As tension prevails in Kasaragod after the brutal murder of two Youth Congress activists, the families of Sharath and Kripesh believe the motive behind the murder was political vendetta.
“The attack seemed planned and carried out with precision. We suspect that a quotation team had been hired by the rival party to get the job done,” Advocate Babu Raj, Sharath Lal’s relative, tells TNM.
Shedding light on the brutal violence, Baburaj added that the deceased – 24-year-old Sharath Lal and 22-year-old Kripesh – had been returning from Kalyott to Sharath’s house in Periya when they were attacked out of the blue by a gang of unidentified people.
“He (Sharath) was nearly chopped up all over. We saw at least 15 critical cuts on his body and many more smaller injuries. It was almost like the infamous Kannur political killing where the victim suffered 51 cuts on his face,” Babu Raj added.
A civil engineering degree holder, Sharath was a qualified man and was a part of the Congress since his college days as a member of KSU (Kerala Students Union), the student wing of the Congress. Kripesh, too, had been involved with the party for a long time. During the attack, Kripesh was hit on the head, which led to bleeding and his subsequent death.
‘A month-old scuffle may have led to the murders’
According to sources, last month, a scuffle between the local CPI(M) and the KSU activists of Munnad People’s College, a self-financing institution, is what sparked the violence that took Sharath’s and Kripesh’s lives.
After the attack on KSU workers, a few Youth Congress members had halted a bus in Periya and threatened the staff, stoking the tensions further. This later led to clashes between DYFI workers (the youth wing of the CPM) and Youth Congress workers in Kalyott, a Congress stronghold where the college is located.
During this scuffle, Peethambaran, a local committee member of DYFI, injured his hand and Sharath was named as the accused number 1 in the case and was remanded.
Sharath and Peethambaran were also members of the same local temple committee which then summoned the duo to talk and iron out their differences. However, this effort turned futile and led to both parties giving each other death threats.
“They (Sharath and Kripesh) had been facing many death threats for over a month – from Facebook and local WhatsApp groups. Sharath, too, knew about the threats and was coming back home with Kripesh on his bike following the local committee meeting, when the attack took place. When Sharath was attacked, Kripesh got off the bike and tried to run, but he was chased and attacked. He had a huge wound on his head which probably caused his death,” Baburaj added.
Whispers against the ruling CPI(M) have been doing the rounds in Periya - where the slain Congress workers hailed from, but leaders of the ruling party in Kerala have denied any involvement in the violence. A violent dawn-to-dusk flash hartal was called for by the Youth Congress in the district after news of the murders broke out. The hartal saw spurs of attacks especially vandalism of public property and vehicles.
Meanwhile, an FIR under section 302 (murder) has been filed against unidentified persons in Bekal police station in Kasaragod. The Kerala police have also taken help of the Karnataka police to ensure that the accused do not flee the state.
“There are suspicions that it is a political murder. However, we have not found any proof to establish this. As for the accused, we are still attempting to track them. No information on their escape has been received yet,” Pradeep Kumar, DYSP District Crime, said.
Sharath Lal, who is from Periya in Kasaragod, is survived by his sister and parents. As for Kripesh, he is survived by his parents and his two siblings (both married).
The mortal remains of both the Youth Congress workers were sent to Pariyaram Medical college for autopsy on Monday. Their mortal remains will be kept at various parts of Kasaragod for the public to pay homage and will be cremated in Periya in Kasaragod.
Addressing the media in Periya, State Congress Chief Ramesh Chennithala lashed out at the Chief Minister and sought that the accused be arrested. “If the Chief Minister has an ounce of self-esteem, he will find those responsible for the deaths and put them behind bars as soon as possible,”
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan took to Facebook to express his condolences and assure that strict measures would be taken to nab the culprits.
"The killing of two Youth Congress workers in Kasaragod is extremely unfortunate. Strict action will be taken against the culprits. The State Police Chief has been directed to do a thorough investiation and arrest all the accused who have been involved in the case," the CM wrote.