Traumatised by guilt, constable Nair penned a confession shortly after he shot Varghese in a fake police encounter in the forests of Wayanad back in 1970. The letter was handed over to the slain Naxalite leader's compatriot, A. Vasu. It gathered dust until it surfaced in the memoirs of another Naxalite leader, K. Venu, published in a local journal recently. The intriguing question is why Vasu had suppressed the letter for over two decades. "I had mentioned its contents to anybody who cared to listen. When Venu approached me for the letter, that's when I searched for it and found it among my old papers," Vasu told Outlook. The letter promptly set off political reverberations at the highest levels in the state.
In effect, the controversy has put the police in the dock, resurrected the memory of Naxalite leader Varghese and pumped fresh adrenaline into a clutch of mutually hostile Naxalite groups labouring to revive a movement that lies forgotten in the trashcan of history. Constable Nair's letter represents possibly the first known case of a subordinate functionary going on record with an admission of a custodial killing carried out on the orders of a superior officer.
The CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government has found itself fielding the awkward questions thrown up by the furore over the killing of the Naxalite leader. The Marxists have grounds to feel unjustifiably targeted. The government of the day, which drew flak for condoning the event, was headed by Achutha Menon of the CPI in partnership with the Muslim League, whose leader, C.H. Mohammad Koya, was then the home minister. The CPI(M), then in Opposition, credits itself with the first demand for a probe into the killing, raised by E.M.S. Namboodiripad as leader of the Opposition in the state assembly 28 years back. Ironically, the LDF government is now stalling on the selfsame demand. Chief minister E.K. Nayanar has rebuffed the demand by Naxalite organisations and prominent personalities as well as by Niyama Vedi, an organisation of lawyers against human rights violation, for a full-fledged inquiry into the circumstances that led to the killing of Varghese. A stand seconded by Nayanar's politburo colleague, V.S. Achuthanandan. But, as the issue gathers momentum, the CPI(M) leadership seems to be facing pressure from party fora to relent to the probe demand. Overruling Nayanar and Achuthanandan, the CPI(M) state secretariat has called for a comprehensive inquiry into Varghese's murder.
If the probe does get under way, there could be unpleasant surprises in store for key figures in the police and possibly the political establishment. The police team that arrested Varghese in the Wayanad forests in 1970 was led by the then DIG K.P. Vijayan. And according to Nair, the order to execute the Naxalite leader was issued by the then Dy SP K. Lekshmana—also an accused in the infamous Rajan case involving the disappearance of an engineering student in police custody during the Emergency. Both officers are now retired.
THERE is speculation that the mainstream political parties had a vested interest in throttling the growing influence of Varghese among the tribal communities. Varghese had started out as a CPI(M) leader who worked among the Adivasis of his native Wayanad district. The Naxalbari uprising swept him in its wake and he soon emerged as the leader of a group of idealistic young men and women pledged to the armed overthrow of the State. The revolutionaries attacked police stations and killed landlords.
Following the murder of landlord Vasud-eva Adiga and a suspected police informer Chekkoo at Thrissileri in Wayanad in 1970, and the subsequent police crackdown, Varghese and his comrades retreated into the Thirunelli forests. And were eventually tracked down by CRPF personnel in a safe house for Naxalites run by an old widow.
The legacy of the Naxalite movement in Kerala is a dubious one. The annihilations alienated the public and invited a backlash in the form of police terror. The movement finally failed because it could not strike root in native soil as its leaders looked to China for inspiration. Today, Varghese's comrades-in-arms have served time in prisons and come out chastened. Among his compatriots, Vasu is an active trade union leader, Ajitha is a crusader for women's rights and Phillip M. Prasad is an advocate and a devotee of Satya Sai Baba. The torchbearers of the Naxalite movement, who believed that class enemies did not have the right to live, have found their respective slots in bourgeois society. Yet, with the resurrection of the radical ghost of Vargh-ese, a whiff of the revolution has been revived in the corridors of power.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT