielding top advocates in the country.

Families of victims of political murders have been seeking CBI probe as the national investigation agency has been to book real culprits and conspirators in most cases they have investigated in the state.

The agency arraigned Jayarajan in two cases of political murders they have investigated. In the Payyoli Manoj murder case, the CBI even found that 13 of the 15 people chargesheeted by the state police were dummies.

Since then there has been a huge clamour for CBI probe into political murder cases. The BJP has already moved the state high court for the national agency’s probe into the murders of eight party activists in the district in the recent past.

A senior police officer at Kannur agrees that political murders could be brought to an end if the senior leaders who ordered the killings were made accountable. The officer, who did not want to be identified, told Firstpost that political murders in Kannur were less during the previous UDG regime as a top officer in the district showed the courage to book the conspirators.

However, Chekutty believes that this was not easy under the CPM regime since the party has been following a give and take policy. He said that a large section of the policemen was ready to oblige the party as they will get rewards from the party-led government in the form of promotions and postings in key places.

The party and the government also offer protection to the police if they do wrong things. This was evident in the Varappuzha custodial death case, in which the party helped the cops to fabricate evidence against Sreejith, who was wrongly arrested and killed in police custody.  Chekutty even suspects the hand of the party behind the custodial death.

"There is every reason to believe that the CPM had a game plan at Varappuzha, where many had deserted the party and embraced the Sangh Parivar in the last few years. Sreejith was one such former comrade. He may have become an eyesore to the CPM after he switched sides to the BJP," said Chekutty.

Though a special investigation team has arraigned five police officials, including a circle inspector, following strong protests, AV George, Aluva rural superintendent of police, who ordered the arrest of Sreejith has not even been questioned despite evidence coming to light that he was in constant touch with a local CPM leader before the arrest of Sreejith.

Information rights activist advocate DB Binu said that the unholy alliance between the police and the political class has been leading to the politicisation of the force and ruining it. Binu said the two unions of police officers and the constabulary were already working on strict political lines now.

Though the policemen were allowed to form unions for their welfare, the unions in Kerala have even started displaying their political affiliation openly. This was seen when some 15 officers attended the Kerala Police Officers' Association annual meet addressed by Vijayan at Kottayam last month in red attires, symbolising the party’s colour.

The Kerala Police Association went a step further and offered salutes to communist martyrs before the commencement of their Ernakulam district conference last week. Former chief minister Oommen Chandy described this as a dangerous trend and warned the government that it will have to pay a big price for this serious aberration.

Binu told Firstpost said that the politicisation of the police was also leading to the criminalisation of the law enforcement agency. He pointed out the rising number of policemen with criminal cases pending against them as a glaring example.

Data made available in response to an RTI query revealed that there were about 1,130 policemen facing major criminal cases, including an attempt to murder, sexual abuse and forgery, in the state as on December 2017. The number was 533 in 2011.

Binu said that majority of these officials were continuing in service, many even in active policing positions, with the criminal tag. Some of them have even received promotions even though their cases are sub-judice.

Binu fears that Kerala will plunge into total chaos and lawlessness if the trend is not nipped in the bud.

Updated Date: May 08, 2018 19:53:27 IST