Why the RSS-CPM bloody war in Kerala is raging

The political parties in the state have done, and can do better.

 |  5-minute read |   11-08-2017
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Several months ago, I wrote a post in DailyO strongly criticising the "murder politics" in Kerala, especially in Kannur. I cited the statistics given by The New Indian Express which estimated that some 200 RSS and CPI(M) workers had been killed or injured in political attacks on either side. This reiteration of a well-known statistic led to an “open letter” in the CPI(M) weekly, People’s Democracy, to me, signed also by a former student rejecting my findings, and inferring that my article was biased, inaccurate and against the politics of the Left.

After the last killing of an RSS worker, there has been a long overdue political reaction supported by the ruling NDA, and several political parties. Many liberal and Left intellectuals have also spoken out, as well as the Congress and other centrist parties with a base in Kerala. The "investigation" by The Indian Express (August 10 & 11, 2017) is an eyeopener with detailed statistics and a clear narrative.

It examines the linkage between political killings and the state government in power at the time since January 1995. For example, in 1995-96, 5 political workers were killed of which three were from the Congress, one from the RSS/BJP and one CPI(M). Later, during the CPI(M)/LDF government in power from 1996-2001, 16 CPI(M), 12 RSS/BJP and two Congress workers were killed. The higher casualties among the Left despite it being the core of the LDF government, indicates that the RSS/BJP cadres continued the politics of violence despite the greater organisational strength of the LDF, which had only four casualties less.

cpmflag_081117054703.jpgAfter the last killing of an RSS worker, there has been a long overdue political reaction supported by the ruling NDA, and several political parties. 

Similarly, in 2001-2006 when the Congress was in power, 10 of its cadres were killed. When the CPI(M)/LDF government was in power in 2006-11, 13 CPI(M), 12 BJP/RSS and two NDF (National Development Front) cadres were killed. Clearly, the BJP/RSS was able to match the CPI(M) in the tit-for-tat killings. The politics of violence was roughly equal, polarising politics in Kerala. From 2011-2016, when the LDF was the ruling coalition, four CPI(M) cadres were killed, along with five BJP/RSS, three IUML cadres. This was a sharp fall in the killings witnessed during the Congress state government in 1996-2001 period, and the cadres killed were 16 CPI(M), 12 BJP/RSS and two from the Congress.

While these figures are shocking, the legal system has been appalling. In Kannur, there have been 92 cases of CPI(M) and BJP/RSS killings since 1995. Of these, 49 are in the trial stage, 18 are convictions, 16 are acquittals, and nine are under investigation. Less than a fifth, only 18 cases have ended in convictions: of 108 CPI(M) workers in 12 cases, and 68 BJP/RSS workers in six cases.

Sixteen cases led to acquittals: of 70 CPI(M) workers in seven cases and 40 BJP/RSS  in eight cases. In another case, seven IUML workers were acquitted. None of the 12 killings in the past three years have reached the trial stage, four are still being investigated. The fault is not merely of the legal system. KK Balram, the Kannur-based RSS leader, has stated that, “In many cases, the accused are chosen based on a list given by the political party to which the victim belongs, and the witness statements collapse in court when the trials start after several years.”

A CPI(M) MLA from Kannur, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, largely agreed. “If I was made an accused in the killing of an RSS worker, my party will not officially come forward to claim my innocence. The party workers will take up the responsibility, even if they haven’t committed the crime. But, yes, this defeats the criminal investigation.” 

So, crimes are, in a sense, doubled. Political rivals are killed, and then evidence is manufactured to give false evidence and leads, to save the guilty. It is important to stress that law and order is a state subject. The CPI(M) and the Congress have dominated Kerala politics. The CPI(M) has to take responsibility for stopping political killings. Yes, there were killings during the Congress/UDF governments, in which five Congress cadres have been killed.

But the greater responsibility is that it has both the political support and party cadres to stop such killings that attack fundamentals of the Constitution. Yes, there has been retaliatory killings by both the CPI(M) and the RSS. But political killings are a severe blow to democratic rights.

Keeping in mind the contributions made by the LDF and the UDF - the spread of cooperatives, fair price shops, and other pro-poor measures - this kind of murders of political opponents should have no place in Kerala’s political economy. The leaders of rival political parties and factions, must go back to the politics of social upliftment, of negotiation replacing abuse and false allegations.

The political parties of Kerala have done, and can do better. Democracy enjoins that any political killing is against the spirit of our freedom struggle. This spirit is inviolate both constitutionally and in the common sense of our people.

Also read: In Kerala, media lies are helping RSS spread propaganda


Kamal Mitra Chenoy Kamal Mitra Chenoy @kamaichenoy

The writer is an academic and activist.

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