It was when 61-year-old Purushothaman was lighting the lamp at the Muthappan temple near his home that he heard the news that would change his life forever.
That evening, Purushothaman learned that his son had been murdered.
A political murder in Kannur is always followed by parties blaming each other for having blood on their hands. But what of the families of the victims?
Biju, 33, a party worker and Mandalam Karyawahah of the RSS at Kakkampara in Kannur, was hacked to death on May 12. The murder was allegedly carried out by CPI (M) workers in retribution for the killing of one of their own. Biju was among the 12 who were accused of killing CPI(M) worker Dhanraj in 2016.
For Bijuâs parents, Purushotaman and his wife, 59-year-old Narayani, life as they knew it has come to an end. Narayani has not stepped out of the house since that fateful day in May.
A grieving family
It is to protest such murders that the BJP has been carrying out a state-wide march since October 3. The purported aim of the march is to expose the violence meted out by the CPI(M). On its part, the CPI(M) has been countering this narrative with examples of political murders allegedly committed by RSS workers.
For Biju's family, all these arguments are white noise. Bjiu was the third of the couple's five children.When TNM met the couple at their home in Kakkampara, Narayani did not utter a word. Tears rolled down her face and she wiped it off with a towel draped around her shoulder. For this grieving mother, Biju's death is still a fresh wound.
âShe has been like this only after our son died,â Purushothaman says. Purushothaman is a stone carver and Narayani is a farm labourer. Both of them have stopped going to work after Biju's death.
Purushothaman says, âWe donât know from where we can get relief from the agony. We find it suffocating to be at home. I step out, roam around in the nearby junction and come back later. But Iâm unable to work after he has left us. We only get some solace when someone visits us.â
Looking at Narayani, Purushothaman adds, âThis agony will be there with us till the end. We will die with it. We donât know why weâre still aliveâŚitâs like passing the time somehow. My wife is more shattered than I am. She hardly speaks and never goes out. Biju was equally close to the two of us.â
The accused in the case are CPI (M) workers, who have been arrested and housed in jail.
Biju, a painter, was returning from a job in Mangaluru on a bike, when he was hacked to death by assailants who came in a car. He was alone when he was attacked at Muttam near Ramanthali, not too far from Kakkampara. He died on the spot.
Purushothaman is an RSS worker. He was invited to the venue of the BJP Jana Raksha Yatra where the partyâs national president Amit Shah met family members of party workers allegedly killed by political rivals. Since he is also a party worker Purushothaman never discouraged his son from being active in politics.
âHe didnât make any trouble and wasnât into any crimes. But in cases where an RSS worker was involved, he would also be listed as an accused. His murder was pre-planned. People were assigned to give minute to minute information about his travel from Mangaluru to Kannur. The homework for the crime was done five days before the day. His moves had been closely followed,â Purushothaman claims.
Purushothaman used to have friends in the CPI(M) and some of his relatives, too, are part of the Left. However, after Bijuâs death, heâs unable to be normal with them.
âI valued relationships over politics. But those who used to talk to me like a friend had a role in murdering my son. I cannot talk to them anymore. They have betrayed us,â he alleges.
Bijuâs three brothers are working in Gulf countries and he was the only son who was at home with his parents. Now, Bijuâs sister Bindu, stays with her parents along with her three children. She hasnât returned to her marital home since his death.
âWe believe in God. We confide in Him. Let Him look after the family. We have lived our lives with honesty. Let the truth come out,â Purushothaman says.
It has been over a year since 42-year-old CV Dhanaraj, a CPI (M) worker was allegedly killed by the RSS in July 2016. For Sajini, Dhanarajâs wife, the day still burns in her mind. A bold, outspoken woman, Sajini had studied Music at the graduate level and was also fond of writing poetry. But since Dhanarajâs death, all that has stopped.
Dhanaraj was killed at their house at Karanthat, Kunneru in Kannur, in front of his mother. Sajini, too, was present at home.
Recalling that July night, Sajini says, âThey were a gang of three. When they entered the house, he (Dhanaraj) tried to escape. I tried to hold on to the legs of the assailants while he was running away. All of them went to a plot nearby. I hoped that he would have escaped. Then I heard his mother screaming, âBlood! Blood!â By the time I rushed to the spot, more people had joined the gang. There were so many of them. I couldnât even hear his voice.â
The killers came at night on bikes, armed with swords and stormed the house. Dhanaraj, who sustained multiple injuries in the attack, died on the spot.
Sajini, who works at the Cooperative Bank in Kunneru, had lived with Dhanaraj for 10 years.
âThere were no issues so big that someone had to kill him. He was not an accused in any murder case. Even if there had been a problem, they could have spoken to him and sorted it out. They could have even spoken to me. Everyone in the area knows me as wellâŚIâm a communist, too,â she says.
Sajini, who asserts that she has always valued relationships over politics, says that she would attend weddings and death ceremonies of people irrespective of their political affiliations.
âMy elder son asks me why they didnât talk it out with his father if they had a difference in opinionâŚwhy did they have to kill him,â she says.
A family shattered
Sajini first met Dhanaraj as a colleague. Both of them were working at the Cooperative Bank. However, although they knew each other, theirs was an arranged marriage. The couple has two sons, an 11-year-old and a 3-year-old.
âMy younger son doesnât know anything. He keeps looking at the photo of his father and smiles. My elder son has told him that their father is in Dubai and that he will bring candies when he comes back. I keep telling my elder son not to harbour any vengeance towards anyone. I will teach my children not to grow up with any grudge. I will tell them instead to live in the memory of their father,â the 35-year-old says.
Although Sajini is holding the family together somehow, she is scared to stay in the same house after the traumatic incident. Whenever Dhanarajâs mother goes to visit her daughter, Sajini goes to her parentsâ home with her sons.
âEven Amma (Dhanarajâs mother) canât stay by herself there. Why didnât the assailants even think of that old mother? How will they erase the curse of that mother? I am also a mother and I can understand what her pain isâŚâ she says.
Her voice trembles as she goes on, âIâm living my life only for my children. I wish I could have jumped into my husbandâs pyre. I wanted to spend many more years with him. We hadnât finished expressing our love to each other. Itâs really tough for me to live without him.â
Will Amit Shah answer?
Breaking down as she recounts her struggle, Sajini says she wanted to ask BJP chief Amit Shah, when he visited Kannur to take part in the Jana Raksha Yatra, to come and see her sons.
âHe had said that Left politics should be eliminated. Everyone has the right to believe in the politics that appeals to them. How can someone say that one shouldnât believe in a political ideology? What change can they bring with the rally? I have no grudge towards anyone,â Sajini says.
She adds that she did not make any public statements because she fears for her life.
âThere have been no big issues in Kunneru between the CPI(M) and the BJP, barring some minor issues during election time. I want to ask from when and how political murders started in Kannur and who set it off,â she says. âEven if theyâd broken his (Dhanarajâs) hands and legs, Iâd have taken care of him. But when you take a life, no one can give it back.â