When it comes to Kerala, political killings are nothing new to the CPM or the RSS. North Kerala’s soil is soaked in the blood of innocent victims of this decades-old ideological vendetta. It is no exaggeration to say that in those parts, leaders from both sides encourage cadre to annihilate each other on a regular basis. But this time when such a call came from the distant land of Madhya Pradesh, not everyone thought it was appropriately timed. In fact, the call by a misguided and emotionally charged RSS man to behead Kerala Chief Minister and CPM strongman Pinarayi Vijayan came at a very inappropriate time. “I, Dr Kundan Chandrawat, declare from this dais, I have wealth that is why I say this…property worth more than Rs 1 crore. Cut off Vijayan’s head, and bring it to me, I will transfer my house and assets in your name. Such traitors don’t have the right to live in the country. Such traitors don’t have the right to murder democracy,” Chandrawat had reportedly said at a gathering.

Though the Sangh Parivar has since expelled the errant Chandrawat from the organisation, his announcement of a bounty of Rs 1 crore on Vijayan’s head for the killings of “more than 300 RSS pracharaks and activists” in Kerala has inadvertently affected the peace process initiated by both sides in earnest in that state. It was only a fortnight ago that the RSS and CPM organised an all-party meeting in the most sensitive district of Kannur in the Malabar area and vowed to bring peace at any cost. At the meeting, both sides had pledged not to make or store weapons any more, hold temple festivals in harmony and above all not to lay siege on police stations in order to forcibly free arrested cadre. More than the ruling CPM, which holds a territorial advantage in the area, it was BJP and the RSS who were more enthusiastic about the murder-less Kannur mission. Hence, the so-called death threat from an RSS ideologue, even from the lowest rung, sounded totally out of place. However, RSS’ disowning “the emotional comments made by Kundan” has helped.

RSS’ J. Nandakumar issued a statement saying Chandrawat’s remarks were not the official views of the RSS. “Several programmes are being held in the country from 1 to 3 March in protest against the killings by Marxists in Kerala and the protest in Ujjain was organised by the Jana Adhikar Samiti. The RSS, from the beginning, has never believed in violence and believes in democratic protests. The RSS condemns the emotional comments made by Kundan,” Nandakumar said. But that the CPM would capitalise on such a mistake was obvious the moment Chandrawat’s utterances flashed on TV screens across the southern state. Instead of brushing aside such an irresponsible statement, the state CPM leadership turned the opportunity to chest thumping with calls to teach the “Hindutva” party a lesson. While the Chief Minister himself played it down by saying, “I reject the threat with contempt,” his state party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, no better than Chandrawat when it comes to loose talk, boasted in front of flashing cameras that the RSS will not touch even “a hair” of Vijayan. As popular film actor Srinivasan who hails from Kannur once pointed out, leaders can very well say that for it is the cadre and their immediate family that have to pay the price. Dead bodies are brought to their homes and not to the homes of leaders. Not long ago, Kodiyeri was at the centre of a controversy when he asked party cadre to settle scores with the RSS then and there wherever it happens. It took some time and effort for him to wriggle out of that statement, but it took its toll on the lives of a few young men.

The 71-year-old Pinarayi Vijayan had been the state secretary of the CPM for 17 long years until 2015. Hence he has the dubious distinction of presiding over most of the killings allegedly masterminded by the party. Such was his hold on the party apparatus that even many in the CPM as well as sympathisers in the state still believe that the brutal murder of CPM rebel T.P. Chandrashekharan in 2012 would not have happened without the approval of Vijayan. He has made enough enemies within the party by his autocratic way of functioning and is loathed by rivals, especially the Sangh Parivar. As recently as in the last week of February, the RSS had threatened to block his entry to Mangaluru in nearby Karnataka to address a CPM religious harmony meeting. But better sense prevailed among the leadership of the RSS which has a solid base in Dakshina Kannada region where the meeting was scheduled. A direct confrontation was aborted with the Sangh Parivar restricting their protest against Vijayan to a hartal. Such saner decisions, not fanning of vendetta, are needed to hold on to a fragile peace in the state.

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