It is time someone told the Marxist Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan that he was no longer the state secretary of the CPM, but an elected representative bound by the Constitution of the country to safeguard the interests of the people of the state. How else will one justify the Chief Minister’s decision to visit only the house of a CPM leader and not an RSS worker who were killed in the latest bout of unending violence in his home district of Kannur in north Kerala? The two murders took place within a three-kilometre radius in a span of 45 minutes early last week, which shattered the fragile political truce in the state.
A CPM worker, K. Babu, 45, was hacked to death in Mahe, Puducherry, bordering Kerala’s Kannur district, by a group of unidentified men near his house. An hour after the incident, an RSS activist, P. Shamej, 35, was killed apparently in a retaliatory attack in the same area. Babu was a member of the CPM local committee and a former councillor of Mahe municipality. He was said to be the mastermind behind the murders of two BJP workers back in 2010 and was reportedly being targeted by Sangh Parivar activists for quite some time now. In fact there was an attempt on his life in May last year. Shamej, an auto-rickshaw driver, was returning home when a gang waylaid the vehicle and hacked him. He died while being taken to a hospital in Kozhikode. It is not known whether Shamej was party to any murder attempts on CPM men in the past. While the CPM district committee said Babu’s murder was planned and executed by RSS, BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan said the RSS worker was killed in retaliation to the CPM leader’s murder. Police say that criminal gangs belonging to CPM and RSS are behind the murders. With the two murders the tally of political killings after the Left Front government under Vijayan’s leadership came to power in 2016 rose to 12 in Kannur alone. Vijayan also holds the home portfolio and hence is directly in charge of the police force. Only on 13 February last, Shuhaib, a 30-year-old Youth Congress worker was murdered in Mattannoor, near Kannur, by CPM activists.
Five days after the murders, Pinarayi Vijayan visited the house of Babu in Kannur and to the surprise of all in the area did not bother to visit the family of Shamej, whose house is just a few kilometres away. In fact, the Chief Minister refused to answer newspersons as to why he was not visiting the slain RSS worker’s house. Strangely, on the day the murders happened, CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan justified Shanej’s murder by saying it was the work of a mob incensed over the murder of Babu. The Chief Minister had, in the previous week, refused to visit the family of Sreejith—who was the victim of mistaken identity and was murdered in police custody in Varappuzha, Kochi—though he drove past the town twice to attend public functions nearby. Instead, his party secretary visited the house and declared a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the family and a government job for Sreejith’s widow, gestures that CPM used to condemn as practised by “bourgeois parties”. No wonder the common man on the street does not see any differences between the Congress and CPM rules.
But the Chief Minister’s decision to console only the family of a party man and not another victim of mindless violence, just because he belonged to a rival political outfit, was highly unbecoming of the position he holds. His audacity, which is nothing less than a slap in the face of the people of Kerala, should be condemned by one and all. The twin murders have once again exposed the inefficiency of the police force in the state headed by the state DGP Loknath Behera, a favourite of the CPM, whose tenure has now witnessed the highest number of political murders in the state. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala had called him “totally useless”. In this context, it is worth noting that the police has so far arrested only a few BJP workers in connection with Babu’s murder, but none in the case of Shamej’s killing. This is also in the backdrop of revelations that CPM is brazenly encouraging politicisation of the force in the state. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is also the Home Minister, too will have a lot of explaining to do. People are quite fed up with his stock reply that it was “most unfortunate” and a “disgrace to the state”. Many wonder whether the murders are a blot on the state and its people or the government led by Pinarayi Vijayan which runs the state.
For the ruling CPM, the murders of course will affect the party’s prospects in the Chengannur byelection scheduled later this month. Chengannur will be the first test the LDF faces after it assumed power. Congress and the BJP are sure to capitalise on the lapses of the government. In 2016, CPM had wrested the seat from Congress after many years and is hoping to retain it. If it cannot hold on to the seat, it will be considered a setback for the Pinarayi Vijayan government.