Although voting in Kerala on Tuesday went without violent incidents, the alleged attack on the widow of a slain rebel Communist leader on the last day of the campaign stood out as a grim reminder of the reality of political violence in the state. As in the previous cases, it smacked of medieval rancour that’s inconsistent with a modern democracy.
The victim of the attack was KK Rama, the widow of a former CPM local leader turned rebel, who was hacked to death for which a killer gang and two CPM leaders were sentenced to life. Chandrasekharan’s murder, as the court noted, was purely political and was masterminded by the CPM, although the party distanced itself from it even while supporting the convicts. The attack on Rama gained considerable visibility because she continued her husband’s fight for an alternative communist path, and her electoral presence posed a direct threat to the CPM candidate’s chances.
The supporters of both Rama and the CPM circulated videos accusing each other. Either way, what was visible in the video was pure political hostility.
Chandrasekharan was an outlier because the victims of such political violence in the state are either from the CPM or the RSS. In a limited number of cases, people from other parties also could die. But mostly, it’s either the CPM or the RSS and the theatre of violence is Kannur in northern Kerala with its echoes sometimes reaching Kozhikode where the slain leader lived. For years, people have been theorising why the politics in Kannur is so violent. CPM is certainly a common factor. It’s always CPM vs the others.But the CPM leaders play the victim card and reaffirm that they don’t support violence, and at best, only resist it. They say it’s the RSS which is attacking them unprovoked. In terms of the number of victims, probably the CPM may have lost more people, but it’s certainly not simple resistance, but planned retribution that results in such killings.
The reason is the CPM’s obsessive control over its strangleholds in Kannur and even in some parts of Kozhikode which are better known as “party villages”, the veritable one party communes. The party has absolute authority over these places and nobody can defy its diktat. The RSS and some Muslim outfits try to make inroads to these pockets and they get fierce resistance. It leads to violence, deaths and retribution. The cycle never stops. More over, the leaders keep the hostility simmering and young cadres and local leaders fall dead on the wayside, at public places and at home. Some, even die in classrooms in front of their students.
In such situations, you can’t even be politically neutral, let alone side with somebody else, without risking severe ostracisation. There are documented cases of relentless social boycott, bordering on violence, that lasted years. And learning from the CPM, the RSS too wants to create such pockets for themselves.
Well known Malayali writer Paul Zachariah compares these party pockets with Stalin era Gulags. “The left rules this area like the Gulag [cruel labour camps in 1930-1950 run by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin] and the RSS is no less dogmatic, bloody and narrow minded, so violence is inevitable,” he told the BBC .
The latest in the series of political killings was an RSS boy felled by a gang of 20 men at his home in front of his parents in February. As usual, the CPM denied any involvement and its state secretary even suggested that it was because of a local dispute involving the harassment of a girl. In the TP Chandrasekharan case, the CPM leaders had come up with various conspiracy theories, including communal and extra-marital angles.
But some of the CPM local toughies slip up from time to time. P Jayarajan, a former MLA and a veteran leader from Kannur, who is booked for two political murders in the district, recently admitted that the party does payback when the ‘debt’ mounts. This man is under CBI investigation for the murders and had just come out of judicial custody. In a recent interview with NDTV former chief minister VS Achuthanandan also admitted that his party is sometimes forced to pay RSS ‘in the same coin’.
In the cases involving the CPM, the families of the victims never get complete justice because the investigators are threatened and the accused are set up. In the courts, most of the real culprits get away and whoever go to jail are looked after well. This is a well oiled extra-constitutional system that has been running for years.
The RSS is equally or more brutal, but they don’t have the massive social, institutional and even government muscle of the CPM. Some media reports that tallied the killings say that the CPM lost more cadres than the RSS.
Possibly true. However, the disturbing reality is that RSS is not going to rule Kerala, but the CPM is. Therefore, at least in some parts, it’s a case of today’s killer becoming tomorrow’s ruler. And it’s really scary.