The recent murder of a political activist, TP Chandrasekharan, has sparked off a debate on the culture of political violence in Kerala. Chandrasekharan was a rebel CPI(M) leader who left the party due to ideological differences. He floated the Revolutionary Marxist Party in Calicut, a CPI(M) citadel, and the new outfit managed to erode the base of the party there. After he left the CPI(M), he received threats but he never sought police protection because, as he used to say, if the CPI(M) decides to kill someone, it would do it.
His murder has shocked Kerala as no society can tolerate such an act and so it is important to bring his murderers to book. The government has constituted a team and the probe is progressing in the right direction. Many of those who have been arrested are linked to the CPI(M). While the probe will take its course, the reaction of the CPI(M) undermines its claims of being a democratic and progressive party.
Initially, the CPI(M) said the party had nothing to do with the murder. As more and more evidence of their members' involvement came up, its leaders spread rumours that there was a rift within the investigation team and began to publicly threaten and abuse the team's members. They even forgot that most of the officers in the team were put in the 'outstanding category' during Left Front rule.
One has to understand these developments in the context of the changes that the CPI(M) is trying to bring about in Kerala. A totally undemocratic concept called party village — which has been running with great efficiency in West Bengal — has been spreading in Kerala too. In these villages, the party is the de facto ruler and those who do not support the party are ostracised. It is the party that dictates who should marry whom and even decide who can sell land to whom.
In all the private and public activities of the villagers, the writ of the party is final. Only newspapers that are loyal to the party are allowed in these villages and news channels that don't subscribe to the party's versions of 'truth' are blocked out. Anybody who is seen as an enemy is killed. It is most shocking to hear some prominent CPI(M) leaders justifying and glorifying the concept of party villages. These party villages are breeding a culture of violence in the northern part of the state. Many political murders have taken place and once a school teacher was killed by goons in a classroom.
But the investigation into the murder of Chandrasekharan is throwing up more disturbing trends in political violence. Earlier political murders were committed by the party cadre; now goons are hired to carry out these jobs. The media calls them quotation gangs. The CPI(M) hired a quotation gang to eliminate Chandrasekharan. Investigations show that there are a large number of such gangs in Kerala and they are patronised by the CPI(M) leaders. These gangs have become a threat to the social fabric of the state.
The government is committed to end this culture of political violence and the quotation gangs. But political violence cannot be completely stopped without the cooperation of the public and the opinion-makers. The people of the state should socially and politically isolate those who preach and practise violence. Then only will true democracy take strong root in India.
Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan is home minister, government of Kerala. The views expressed by the author are personal.