Recurring political violence a key poll issue in Kerala
In a thatched two-room hut in Kasaragod, Krishnapriya, an undergraduate student, holds her slain brother Kripesh’s photo tightly. Since the wall is too porous the photograph can’t be hung.
Kripesh, who was a Youth Congress worker, was hacked to death along with his friend Sharath Lal two months ago in Periya. His mother is still hysterical and is yet to come to terms with her son’s death. Both Kripesh and Lal were in their early twenties.
They were the latest victims of an unending spiral of political violence in north Kerala. All political parties say they are against the killings but the grisly political murders continue. They vouch they will put an end to this but the families of the murdered men are convinced that political parties are not serious about stopping the killings.
A two-hour drive from Kripesh’s house is K Naryani’s house in Pinarayi village in neighbouring Kannur, the epicentre of violence between the Left and the Right wing.
“Why should I live? Tell them to kill me also,” says Naryani’s distraught mother, unable to control her tears. Her husband Chavaserry Uthaman, a RSS-BJP activist, was killed 18 years ago and son Remid (26) was killed in similar way by alleged CPI (M) workers on the eve of assembly polls in 2016. BJP president Amit Shah had visited her house last January with his wife and said it was a pilgrimage to them.
In the mad rush to impose political hegemony, the wails of poor women like Narayani are often drowned. In this part of Kerala where politics comes down to an eye-for-an-eye, women are the worst affected. Not far from Naryani’s house is where K Mohanan used to live. A CPI (M) worker, he was allegedly hacked to death by a group of RSS workers two years ago. “When will it stop?” asks his daughter who has just completed her graduation.
The kin of those killed have often pleaded for a complete stop to mindless killings in the name of ideology. In many areas people dread elections because of the treat of large scale violence. Families have pleaded with political parties not to use deceased for votes, but to no avail.
The killings have spawned movies, books, street plays and Gandhians have taken out padyatras and held peace meetings to curb the tit-for-tat killings but the murders haven’t stopped. The murders haven’t stopped political parties either from flaunting their victims during elections to garner votes. Kripesh and Sharth Lal’s pictures dot the state.
The ruling CPI (M) says its rivals are painting a wrong picture that the party is behind recurring violence. This time it has fielded Kannur district secretary P Jayarajan in Vatakara to prove a point. Attacked grievously by RSS activists in 1999, he narrowly escaped death.
“We suffered most in violence but a section of media and our rivals raise accusing fingers at us only. We have taken action against erring workers as well. We will go all out to convince our cadres that retaliation is not our ideology,” said party politburo member M A Baby.
More than 200 people have been killed in the last three decades in RSS-Left violence in Kannur. Many injured survivors are a grim reminder of the politics of intolerance.
“Merchants of death should be taught a lesson. Ballot is the best way to tackle these elements,” said Revolutionary Marxist Party leader K Rema while addressing a small crowd in Onchiyam in Vatakkara. Her husband T P Chandrasekharan, a Marxist renegade, was allegedly killed by a group of CPI (M) men six years ago. She was a candidate in Vatakara but later withdrew in favour of Congress candidate K Muralidharan. In at least seven Lok Sabha constituencies of north Kerala political violence is a major issue.
“Mere lip service won’t do any good in Kannur and surrounding areas. In most cases only minor workers will be booked and persons who really plot the murder go scot-free. This will stop only when big fish are caught,” said Rema.
Last week the CPI (M) had filed a complaint against Rema for allegedly calling Vatakara candidate P Jayarajan a killer. She alleges that four or five leaders of Kannur are behind the never-ending spiral of violence.
“It is sad parties are using the dead for votes. This time is no different either. The ruling party will have to pay a heavy price for latest killing of two youth. If you target someone, naturally latter will gain sympathy. This was the case with the Communists who were banned and hounded by the Congress and the police after Independence,” said Prof T Sasindran, who has done extensive studies on violence in Kannur. In Kerala’s killing fields, kin of murder victims plead for ending savagery