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The killing fields of Kannur: where bloodthirsty CPI(M) and RSS collide

P Venugopal | Updated on: 25 May 2016, 20:01 IST

Latest incident

  • A CPI(M) worker was killed in Kannur last week when a bomb allegedly thrown by an RSS worker exploded
  • The workers were celebrating the LDF\'s Kerala Assembly election victory on 19 May when the incident occurred

History of violence

  • Since 1991, Kannur has witnessed 105 political killings related to the CPI(M) and RSS affiliates
  • The situation was much worse in the 1980s, when each killing was followed by a retaliatory one

More in the story

  • Why social scientists don\'t buy the theory that the whole district is a killing field
  • Would a change of leadership change the situation?

The CPI(M) runs an 'Initiative for Rehabilitation and Palliative Care for the Aged' in Kerala's Kannur district. It deploys over 2,000 volunteers in houses where bedridden aged people go through the final moments of their lives.

The trained volunteers sit by the side of the ailing, giving them medicines on time, cleaning them, washing their clothes and, in short, attending to everything professional home nurses may attend to - with a big, big heart.

At the time of launching the programme three years ago, the party had noted that P Krishna Pillai, one of the founding leaders of the Communist movement in Kerala, had once said it was the duty of the comrades to look after the aged and ailing people in the community.

The same party also sends an armed gang in broad daylight to a village school to slice to pieces a teacher - a Yuva Morcha leader - right inside the classroom, blood splashing all over the students.

A CPI(M) gang sliced to pieces a teacher - a Yuva Morcha leader - right inside the classroom in 1999

It sends another gang in the dead of the night to the neighbouring Kozhikode district to ambush and kill a former party colleague, who had turned political adversary by drifting away from the party and forming a small outfit of his own that was causing local level erosion from the ranks of the party.

KT Jayakrishnan, the Yuva Morcha leader killed in December 1999, received 48 sword cuts on his body, while TP Chandrasekhar, the founder of the Revolutionary Marxist Party, who was waylaid in May 2012, had 51 slashes on his.

Relative lull compared to the 1980s

Violent rivalry, particularly between the CPI(M) and the RSS, which has claimed 105 lives in the district since 1991 (according to the Crime Records Bureau), shows no sign of abating.

The latest victim was a 47-year-old CPI(M) worker, who died when a country bomb allegedly thrown by an RSS activist exploded inside a moving van carrying party workers celebrating the LDF's election victory in Dharmadam constituency on 19 May.

Within hours, there were retaliatory strikes in several places in the district, and more than 30 people sustained injuries.

A CPI(M) worker died when a bomb thrown by an RSS activist exploded amidst celebrations on 19 May

In fact, the situation since 1991 represents a relative lull in political killings in the district when compared to that in the 1980s. There were times in the 1980s when one killing followed another retaliatory killing immediately, with the scores favouring the RSS one day and the CPI(M) the next. The 1980s altogether witnessed more than 150 political killings in the district.

"It is a mistake to consider the entire Kannur district as a killing field," says KT Ram Mohan, Dean, School of Social Science, Mahatma Gandhi University.

"The clashes and the killings had mostly been confined to certain pockets - popularly known as party villages - where the CPI(M) or the RSS commanded absolute control over the goings on. From the time of the Jana Sangh, the district had certain areas where the presence of Sangh Parivar was substantial. These are the sensitive areas. Any move from one side to infiltrate into the rival's territory is resisted with intimidating violence."

Murder attempts on each other

The CPI(M) district secretary P Jayarajan is one of the accused in the murder of an RSS district functionary, E Manoj, in September 2014. The case is now before the Thalasserry sessions court.

Out on bail, he was given a rousing welcome by the party cadres in Kannur on Tuesday, when he reached there at the conclusion of a two-month court ban on his entering the district.

His alleged involvement in planning and executing the killing would point to the direct role the party leadership could be playing in perpetuating the politics of violence in the district.

Jayarajan himself had survived, with grievous mutilating injuries, an RSS attack on him in 1999. It is not considered a matter of coincidence that the killed RSS leader, Manoj, was one of the accused in the murder attempt on him 17 years ago.

For the party cadres in the district, Jayarajan is a living martyr, epitomising the party's resistance against the Sangh Parivar.

Leaders matter

A senior journalist, with more than two decades of reporting background in Kannur, says he has observed a connection between the situation in the district at a given point of time and the person who happens to be leading the party there at that time.

When party men of relatively peaceful disposition are at the helm of affairs in the district, there is invariably a lull in political killings.

First published: 25 May 2016, 20:01 IST