The Onus is on CPI(M) To Put an End to Competitive Political Violence in Kerala

The recent murder of a Congress party worker has raised serious questions about the violent political games the CPI(M), the RSS, and other parties are involved in in Kerala.

Protests against violence in Kerala. (Representative image) Credit: PTI

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) needs to answer the charge of its involvement in the murder of S.P. Shuaib, a 30-year-old man, also a youth leader of the Congress party in Kannur. By merely condemning it and claiming that it had nothing to do with the killing does not wash. It will have to face the question raised by Shuaib’s father, Muhammad,“Why did they kill my son over a destroyed flag in a school? What crime did my son do to die with 37 wounds on his legs?”

Who is this ‘they’ Muhammad is talking about? Is it true that a band of CPI(M) workers faced resistance from Shuaib and his party colleagues when the office of the Congress was raided by it? Is the media lying when it reports that following the scuffle, CPI(M) workers took out a violent procession predicting death for Shuaib? Is it only a coincidence that after this open threat, Shuaib was attacked and hacked to death?

The CPI(M) knows that what it is saying now is simply not true. Kannur has been a battlefield in Kerala with a unique history of inter-party rivalry, fought with all kinds of weapons. Crude bombs, swords, machetes and guns are used freely. The idea is not merely to kill, but to prolong the death of the enemy and make it painful.

In Kannur, political organisations have practiced and mastered the art of murder. They make a spectacle of it. Each act of murder is carried out in a manner so as to ensure that it remains etched in collective memory . The aim is to show how brutal the killing can be and why the killer needs to be feared. Also, to turn each killing into a story to be remembered and recalled by succeeding generations, and to strike and entrench terror in the collective mind. Probably, the idea is to unleash brutality to establish supremacy. But history shows that instead of acting as a deterrent, brutality has produced the same scale of brutality from the other side. Killings have been responded to by killings and this has become an endless saga.

It is a fact that members of both the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as well as the CPI(M) have been murdered. Other parties are also involved in this game of death. The CPI(M) has demanded a ban on the Popular Front of India (PFI) blaming it for the violence. But statistics show it is mainly a battle of supremacy between the RSS and the CPI(M). Both are ruthlessly causing the death of their members to fulfil the ambitions of their party bosses.

A CPI(M) workers paint a wall to campaign for LDF candidate ahead of assembly elections in Kerala. Credit: PTI/File

All organisations – starting with the CPI(M) and the RSS – must first acknowledge that they have been involved in this competitive violence. This was recognised indirectly when a peace meeting was called by none other than chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The collector of Kannur also held a peace meeting where all parties promised to eschew violence. Where was the need to take such a pledge if the CPI(M) has never taken recourse to murderous violence?

A report by Firstpost says:

“the CPM activists, who traditionally nurse hostility against workers of the rival parties, have been trying to settle scores every time the party comes to power. Political analysts say this is because they are confident that the party-led governments will protect them. An analysis of the official statistics related to the incidents of political violence since 1991 obtained from the Kannur district police headquarters show an increase in the reported cases of political violence during every term of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government led by the CPM compared to that of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).

For example, the number of political murders went up from a mere eight, during the 1991-96 term of the UDF government, to 28 during the 1996-2001 when LDF was in power. The number of murders came down to six during the subsequent term of the UDF government from 2001 to 2006. This shot up to 27 during the 2006-11 LDF term and came down to 11 during the last UDF government term.”

Will the CPI(M) face these facts?

It has also been noted that political parties, CPI(M) included, hire professional criminals to settle scores with rivals. They can then claim that it was a criminal act and the party had no involvement in it. This is clever but cowardly. The RSS has also been found indulging in the same practice.

Also read: Is Pinarayi Vijayan Losing the Plot in Kerala?

There was a time when the CPI(M) looked invincible in West Bengal. It practiced and cultivated a political culture of violence, not only to intimidate its rivals, like the Trinam00l Congress (TMC), but also its partners. I remember my conversation with late A. B Bardhan, then the general secretary of the Communist Party of India, after the CPI(M) and state government-sponsored violence took place in Singur and Nandigram. We were pleading with him to listen to his state unit and come out of the Left Front to oppose this violence. He agreed that CPI(M) was behind it and added that his party workers had also braved violence from their ‘big brother,’ but he refused to talk about it publicly. The question of criticising it openly did not arise, he said.

We also remember the then CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat’s statement. Justifying the violence, he said that such had been the political culture of the state that he and his party were helpless and could not not use it to maintain their hold on the state. We also recall the infamous call of another CPI(M) leader, Brinda Karat, who said that the opponents have to be given dam dam davai. This was an open call to beat up party rivals.

This arrogance could not save the CPI(M) in West Bengal, where power had become a second name for the party. The TMC and the Bharatiya Janata Party picked this up from CPI(M) very fast and both are now masters of the game. The CPI(M) seems to have fallen into an abyss and is finding it difficult to emerge from it.

Fortunately, Kerala has been different, even for the CPI(M). By voting out parties from power at regular intervals, the people of the state have not allowed them to be arrogant. There is a lot that  CPI(M) can be praised for in the state, but for its desire to dominate all aspects of life and taking recourse to violence.

The CPI(M) must understand – as should other organisations – that violence legitimises violence. You cannot criticise the violence of your rival if you yourself practise it. By eliminating its opponents in Kannur, by murdering them, the CPI(M) can no longer claim political superiority. It is not using party ideology but mastery of weapons to ensure the loyalty of the people. These are the same weapons that its rivals are using. So, where is its politics?

Apoorvanand is a professor of Hindi at Delhi University.

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