Did political murders become a mainstay in Kerala? The numbers and history seems to agree so
In 2018, the then CPM Kannur secretary P Jayarajan made a very controversial claim regarding the murder of RSS worker Vadikkal Ramakrishnan in 1969. Jayarajan claimed that Ramakrishnan’s death was RSS’ wage for their actions. The statement followed the controversy surrounding the incident after a “new witness” came forward claiming that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had killed RSS worker Ramakrishnan, marking the first political murder in the history of the state.
Beginning of the Vicious Circle of Vengeance
According to many experts, the event on April 28, 1969, marked the beginning of a tale of deadly political murders in the state between RSS and BJP. Moreover, the political murders also transferred to incidents involving Congress and the Indian Union Muslim League. Ramakrishnan’s death was the first recorded political murder, but many others have been there as well. According to Ullekh NP’s book — Kannur: Inside India’s Bloodiest Revenge Politics — the conflict between CPI (before it was divided into CPI and CPM) and the RSS began at the end of the 1940s and soon turned into bloody conflict during the emergency.
Since both organisations faced bans, they did not want to start an issue that would have a nationwide impact. They kept clear of leaders but melees ensued between the two throughout the time. At the time of their conflicts, Kannur was an undivided territory including territories of Kasargod, Kanhangad, Kannur, and Thalasseri, and the CPI an undivided, well-knit organisation. Over the years, they would split and the party would change with the landscapes. One would hope that it would end as the state moved into the 21st century. On the contrary, the two political organisations kept their rivalry alive into the new millennium.
Around 172 political murders took place in Kerala in a span of 17 years from 2000 to 2017. The CPM lost 85 workers, RSS/BJP lost 65, Congress and IUML lost 11 each. In one year from 2016, 14 people were victims of political vengeance. Interestingly, RTI data accessed by media agencies at the time showed that the killings on LDF and RSS sides rose during the LDF governments and it fell during UDF regimes. For example, in 2000, during the LDF government, Kannur recorded nine murders in a year, and when the LDF was in power in 2008, it was 12 — with five each from RSS/BJP and CPM.
According to National Crime Records Bureau data, Kannur contributed to half of the political murders in Kerala while the Left was in power between 2000 and 2016. However, the numbers fell during the UDF governments in this period, with the district contributing only less than 30% of all political murders during the time. In the 15 years from 2000, Kannur featured 36% of all political murders in Kerala. Experts believe that a growing rivalry between the CPM and the RSS, especially with the latter growing in numbers and political strength in the last 25 years, has led to a large number of political victims in the state.
More than Numbers in the Killing
However, these numbers remained invisible throughout the years, until someone went looking for them. Apart from the numbers, it was the identity of the victims that shocked the people. In May 2012, TP Chandrasekharan, who broke away from CPM to form Revolutionary Marxist Party, died lying in a pool of blood. His attackers’ blades struck his body 51 times, mainly on his face. A High Court verdict, running over 350 pages, recorded that it was indeed a politically motivated crime and that it was perpetrated by CPM leaders in Kozhikode and Kannur. A few left leaders were sent to jail as well. A few days after Chandrasekharan was found in a pool of his blood, Pinarayi Vijayan would claim, “traitors are always traitors”, referencing TP’s exit from CPM.
However, killing isn’t the only part of political murders that shocked Kerala. In 2019, alleged CPM members attacked Kripesh and Sarath Lal, as the two Youth Congress members were travelling by bike. The duo was hacked to death. While the state machinery is supposed to fight for the victims, an RTI inquiry revealed that Kerala’s LDF government spent Rs 90 Lakh challenging the Kerala court’s verdict to hand over the case to CBI. Rs 60 lakh was given to senior counsel Maninder Singh, who appeared in the court for four days and expenses relating to air travel, accommodation, food and other miscellaneous expenses amount to Rs 292,337. The LDF government fought the verdict in the Supreme Court as well, but the latter denied their claims. This was another example of the blatant misuse of state machinery to deny justice to victims.
In the latest sequence of events is the attack on Youth League members, where one was killed. On Tuesday, following a scuffle between the CPM and Youth League, a gang of alleged CPM workers barged into the house of Mansoor after creating a scary atmosphere by hurling bombs into the house. When the gang attacked Muhasin, his brother Mansoor tried to stop them and the attackers hacked the latter. Both of them were initially taken to Thalasseri Indira Gandhi hospital and from there to a private hospital at Kozhikode.
According to reports, the police have taken CPM worker Shinoj, who is also Mansoor’s neighbour, into custody. Moreover, others allege that the Youth League had kidnapped a DYFI member and tortured him. On the other hand, Muhasin told police that the attackers — allegedly around 20 DYFI members — confirmed by asking their names.
Political murders have seemed to become a mainstay in the state to the extent that an attack on one’s side is a very rational explanation to go and murder someone else. In this regard, with LDF members engaging in political vengeance, are they trying to say that they don’t believe in the police system of the state to bring justice to the victims?