The brutal murder of two Youth Congress workers in Kasargod district on Sunday night has brought political violence back to focus in Kerala in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.
The first information report (FIR) lodged by the police has indicated political rivalry and the hands of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) workers behind the murder of Kripesh, 24, and Sarath Lal, 21, near Bakel in the northern district.
The two, who were accused in a case relating to an assault on a local CPM leader last year, were ambushed by the assailants in what appeared like a mafia-style hit-and-run killing. Senior Congress leaders in the district have alleged the role of party men from Kannur, the epicentre of political violence in the state, behind the incident.
A member of the investigating team said their preliminary investigation showed that mercenaries of the crime could be hired hoodlums. He said that they would expand the investigation to Kannur, which has witnessed about 300 political murders in the last five decades.
The twin murder of Krripesh and Sarath has come a year after Youth Congress leader M Suhaib was assassinated at Mattannur in Kannur district. Both cases have many similarities. The two incidents followed clashes between Students Federation of India (SFI) and Kerala Students Union (KSU), the student wings of CPM and Congress respectively.
Suhaib was hacked to death allegedly by CPM’s trade union workers on 12 February after he intervened in a dispute over setting up the KSU unit in a higher secondary school near Mattannur. Similarly, Kripesh and Sarath Lal gave their life while fighting for functional freedom for the KSU at the People’s Co-operative Arts and Science College at Munnad.
Political murders in Kannur started in a systematic manner after the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attempted to make inroads into the communist bastions in Kannur, the cradle of the communist movement in Kerala, in the late sixties.
The crime bureau statistics show that 45 CPM cadres, 44 BJP–RSS activists, 15 Congressmen and four Muslim League workers have been killed between 1991 and 2016 in Kannur. The state witnessed more than 25 political murders since 2016 when the CPM returned to power.
Congress was part of the political violence before the Sangh Parivar entered the scene. Clashes were common between the cadres of the two parties till four decades ago. The Congress withdrew from the field after the CPM started targeting the RSS. The party was pushed into the killing field again with the murder of Suhaib.
Though there have been several political clashes between the CPM and Congress workers in Kannur and other districts since then, none led to murders. The Congress has viewed the murder of the two Youth Congress workers in Kasargod as part of a larger game plan by the CPM to destroy the party.
“The CPM is trying to destroy the Congress party using the party goons. The Youth Congress activists were attacked without any provocation. They were not involved in any kind of criminal activities,” said opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has also come down heavily on the CPM for the murder and asserted that the party will not rest until the murderers are brought to justice.
“The brutal murder of the two members of our Youth Congress family in Kasargod, Kerala is shocking. The Congress party stands in solidarity with the families of these two young men and I send them my deepest condolences. We will not rest till the murderers are brought to justice,” Gandhi tweeted.
The state unit of the party is bound to use the twin murders as a weapon against the CPM-led Left Democratic Front in the coming Lok Sabha elections. The Youth Congress has sought to mobilise public opinion in favour of the party by calling a shutdown strike (hartal) defying the high court order to serve seven days’ notice before calling a hartal.
The high court has registered a suo motu case against the Youth Congress in connection with the flash hartal. Youth Congress president Dean Kuriakose has justified the strike call, saying it was in accordance with their democratic right to protest.
The Congress has been preparing the ground for making political violence as a major issue in the Lok Sabha election ever since the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a murder and conspiracy case against CPM Kannur district secretary EP Jayarajan and MLA T V Rajesh in connection with the murder of Muslim League worker Abdul Shukoor at Ariyil in Kannur in February 2012.
The party had also observed the first death anniversary of Suhaib by organising an extensive campaign against political violence in Kannur. Political violence was relegated to second place after the BJP-RSS combine grabbed the Sabarimala women’s entry issue and sought to use it to consolidate the Hindus and the CPM to rally the secular votes.
Though three opinion poll surveys have found the Congress-led United Democratic Front as the most possible beneficiary of the Sabarimala issue, the Congress hopes that the political violence will give it an added mileage in North Kerala, where the surveys predict one to two seats for the LDF.
The BJP, which had harped on political violence before the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala, is also expected to pick up the missed threads as the surveys do not show the party gaining any major benefit from the Sabarimala issue.
Signs of desperation in the CPM camp have already become visible. The party, which was in the denial mode initially about the involvement of its workers in the Kasargod murders, has changed tack saying that it will not provide any assistance to the party men if they are found involved in the incident.
The LDF suspended the pre-election yatra led by CPM secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Communist Party of India (CPI) secretary Kanam Rajendran following the incident. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has also cancelled all his programmes for the day and held parleys with senior party leaders to chalk out a political strategy to deal with the situation.
Political observers feel that the political murders rocking the state after relative peace for about six months will definitely put the CPM-led coalition on the backfoot in the coming election in the face of the combined attack from the UDF and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.
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Updated Date: Feb 18, 2019 17:16:56 IST