Kerala political killings: What keeps Kannur's soil bloodied and red

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The fight to establish and maintain a political foothold in parts of Kerala is becoming a bloody affair. Close to 20 lives have been lost so far since Communist Party of India-Marxist came to power in the state in what is largely termed as political killings. Some call it retaliatory, some vengeance and others call it a socio-historical issue, but what really is the cause of these political killings and why are the political parties quiet over it?

A brief look at Kerala political murders

Economics of violent politics, business has a role to play

Business has a lot to do with the political murders in parts of Kerala. Traditionally a CPI-M bastion, Kannur is today seeing BJP make inroads. The CPI-M used cooperative banks to lure the people of Kannur and today the BJP is using cottage industries brought in from Mangaluru.

"The BJP is now striking a chord with the youngsters because they are tech-savvy. Moreover, the party is now bringing cottage industries to Kannur, Palakkad and Kasargod from coastal regions of Karnataka. The independence is something the people are impressed with and are swaying towards the BJP. This is a natural irritant to the CPI-M who used to enjoy unopposed favour from the voters. The economic backing that the BJP is bringing is leading to political backlash," said senior journalist and political commentator Ajay Kanth.

Economics of politics was a tool that the CPI-M used to make inroads in the same localities and today the BJP is using it against them. The CPI-M allowed easy loans by cooperative banks and extended constant loan waiver to people in the region. The BJP is using funds from the same cooperative banks for the cottage industries now.

Losing the gratitude of the people directly translates to losing the votes. Youngsters between the age of 18 and 25 prefer the BJP and many have left the CPI-M to join the BJP. All the cumulative anger flares up as violence.

Why Socio-historical factors matter

Kannur has a history of warrior culture being the centre for Kalaripayattu (a martial art) and the ritual art of Theyyam (a popular ritual form of worship). 'When in doubt, fight it out', is the mantra used by the people here to sort differences. The grave political impact of this is violent politics. 'An eye for an eye' is the philosophy of the people of Kannur, thanks to their historical experiences. Vengeance is a way of life and that has only spilt on to politics. Senior leaders won't intervene because the cadres threaten to desert the party and go to another. Losing grassroots-level workers in a place that is already vulnerable to vote shifts is disastrous for the party," feels senior journalist Kanth.

"The people here have a great memory when it comes to retaliation. You must also consider that not all murders take place for purely political reasons. There is mostly, if not all times, a history. Either to the persons involved or the event. Most people killed are Hindus, so are the perpetrators and hence, no religious tags can be attached to it. It is purely personal and purely political, rather politically personal", Zacharia added. Political observers urge the police and the state to treat each matter individually instead of clubbing it under the category of 'political murder'.

Parties keep mum

Three lives have been lost in less than a month since the start of the new year. All three, including a woman, incidentally are members of the BJP. The BJP has been playing the victim card accusing the CPI-M of gross violence against its cadres but what the BJP won't speak of is the attacks mounted on CPI-M cadres by its members and those of the Sangh Parivar. The recent murder of 52-year-old BJP worker Santosh was, in fact, a retaliatory assault. Members of the CPI-M, who are currently in police custody, hacked Santosh to death after members of the RSS assaulted a CPI-M worker earlier in January.

Senior leaders of the CPI(M) including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan are not new to violent politics. That is a path that most, if not all leaders of the CPI(M) have trodden, say political observers. "Both the CPI(M) and the RSS backed BJP are violent in nature. Retaliatory attacks are not the trend of Kerala politics but have become the trend of Kannur-Palakkad region. Moreover, the senior leaders of the party have no sway over the violence that happens in this belt. It is innate to the people here irrespective of what party they belong to. It is the lower rung members who indulge in violence and the parties very conveniently dissociate themselves from the killings", said Paul Zacharia, a political writer.

Whatever the reasons be, political killings in Kerala are a shame on Democracy. Political parties choosing to stay mum, dissociate themselves or play the victim card is doing very little to eradicate the barbaric murderous political culture.

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