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Violent politics

The Times of India, May 16 2016

Rajesh Menon

In Kannur, Kerala's political killing field, where the only religion they know is the party colour, it is always a feeling of when, rather than how, violence will start again. C Sadanandan Master, BJP's candidate from Koothuparamba lost both his legs in the political violence. Kannur's tale of blood and gore over ideologies began in the 1970s with bombs, swords, knives and axes. Since then close to 300 have been killed and over 500 injured.

It has mainly been a bloody game of red vs saffron. “It's always `our dead and maimed vs their dead and maimed,“ says a veteran journalist and political observer.

Mostly low-level party workers or supporters are targeted, the list drawn up randomly to quickly settle the score after every attack.

If local worker 32-year-old Biju of Kathiroor Panchayat survived two attacks, 32 cuts and slashes across his body and nearly a year of hospitalisation including at the Kozhikode Medical College, he believes it is “because of a miracle“. This was nine years ago [2009] and today Biju hobbles around, his left arm rendered useless, with the help of painkillers. His youth lost to violence, Biju has no regrets. “Those who attacked me have been thrown out by CPM from the party . I call this divine justice,“ he says.

CPM neta from Thalassery V K Suresh Babu, the 60-year-old retired headmaster of a local school, who survived an attempt to murder with 12 cuts on his body and whose `dying' declaration was recorded by a magistrate in 1999, says Kannur residents have be come used to the violence. “We're willing to die for the party. It comes from the heart and can't be taken away . But the supporters and sympathisers of either side bear the brunt,“ he says.

Clashes between CPM, R-S-S

186 murders 1960s-2016

Sudhakaran P, March 8, 2017: The Times of India

Kannur Has Witnessed 186 Murders In Clashes Between CPM & R-S-S Over The Past 50 Years

The culture of bloodshed in Kannur, which continues even today despite ritualistic political handshakes to give peace a chance, is probably as old as the folk traditions of the land, its myths and history . From the myths of theyyams that glorified the subaltern gods to the Vadakkanpattu (ballads) and the revolt against the British by Pazhassi Raja, there are plenty of stories where people shed blood with pride.

But in the age of democracy why is this place obsessed with martyrdom? Is it because a martyr is a political investment? From the murder of R-S-S leader Vadikkal Ramakrishnan in Thalassery in 1968 (considered to be the first political murder) to killing of E Santhosh (another R-S-S activist) in January 2017, nearly 186 people have been killed here over the past five decades.

The north Malabar region always had a tradition of violence right from the days of feudalism, said historian K K N Kurup. “If the reason is politics, why is it not there in other parts of India or Kerala? Why they practice this camouflage battle strategy here only?“ he asked. He felt that this was the continuation of a tribal character though their act of vendetta is political in nature. “If African tribes involve in fights to assert their racial supremacy, here it is for political supremacy. Both reflect the same attitude. I feel they have the element of the `suicidal fighter' in this age of democracy ,“ he said.

However, it is wrong to link the gory culture in politics with Vadakkanpattu, said kalaripayattu exponent P Meenakshi Amma. “The fights narrated in Vadakkanpattu had a basic element of ethics. In the political battlefield, bloodshed is mostly an act of vendetta. They get involved in it because they have no knowledge about the tradition of kalaripayattu and Vadakkanpattu,“ she said.

But this political violence cannot be isolated from the folk tradition of the place that often told the story of the lower-caste victims, said researcher T Sasidharan, who heads the political science department of Kannur S N College.He had exhaustively researched the history of political violence in Kannur and wrote a book titled `Radical Politics of Kannur'. “When we look at the socioeconomic aspect of the murders and violence in Kannur, it can be seen that nearly 65% of the martyrs, irrespective of politics, belong to the thiyya community. A majority of them are economically-backward,“ he said.

Though the murder of Ramakrishnan is considered to be the beginning of political murders in Kannur, the roots of political violence began with the emergence of Praja Socialist Party (PSP) in the 1950s under P R Kurup, he said. There were clashes between PSP and the Communist Party in Panur and with the disintegration of PSP in the late 60s, the violence took a new turn when its workers joined Jana Sangh.

Though political rivalry is said to the reason for the violence here, the political character is fast vanishing and `quotation culture' is making inroads, said K P Mohanan, a local political observer who has closely followed the culture of bloodshed in Kannur. Though murders have been an ongoing process, incidents such as the attack on CPM district secretary P Jayarajan on August 25, 1999 worsened the situation. This ultimately led to the murder of Yuva Morcha leader KT Jayakrishnan on December 1, 1999, and a spate of murders followed, he added.

“It is a fact that Kannur shows a tribal character when it comes to murder, and that is why if one person is killed, his political tribe target the rival elsewhere. But, the tragedy is that quite often the poor working class people coming home after their day's work are the victims,“ he said. Incidentally, while murders in the past took place in broad daylight, now it is committed at night and this has given rise to the impression that some `third parties' and quotation gangs ­ without any political commitment ­ have replaced the political warriors, claimed residents.

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