Kannur’s infamous political killings and the notoriety, on a rough estimate, have claimed more than 500 lives since the 1960s, including that of BJP, RSS and CPI(M) workers. In fact, the religious polarisation in Kannur district turned several areas of Thalassery, especially Panoor, into flash-points of violent incidents. However, of late, Panoor has been witnessing a small but visible change, thanks to Kerala police, who have also been caught in the crossfire of this long and unending political bloodshed.
When the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) invited application for 50,000 vacancies at central armed police forces, the Panoor police, in July, started an initiative called ‘Insight’. This free competitive examination coaching programme has been attracting youth from several quarters of the district. With this, a new ambition for higher education, government job, career and family is taking birth in the minds of the youth in Panoor Municipal Corporation, which consists of strong pockets of CPI(M), BJP and socialist politics.
“Our aim is to dissuade the youth from falling prey to the perennial trap of revenge politics and inject hopes of a career, job and family prospects among them. We hope to have a government servant in each household. The locals utterly lacked such thought process here, which was one major reason for the youth turning the henchmen of political parties,” said Panoor Circle Inspector VV Benny, the man behind this initiative, says.
What is Insight
Benny, who has had seven years of experience at various stations under Thalasserry police sub-division, knew the undercurrents well. Providing free coaching for competitive examinations was the way forward, the police believed. Five months after its inception in July, the initiative has brought about a change with more than 1,000 students actively participating in the training sessions.
As many as 25 coaching centres are functioning under ‘Insight’, including at Panoor and Kolavallur police stations, local libraries, schools and other public spaces. The Panoor police station also has an impressive library and reading corner, which the students are making use of.
“Teachers, retired teachers and class instructors provide coaching for competitive examinations. These are conducted in the morning and evening on weekends, in batches, depending on the convenience of the students and the availability of the faculty. Classes are conducted at local libraries, schools and other convenient spaces,” Benny elaborates.
Encouraged by the response, the police have now started giving exclusive training for military and paramilitary recruitment.
Besides the police, ex-servicemen and military personnel, who are on leave, also give fitness training to the youth for the army and paramilitary tests. The training session held at Panoor school ground from 6 am to 8 am, except on Sunday.
The theory classes for the army and paramilitary tests are held in the evenings. “National Security Guard (NSG) commando trainer Amal, who is from neighbouring Kunjipalli, comes daily at Panoor to give training tips to the youth, whenever he is on leave,” Benny recalls.
A committee comprising political leaders, teachers and others are also formed in each locality to run these centres.
The immediate aim of the Panoor police and the students is to crack the upcoming army recruitment, where there is an expected vacancy of 50,000 at the entry-level.
In Thalasserry, Panoor is regarded as the most politically sensitive area. The cadres, who took swords and country-made bombs in their hands and became ‘martyrs’ or ‘balidani’, come from ordinary families that eke out a living as an auto driver, a plumber or a labourer.
According to officials, a majority of the youth in north Kerala was far from getting a job. They have never registered for Kerala Public Service Commission or attempted to take any competitive exams. This trend stands in stark contrast to the condition in south Kerala, where the youth are particular about their career and government jobs.
Benny also points out that in order to avoid youth ending up in political violence, their parents send them to a relative’s house in Bengaluru or Mysuru. “But, eventually, they return to Panoor, only to plunge into revenge politics,” he adds.
According to Sajeev Othayoth, a teacher under the programme, Insight is a platform that Panoor has been awaiting. “Here, many youngsters do not continue their education after plus-two. Even those with good academics eventually take up jobs as masons and construction workers. And eventually, they slip into some kind of notorious rackets, causing social issues. These coaching centres are instituted to inculcate a purpose in their life,” Othayoth says.
Support from all quarters
Several political parties are in support of the initiative. “It is a good idea to guide the youth of Panoor towards a goal, which will contribute to the development of the region,” PK Krishnadas, BJP former state president, who hails from Panoor, observes.
CPM district secretary P Jayarajan, too, expresses happiness over the change taking place at Panoor. “It is glad news that such a platform for youth has been launched. Let more people from Panoor enter government services,” he says.
The region, which was synonymous with bomb explosions and political murders, has been limping back to normalcy riding piggyback on the police force.