As news comes in of another RSS and BJP worker, Bineesh, being hacked to death by CPM cadre in Kannur district, Kerala, the time has come to analyze why this deadly violence has become so deeply entrenched in Kerala. Why is it that Kerala and West Bengal are the only two large states of Bharat where political rivalry routinely transforms into brutal murders, hackings, country-made bomb attacks and violent intimidation?
First, the details of this particular tragedy – 26 year old Bineesh, a native of Thillankeri near Iritty and son of P.P. Vasu and P.M. Padmini, was found grievously injured near Thillankeri panchayat office at around 9.30 pm on Saturday. He was rushed to the hospital by the police but was declared brought dead. Bineesh was attacked with sharp-edged weapons by a gang near the panchayat office, police said. The gang created panic in the area by hurling country-made bombs before targeting Bineesh, police added.
The attack on Bineesh took place about an hour after Jijesh, a DYFI/CPM worker, was injured when country-made bombs were thrown at a car he was traveling in around 7.30 pm. On August 25, four RSS workers were attacked by CPM workers at Muzukkunnu in the district, triggering tension in the locality. Jijesh was reportedly an accused of hacking and injuring RSS functionary Sajesh at Muzhakkunnu then.
Why is Kerala witnessing such clashes?
The two states where brutal political violence and murders continue to be a way of life, even in a 21st century Bharat, are Kerala and West Bengal. The political violence such as booth capturing (a speciality of Laloo’s RJD) one witnessed during elections in Northern States like Bihar and UP mostly died out by the 1990s. Politics is a boisterous affair in all states, with lots of behind the scenes machinations & plots – but apart from Kerala and West Bengal, we do not see the kind of sustained violence & targeted murders that these two states witness. RSS/BJP are locked in fierce political & ideological battles with their staunch opponents like Congress, SP, BSP in states like Gujarat, UP, Maharashtra, Bihar, Orissa, Karnataka etc – but no where else do we see this type of everyday political violence in which entire districts & villages become killing fields.
So what is unique to West Bengal and Kerala that generates such ill will and intolerance, leading to a social climate where murders of political opponents is seen as acceptable? Could it be the fact that Kerala and West Bengal are the only large states where Communist parties have a dominant presence? As this editorial says, “The rules of political conduct in a particular setting are often derived from the practice of the dominant party. ” And apart from West Bengal and Kerala, Tripura is the other state where CPM has a dominant presence – the story is not much different their either.
Communist regimes have been totalitarian and violent across the world – think of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, North Korea, or any of the Soviet bloc countries – and followers of the communist ideology are no different in Bharat.
CPM Legacy in West Bengal
This article ‘Census of Political Murders in West Bengal during CPI-M Rule—1977-2009‘ is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the way communist organizations work in Bharat. It says –
“The Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848) ends with the following evocative sentences: “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 Communist revolution.” Thus any Communist Party is wedded to the cult of violence to achieve its political objective.
In 1997, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, in a reply to an Assembly question, stated that between 1977 (when the Left Front came to power) and 1996, 28,000 political murders were committed.”
Extrapolating from that figure, the writer estimates that between 1977-2009, under the CPI-M Government, West Bengal suffered over 50,000 political murders.
Here are three horrifying examples of the nonchalance with which CPM workers resorted to violence in West Bengal & the support they received from the highest echelons of the party –
“1.) Much before they came to power heading the Left Front Government in 1977, the CPI-M leaders started experimenting with murder as a political instrument way back in 1970 when the party cadres murdered two important Congress leaders belonging to the Sain family of Burdwan town. The level of bestiality that they stooped down to was evident by the fact that they made the mother of the two Sain brothers eat rice drenched with the blood of her dead sons. As a result the mother lost her mental balance from which she could not recover till her death a decade later.
2.) The next remarkable case of mass murder was done on the monks and nuns of the Anandmargi group. Seventeen of them were beaten to death and then doused in petrol to burn them publicly.
3.) A senior lady officer of the UNICEF and another senior officer of the Government of India detected a case of huge embezzlement of UN funds by some CPI-M organisation within the South 24-Parganas district. When they were returning with a lot of incriminating evidence, their vehicle was waylaid at Bantala by the CPI-M goons. The vehicle was set on fire to destroy all documentary evidence. The driver, who tried to protect the two lady officers, was killed. Then the lady officers were raped and one of them murdered and her body without any cloth left on the open paddy field. When the then Chief Minister, Jyoti Basu, was informed of the incident, he quipped to the waiting mediamen: “Such incidents do happen, don’t they?”
The only language CPI-M cadres understand is their own language. Mamta Banerjee realised that to win & retain West Bengal she will have to pay back the CPM in the same coin, and that is how she was able to win in 2011 & 2016. It is a different matter that Mamta has now become what she once despised and has further institutionalized the culture of political violence, besides giving a free hand to the fanatic Islamists who control the Muslim vote bank.
