Why the killing fields of Kerala only draw collective silence (even from BJP)

The rising tide of political, communal violence diminishes the reputation of a state that has led the country across a swathe of parameters.

 |  5-minute read |   26-01-2017
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The murder of a BJP worker named Santhosh in Kannur last week is the latest in a symphony of orchestrated political violence that has made Kerala a tinderbox of religious fundamentalism.

Over 44 per cent of Keralites are minorities — the highest ratio in India after Jammu & Kashmir. Over 25 per cent are Muslims. Another 19 per cent are Christians.

Kannur is a symbol of the inflammatory potential of mixing politics with religion. An ancient trading city with deep links to the Arabs and Persians, Kannur was ruled by a Muslim dynasty, the Arakkal Sultanate. Along historically with imports of Arab spices and timber, it has in recent years imported strains of Wahabism from the Middle East.

Santhosh was allegedly killed by CPI(M) activists in his own house at Andaloor in Dharmadam which ironically is Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s own constituency. Kannur has given Kerala two chief ministers — K Karunakaran and EK Nayanar. It is a politically volatile district. Muslims comprise 38 per cent of its population. Five out of 20 ministers in the Kerala cabinet are from Kannur — including the chief minister.

Violence

Kerala is no stranger to communal and political murders. Though the Left and the Congress have dominated the state’s politics since Independence, the RSS set up base in the 1940s. Its rally in 1948 addressed by Sarsanghchalak MS Golwalkar was attacked by Communist workers in Thiruvanthuparam.

The killings haven’t stopped since. Kerala has a literacy rate of 98 per cent for men and 96 per cent for women, among the highest in India. Yet it ranks among states with the country’s most violent communal incidents. In May 2003, eight Hindus were killed by a Muslim mob in Marad. A judicial commission found the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) guilty of being involved in both the conspiracy and the massacre. Other districts and towns in Kerala have witnessed similar outbreaks of communal violence.

bjpbd_012617084314.jpg With the growing influence of the RSS and the BJP nationally, fundamentalism in Kerala has spiked.

With the growing influence of the RSS and the BJP nationally, fundamentalism in Kerala has spiked. Conversions are rife. Abductions and kidnapping have increased. In several districts minorities are now the majority. For example, in Malappuram and the municipality town of Erattupetta (in Kottayam district) Muslims comprise the majority. In Ernakulam, Christians form 38 per cent and Hindus 46 per cent of the population.

Communal violence is not restricted to Hindu-Muslim clashes. Muslims and Christians have rioted as well. In May 2009, the two communities clashed in Cheriyathura. Five Muslims were killed. Most communal clashes in recent years though have been between Muslims and Hindus. State leaders claim the RSS and the BJP are deliberately polarising the communal atmosphere to expand their political footprint.

Of south India’s five states, the BJP has a solid presence only in Karnataka (which it could win in the next Assembly poll in 2018) and, through ally TDP, in Andhra Pradesh. It has tried to make headway, with little success, in Telangana.

In Tamil Nadu, following Jayalalithaa’s death, it senses an opportunity. Hence the central government’s quick decision to bow to Tamil sentiment and issue an ordinance allowing Jallikattu. However, the AIADMK’s internal power struggles between Sasikala and Deepa Jayakumar (Jayalalithaa’s lookalike niece) has muddied the waters.

Silence

That leaves Kerala where the BJP picked up 10.3 per cent vote share in the 2014 Lok Sabha election (up from 6.4 per cent in 2009) and 15 per cent vote share in the 2016 Assembly election (up from 6.3 per cent in 2011). Threatened by the BJP’s rising numbers, the CPI(M) and the Congress have made Kerala a communal hotbed.

The silence of the media over Kerala’s descent into a communal abyss typifies how biased the Indian mainstream media has become. Excessive police action in Jammu & Kashmir against stone-pelters is (rightly) excoriated by the media. The death in random violence of Muslims and Dalits is (again rightly) headlined, often with week-long protests by NGOs and activists. But political murders in God’s own country draw collective silence.

Backyard

Members of Parliament from Kerala have been equally remiss. They are quick to denounce communal violence in Gujarat or Jammu & Kashmir (rightly so) but feign amnesia about communal murders in their own backyard, often instigated by cadres of the CPI(M) and the Congress.

The silence meanwhile of the BJP-led NDA government is astonishing. Though law and order is a state subject, Union home minister Rajnath Singh has done little to reprimand the Left government in Kerala.

The rising tide of communal violence diminishes the reputation of a state that has led the country across a swathe of parameters: literacy, women’s rights, education, culture and the arts. Kerala’s matriarchal tradition too is one of India’s most progressive. Yet when it comes to politics and religion, Kerala has succumbed to a virulent form of Wahabism from the Middle East where so many Keralites work.

Evangelical Christians regard conversion as their birthright. In the end, Hindus have themselves to blame. The disgraceful treatment of Dalits by upper castes has allowed conversions to take place either through inducement or coercion. Caste disunity has similarly let Muslims wage an undeclared communal war in sensitive districts of Kerala with Islamist undertones.

Last week’s murder of Santhosh in Kannur is an indictment of a state that has dangerously lowered the secular standard it once set for the rest of India.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Also read: Sujith's murder hacks at Kerala's politics of bloodlust

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Writer

Minhaz Merchant Minhaz Merchant @minhazmerchant

The writer is the biographer of Rajiv Gandhi and Aditya Birla. He is a media group chairman and editor. He is the author of The New Clash of Civilizations

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