Why Is Pinarayi Vijayan Unable To Stop The Violence In Kannur?

This war only has losers.

12/10/2016 9:08 PM IST | Updated 12/10/2016 10:23 PM IST

The score is CPM 3, RSS-BJP 3.

Macabre as it sounds, that is the way bloodlust plays out in the political playground of Kannur in north Kerala. Where the scoreboard of revenge is all that matters. The game of political violence has only scored more self-goals in the Wild West of Kerala since the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led government came to power on 19 May.

The police confirm the murder of 3 CPM activists and 3 RSS-BJP activists in Red-ruled Kerala since the assembly elections. There have been more killings of political cadre on both sides but the police prefer not to tag them 'political murders'. Roughly 300 cases of political clashes have been filed.

This week, the blood spilled at chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan's doorstep, in his Dharmadom assembly constituency. Two killings took place within 48 hours. On Monday, Mohanan, a CPM committee member, was killed and his hands and legs were severed. The CPM blamed the RSS for the murder.

Those who wanted to avenge Mohanan zeroed in on Remith, a BJP activist. To send across a chilling message, he was attacked on Wednesday morning, half a kilometre from Pinarayi Vijayan's home. He met the same fate as his father Uthaman, who too, had been reportedly killed by alleged CPM workers in 2002.

"An eye for an eye, a leg for a leg, a stab for a stab is what adds lustre to a karyakarta's CV."

Kerala will be shut on Thursday in response to a bandh call given by the BJP in protest against Remith's murder. Just like Kannur had seen a CPM-sponsored hartal on Vijayadashmi on Tuesday to protest Mohanan's killing. In the Kerala template of the Ramayana, evil is never vanquished in Kannur. An eye for an eye, a leg for a leg, a stab for a stab is what adds lustre to a karyakarta's CV.

Vijayan would have known that his party cadre would retaliate because not taking revenge is never an option for either of the two outfits. Yet, the chief minister, despite holding the home portfolio, did nothing. It can only mean one of the three things.

Either the Kerala police intelligence is so inept that it does not have its ear to the ground and know who could be targeted in a retaliatory attack. Or that Kannur cops are simply incapable of bringing order to the district. Or that Vijayan, once the all-powerful CPM state secretary, does not have the will or the ability to read out the riot act to his comrades in Kannur.

CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury claims victimhood. He claims seven CPM workers and not three, have been killed in the last four months, pointing the finger at the RSS. What prevents Yechury from asking Vijayan to crack the whip in Kannur? A reluctance to do so only leads to suspicion that Vijayan and the CPM are happy with Kannur continuing to be a hunting ground for brainwashed cadre from both the CPM and RSS getting butchered in the name of party politics.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
File photo of CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury.

In Kannur's political theatre, the smell of blood is not nauseating, the sight of decapitated bodies aren't a terrible sight. They are a pointer to a depraved form of politics, a sharp contrast to Kerala's progressive social indices.

The pity is that myopic politicians do not see a life lost, a son, a brother, a father killed in the name of meaningless party politics. The CPM sees in it a BJP attempt to use breakdown of law and order as an excuse to dismiss the Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala. The BJP accuses the CPM of feeling threatened by its rise in Kerala and says the blood spill is an attempt to check its growth.

In the run-up to the Kerala election, many in Kannur warned that if Vijayan became CM, Kannur will rule Kerala. The prophecy has come true with the manner in which the violence of Kannur has come to dominate the state's discourse.

Not that this is a new phenomenon. The CPM versus RSS rivalry in Kannur has existed for four decades with academics documenting that more than 235 people have been killed on both sides of the bitter party-based divide. In fact, on May 19 itself, RSS workers allegedly attacked victory processions in different parts of Kannur district. One person was killed and 8 activists injured. CPM activists, on a high after winning the seat of power in Thiruvananthapuram, retaliated by allegedly burning down houses of RSS workers.

Kerala is seen by BJP president Amit Shah as a start-up state for the party. The BJP upped the ante by sending some of its big guns like Ravi Shankar Prasad, Ram Madhav and Meenakshi Lekhi to nationalize what it calls the CPM mayhem in the CM's backyard.

"Kerala is seen by BJP president Amit Shah as a start-up state for the party."

They expected to push Vijayan on the backfoot but all they got was a taste of Isaac Newton's third law of motion. Vijayan retorted on Facebook, writing: "BJP has lost the tolerance to accept the people's verdict in Kerala. That is why they have unleashed violence."

The surprising part is that neither the CPM nor the BJP leadership is willing to explore the option of calling for a ceasefire. This could be Vijayan's big opportunity to emerge as a statesman to bury political hatred forever and it is a pity that he is not willing to explore a peace initiative. The BJP-RSS seems to have invested in the bloodline attack as well, finding it easier to point fingers at the CPM since it is in power.

But with the LDF government accusing many of the 5,000 RSS shakhas in Kerala of indulging in unauthorized weapon training, the relations between the two organizations have only worsened. Which means foot soldiers will continue to be used as worthless pawns in surgical strikes in a war with only losers.

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