CPM Legacy in Kerala
Ever since the state of Kerala was formed in 1957 (earlier it was Travancore-Cochin state, ruled mostly by Congress), power there has been equally shared between Congress and the Left (CPI-M & CPI), with two coalition fronts being alternatively voted to power since 1982: the CPI-M led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Congress led United Democratic Front (UDF). Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), a powerful pro-Muslim party which originated from Jinnah’s Muslim League prior to partition of Bharat, forms the second largest party within UDF.
Clashes between supporters of the two coalitions have occurred periodically, but it never reached the endemic levels seen in West Bengal because Communists never had an extended run of power like their uninterrupted 34 year rule in West Bengal. Another unique feature of Kerala society bequeathed by Communists is the prevalence of ‘hartals’ (strikes) for various political, economic and social reasons – these hartals cause massive financial losses to the state each year.
As the CPM and Congress have found common ground at the national level in order to stop the rise of ‘communal’ forces (read BJP), it has led to their differences in Kerala getting more subdued. But it is this common enemy that CPM believes has to be dealt with in their old-fashioned way – 267 people related to the RSS have been murdered in the last 50 years in Kerala, of which 232 were killed by the CPM. The epicenter of this violence is Kannur district, which has seen over 180 political murders from the 1980s onwards.
In 2014, Congress MLA A.P. Abdullakutty, who was earlier with CPM, had revealed that in 2008 then CPM State Secretary & now Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan had asked his party workers to follow the Bengal communist style of killings opponents – ‘bury their bodies in a deep pit along with a sack of salt. The world never comes to know about the blood, photographs or the news about such killings.’.
As youth are turning away from the failed Communist ideology and some are turning to RSS’ message of cultural nationalism, CPM is growing more desperate. The 2016 assembly election was historic as it announced the arrival of BJP as a credible third alternative in Kerala politics – the party’s vote share doubled to 10% and the BJP-led NDA alliance won ~ 16% vote share. This has made the traditional players more nervous.
Communist Apostates Deserve to Killed?
The upshot is that CPM is retaliating hard with their time-tested method of brutal violence, especially in their stronghold of Kannur where RSS/BJP are making gradual inroads. This Rediff article in the aftermath of the Feb 2016 murder of RSS activist PV Sujith reveals the Communist mindset –
“The earliest political murders (in Kannur) were reported in the early 1960s, though on a small scale,” says Babu Bhaskar, a well-known journalist. The reason was usually because an individual left the Communist Party — later the CPI-M — and joined a rival political party. If it was to join the Socialist Party and the Congress in the 1960s, it is the RSS today.
Sujith was a member of the CPI-M till three years ago. His abandoning the party was apparently not taken kindly to by some in the local Marxist leadership.
Having spawned giants in the Communist movement like A K Gopalan, E K Nayanar and Azhikodan Raghavan, a large section of the electorate in Kannur tilts towards the CPI-M. Seventy per cent of the panchayats in Kannur are governed by the CPI-M-led Left Democratic Front. The Bharatiya Janata Party increasing its vote share three fold startled the CPI-M. In the recent local body elections, the BJP won 13 village panchayats, which did not go down well with the Left.
Most of those killed, Bhaskar points out, are from the toddy-tapper community: The Thiyyas, a caste variant of which is called the Ezhavas in south Kerala.
“The Thiyyas have been traditionally with the Left and when someone deserts the party,” says Bhaskar, “we see that there is an attempt to kill him. The CPI-M somehow dissuades people from leaving the party by killing deserters.”
And in the same article, journalist Babu Bhaskar also reveals the only measure that has worked so far to control the Communist & CPM penchant for violence:
“A few years ago though, Bhaskar recalls, in retaliation to what happened in Kannur, RSS workers attacked the CPI-M’s national headquarters in Delhi, the CPI-M state secretary in Karnataka, Visakhapatnam and Madurai on the same day.
“After that, there was a softening on both sides and violence happened only in the villages of Kannur,” he adds.
Given the example set by their seniors, it is not surprising that leftist student bodies like SFI, AISF, DSU, AISA etc exhibit the same traits of violent ‘activism’ and intolerance for opposing views.
It is also reflective of BJP and RSS’ poor political nous and inability to set the narrative that they haven’t been able to effectively highlight the persecution of their activists & the lawlessness prevalent in Kerala and West Bengal, at a time when their opponents are making a big song & dance about ‘rising intolerance’ across the nation on the back of random incidents in Una, Hyderabad University and Dadri. Yes, the media is all too eager to join the Hindutva-bashing bandwagon, but that still does not excuse RSS/BJP’s inability to present the true picture.
It seems that for Bharat to truly progress, along with being Congress-mukt we also need to be Communist-mukt.