There is also a class and caste angle to this violence, and therein lies the failure of the Left

The Kannur Model CM Vijayans responsibility and the CPIMs history of violenceImage: PTI
news Opinion Saturday, October 15, 2016 - 20:29

The last paragraph of the Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx and Fredric Engels reads,

“The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”

Right now, it is the town of Kannur in Kerala which is trembling with fear, as Indian Marxists and RSS functionaries kill each other over a political power struggle. And it’s not chains that are being lost, but valuable lives. Yet another political cycle, and yet another trail of bloody violence.

But the victims of the violence are not capitalists, bourgeoisie or ruling classes, but foot-soldiers of two violent movements, Indian Communism and the RSS's cultural nationalism.

It is easy to get into a quibble over who is to blame more, the Hindu right or the Marxist Left.

The blame for the tensions now might very well be laid at the Sangh’s doorstep. But when you sit back and look at history, at how the CM Pinarayi Vijayan is behaving and the ideology which the Left’s leaders claim to profess, it compels one to hold the CPI (M) responsible for the rivers of blood flowing on the streets of Kannur.

The CPI (M)’s responsibility for the present violence starts with the fact that they are in power. As Congress chief VM Sudheeran rightly said, Vijayan is not a party secretary to point fingers at others and walk off. He is the Chief Minister, and when his own partymen in his hometown are involved in violence, he has to take responsibility. Moreover, the responsibility of Vijayan and his party does not end there.

The violence of the Hindu right-wing is not to be justified. Their terror walks past our streets into our homes in the name of culture and religion. But it is that very ideology that the Left claims to fight when it’s leaders cry over ‘intolerance’ in Delhi, and yet they turn a blind eye to the trail of violence their men engineer in Kerala.

The first person to be killed in the ongoing cycle of violence was a mild-mannered CPI(M) worker, Mohanan. TNM's reporters have been told on the field that he was one of the 'good guys' who stayed away from bloodshed. The CPI (M) was livid that a non-violent man like him was murdered, allegedly by members of the RSS.

In retaliation to the brutal killing of Mohanan, a BJP member named Remith lost his life. He was a taxi driver. Not so bourgeoisie, and not the first one in his family to lose his life at the hands of the Left. His father too died in Kannur several years ago in a similar manner. Both the men who died were from the Thiyya caste, or Ezhavas.

The Marxist idea of revolution was to overthrow the dominant social order, if need be, through an armed struggle. It was not to bomb, maim and kill others with different political ideas, to retain political power. Whether it is Akhlaq in Dadri or Mohanan and Remith in Kannur, a life is a life. Those who write op-eds against the death penalty cannot turn a blind eye to one and create a political circus over another. Further, the ‘tolerant’ Left which claims moral superiority over the Hindu right has a long history of violence, against socialists, Congress, RSS and Muslim groups too.

Not many outside Kerala know that the ‘Pinarayi’ in Kerala CM Vijayan’s name, is a town in Kannur, the headquarters of political violence in India. The rise of Vijayan, starting with his appointment as the Kannur head of the party, coincides with the rise of political violence in the district dating back to the 1960s. The CPI (M)’s enemies then were the Praja Socialist Party and the Congress.

Kannur received widespread attention in 1999, when an RSS-supporting schoolteacher KT Jayakrishnan was hacked to death by CPI (M) men inside his classroom in front of the students. More than 200 people have died in four decades of political violence, according to some estimates.

In February this year, PV Sujith, an RSS worker was killed in Kannur in front of his parents. He was a former CPI (M) member. In March, a Kannur RSS worker was killed in his auto in front of school children, traumatizing them. On July 12, one BJP and one CPI (M) worker were killed within a span of 12 hours in Kannur.

To counter this, the CPI (M) claims with much pride, also in an attempt to self-victimize, that they have lost the most men to political violence. Well, that’s true. But that’s likely to happen when you unleash bloodshed against every party, starting from the Socialists and Congress in the 60s to RSS and Muslim parties more recently.

According to an analysis of the candidate affidavits ahead of the 2016 Kerala assembly polls, the CPI (M) candidates topped the list with the highest number of pending criminal cases, clocking 617. The BJP and BDJS came second with 152 cases. Several members of the Pinarayi cabinet themselves have criminal cases pending against them.

A recent paper by a political science professor in Kannur, T Sasidharan, makes some important points about the political violence in the district. There is a caste and class angle to the violence. It is men from the Thiyya caste like Mohanan and Remith, and from poorer sections who die for political causes, and it is fueled by unemployment and poverty. What has the CPI (M) then done, in the several decades of its prominence in Kerala, to get rid of caste bias, unemployment and poverty?

Further, he points out, that the violence from the CPI (M) is a response to the erosion of its political base. As self-proclaimed liberals, we are troubled less when an RSS worker is killed because we don’t like their politics anyway. But the same treatment is meted out to women workers of the Pembilar Orumai, who dared to stand against the CPI (M) in the tea estates of Munnar. The violence in the CPI (M) is not based on a class struggle, but is simply a quest for power.

Will the ‘tolerant’, peace-seeking leaders of the CPI (M) like Yechury and Karat leave behind their quarrels over definition of ‘fascism’ and address the brutal violence in their own party?

Note: The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author.

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