Political killings are still all in a day’s work, it seems, for many of our comrades, at least in Kerala. M.M. Mani, the CPI(M) Idukki district secretary, certainly showed his hand when he boasted publicly about past murders the party had committed. The backdrop to all this was the gruesome murder of party rebel and Revolutionary Marxist Party leader T.P. Chandrashekharan, hacked a reported 51 times in Kozhikode on May 4. Kerala’s CPI(M) leaders are still to show any remorse for the incident, Mani’s comments (ironically, at a party rally protesting police harassment post the murder) in fact being a belligerent show against the media and the party’s “enemies” for making a hue and cry about this one political murder.
Sources say Mani, who is close to the party faction led by CPI(M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, was also trying to highlight the fact that murders have happened even when V.S. Achuthanandan (ex-CM who leads a rival faction) was state secretary. It’s just that his statements were recorded and played up by the TV channels. To recap briefly, Mani, who’s been district secretary eight times, said that in the ’80s “we” (the party) had listed 13 political opponents in Idukki and had done away with them one by one, according to the serial numbers on the list. “The first three were killed first. One was shot dead, one was stabbed to death and one was beaten to death,” were the man’s exact words. For good measure, he also added the party was not scared of the cases being made against them.
“The Mani case will affect the Left movement as a whole. If it was us, we would have taken immediate, strong action.”
S. Sudhakar Reddy, CPI general secretary
Mani has subsequently been slapped with murder charges under Sections 302 (murder), 109 (abetment) and 118 (concealing design to commit offence) of the Indian Penal Code. The police are also taking a fresh look at some closed cases and have found three political murders in the ’80s that correspond to Mani’s description. Mani’s “revelations” came soon after the arrest of four CPI(M) party functionaries for the murders of Chandrashekharan and Abdul Shukoor, an IUML activist killed on February 20.
Former Communist and now BJP state president V. Muraleedharan says that in north Kerala’s Kannur district alone, over 100 BJP and RSS cadres have been killed—80 of whom had switched sides from the Marxists. “The CPI(M) has always taken the stand that dissidents have no right to live. Even earlier, the CPI(M) has used public meetings to announce the names on their hit list. The Congress till now wasn’t bothered because they considered it a fight between the CPI(M) and the RSS-BJP. Now, with the byelection in Neyyattinkara on June 2, this has become an issue in the media.”
The Congress candidate in the bypoll is ex-CPI(M) MLA R. Selvaraj, no stranger to controversy himself. He now says he fears he might be killed, even citing it as the reason why he resigned from the Neyyattinkara seat. Meanwhile, murdered Chandrashekharan’s wife K.K. Rema, in a TV interview, said her husband believed if the Marxists decide to kill someone, then “there was no escape”.
At AKG Bhawan, the CPI(M) national HQ in Delhi, the comrades grumble that nothing is going right for the party under the leadership of general secretary Prakash Karat. Still, Kerala is not alone, three decades of Left rule in West Bengal had created its own cult of reprisals and political murders. CPI(M) politburo member Sitaram Yechuri, as expected, denies this saying the party is also a victim of political violence. He does, however, admit to problems in the Kerala unit. “There is factionalism, we have been seized of it and we are trying to tackle it.” But sources say the problems in Kerala are too far gone and now seem unsolvable.
Meanwhile, the new general secretary of the other Communist party, the CPI, S. Sudhakar Reddy, told Outlook: “The Mani case will damage the overall image of the Left...even affect the whole Left movement. The CPI(M) should try to resolve it as soon as possible. If it were our party, we would have immediately taken strong action. This isn’t the kind of incident that should reflect on the Left parties.” But then, there’s long been a disconnect between idealism that draws people to the Left, the ideology they imbibe, and the reality they then live out.
By Minu Ittyipe with Panini Anand in Delhi