From Jana Sangh to the BJP, and the Congress and CPI(M) indulging in it all along, there is no major party in Kannur which can claim to have a moral high ground on ideological bloodletting.

Kannurs trail of blood How every major party in Kerala has a history of political violence Vadikkal Ramakrishnan
news Political Violence Sunday, October 08, 2017 - 14:02

As the BJP marched down the streets of Kerala to denounce political violence in the state, with its chief Amit Shah and UP CM Yogi Adityanath leading the charge, the party attempted to shape a narrative blaming Left parties for the historical ideological bloodletting. The BJP has so far not seen any success in creating that narrative, and is that because the history of political violence in Kerala tells a different story? 

Political violence in Kannur district, the ground zero of the bloodshed, can be traced back to 1969. There was no BJP then, but it’s previous avatar, the Jana Sangh, was gaining traction. In December that year, Vadikkal Ramakrishnan, a Jana Sangh leader, was murdered allegedly by CPI (M). This is believed to be the first political murder in Kannur which set off the violent series of attacks and counter-attacks that now occur with disturbing regularity in the district. 

The trail of violence, starting from 1969, is outlined in a book by Professor T Sasidharan, head of department of Political Science at Sree Narayana College, Kannur. He says in his book, ‘Radical Politics of Kannur’, that from 1969 to May 2016, nearly 216 people have been killed by political rivals in Kannur.

Hailing from Payyannur and living in Pallikkunn in the district, it took three years for Sasidharan to bring the Malayalam edition of the book. He interviewed political leaders of all the parties and spoke to families of the murdered workers. “But most of the information was given by the police,” he says. The 53-year-old Professor has 29 years of experience in teaching. 

His book on political violence was published by Paridhi books in July and has already sold 1,000 copies. It’s Malayalam edition Kannuroom Idathupalshvum (Kannur and the Left Front), brought out by Mathrubhumi, was published last year.

Beedi factories turn battlegrounds 

“What Amit Shah said is right, in that 85 BJP workers have been killed in Kannur so far. But more CPI (M) workers have been killed. Nearly 120 CPI (M) workers were killed out of political vengeance by various enemies during the same period. The rest in the list belong to Congress and other party workers.” 

Speaking to TNM, Sasidharan says that Vadikkal Ramakrishnan, a swayamsevak, had formed a beedi company with the support of Jana Sangh leaders, Ganesh Beedi, to attract people into Jana Sangh. The idea was to strengthen the party by giving jobs to people. “But in due course, the owners of Ganesh Beedi began to exploit its workers. AK Gopalan and C Kannan of the CPI (M) started protesting against it, which ended in a political conflict and finally in the killing of Ramakrishnan. At that time, the second ministry led by EMS Namboothiripad was ruling the state. The government urged the Ganesh Beedi management to settle issues, but they were not ready,” he says. 

To counter the Ganesh Beedi company, the CPI (M) started Dinesh Beedi in 1968, which was to emerge as one of the strongest workers’ movement in Kannur in due course. Ganesh Beedi gradually shut down in Kannur and shifted its operations to Mangaluru.

Professor T Sasidharan

The second political murder happened in 1971, says the professor. “A communal riot broke out that year. There was a temple procession at Mattamparamb in Thalassery, which is dominated by the minority community. Somebody threw a stone at the procession but nobody knew who did it. It sparked off communal violence and in the ensuing riots, UK Kunhiraman of the CPI (M) was murdered allegedly by Jana Sangh workers,” he says.

Violent Congress against Jana Sangh and CPI(M)

Interestingly, it was the Congress that triggered the era of regular political violence in the district, he avers. 

“It was during the Emergency that the Congress took an aggressive form. The two murders that occurred prior to that were isolated incidents. The political violence during the Emergency saw the CPI (M) on the one side and the Congress on the other. The Congress, as the strongest political force at that time, had unleashed political violence and 34 CPI (M) workers were killed in various incidents. Ironically, the CPI (M) and the Jana Sangh were in an unofficial alliance at that time. In the elections in 1977, when the Emergency was lifted, both the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections were conducted together,” Sasidharan says. 

In that election, senior Jana Sangh leader KG Marar contested from Uduma constituency. The CPI (M) supported KG Marar in that election. 

In 1980, the formation of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) yet again led to aggressive political actions in the sensitive district. Gradually, the Congress stepped back from the political scene. “The 80s witnessed the maximum number of political killings. It was like scoring goals in football,” Sasidharan says candidly. 

In 1985, the CPI (M)’s MV Raghavan presented the famous Badal Rekha (alternative document), in which he proposed an alliance with parties like the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) to fight the Congress and BJP. Raghavan was promptly expelled from the party the next year. 

In the 1991 elections, the United Democratic Front led by Congress leader K Karunakaran came to power. MV Raghavan, who by then had formed the Communist Marxist Party (CMP) and joined the UDF, became the Minister of Cooperation. Meanwhile, a strong new leadership under K Sudhakaran emerged in the Congress. He took on the CPI (M) and the BJP in the district for decades, though he has now lost vigour.

The prime enemy of the Congress was the CPI (M), but the Left party had to fight the BJP as well. The UDF fight was led by Sudhakaran and Raghavan, while Pannian Chandran headed the BJP struggle. That political conflict began in 1987 and lasted till 1992. This could explain why more number of workers have been killed in the CPI(M) - it faced off with both Congress and BJP. 

In 1994, the infamous Kuthuparamba firing incident occurred. The youth organization of the CPI (M), the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), protested when MV Raghavan came to Kuthuparamba in the district to inaugurate a Cooperative bank. Five DYFI activists were killed in police firing that day. “Two-three workers who were shot by the police are still alive, but handicapped and not able to move. This also worsened the political atmosphere in the district,” Sasidharan says.

The unrest simmered till 2001, when the Congress-led government came to power. “The then Chief Minister AK Antony gave full freedom to the police. Manoj Abraham who was the then Superintendent of Police took stern steps that curbed the political clashes. “During the tenure of the VS Achuthanandan government from 2006 to 2011 and that of Oommen Chandy from 2011-16, only a few incidents of violence were reported,” he adds. 

“During the time of Oommen Chandy, if political violence was reported in a place, the leader of the rival political party in that region would become the first accused. The situation had become such that the leaders could no longer escape from the crimes that occurred in their regions. This also led to a decrease in the number of political crimes,” Sasidharan says.

He adds, “But after the BJP came to power in 2014, the party workers became more aggressive. The Left Party winning the Assembly elections in 2016 gave more vigour to its party workers. At the core, both the parties are fascist, but the BJP after gaining power became more fascist,” he says.


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