Murder, terror charges in Kerala’s bloody RSS-CPM war

The Indian Express recalls the story of a particularly gruesome political killing of an RSS man, which attracted the unusual use of the anti-terror UAP Act.

Written by Shaju Philip | Updated: September 12, 2017 10:46 am
 Kerala, Kerala murder, Kerala rss cpm war, RSS kerala murder, UAP act, P Jayarajan, who is P Jayarajan, E Manoj, E Manoj murder, Sangh Parivar gang, indian express, kerala news, india news Members of murdered RSS leader E Manoj’s family with his body. Express photo

Earlier this month, CBI submitted a supplementary chargesheet in court, naming senior CPI(M) leader P Jayarajan as the main conspirator in the murder of RSS leader E Manoj in Kannur in 2014. Jayarajan has been listed as the 25th accused — and has been charged under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Invoking the anti-terror UAPA in a case of political violence has been rare in Kerala. The murder had a 15-year-old context: Manoj was part of a Sangh Parivar gang that had attacked Jayarajan on August 25, 1999, on the day of the Onam festival; Manoj was hacked to death on September 1, 2014, during another Onam season.

The victim

Elamthottathil Manoj, 42, belonged to Kathiroor in Kannur district, also Jayarajan’s home town. Manoj’s family was aligned to the CPM, but he went on to become an RSS leader. He was an accused in the murder of a local CPM leader, and the fifth accused in the attack on Jayarajan in 1999. In 2005, he and the others got 10 years’ jail for the attack on Jayarajan, but the High Court kept the conviction in abeyance. In 2009, a crude bomb was thrown at a van Manoj was travelling in. In 2014, after the NDA came to power, he played a key role in triggering the flow of CPM workers to the Sangh. On August 24, 2014, when a public reception was hosted for 300-odd CPM workers who had moved to the BJP, Manoj was at the forefront. A week later, on September 9, he was hacked to death in broad daylight.

The probe

Police found the involvement of CPM cadres, and charged the alleged killers under UAPA. The then Congress government wanted deterrent action to curb political violence in Kannur, the BJP government at the Centre wanted the Kerala government to crack the whip on political killings, and police feared that the murder would trigger fresh bloodletting in the district. Then DGP K S Balasubramaniam blamed the murder on a political conspiracy, and said the killers could have inter-state, or even foreign, links. The government decided to call in the CBI on September 14, which took over from the police 68 days after the murder.

The chargesheet

On March 7, 2015, CBI filed a report charging 19 accused, including local CPM leader T Vikraman, the first accused. Another five persons were arraigned as accused in July 2015. On January 21, 2016, CBI filed another report, listing Jayarajan as the 25th accused. He was arrested and released on bail. All accused face charges under Sections 120B, 143, 147, 148, 201, 212, 324, 307 and 302 read with Section 149 IPC, Sections 3 and 5 of Explosive Substances Act, Section 27 of Arms Act, and Sections 16(a), 151(a)(i), 19, and 18 of UAPA.

CBI findings

The CBI chargesheet said: “Among the accused, only Jayarajan had a personal enmity towards Manoj who had attacked him in the past. There had been instances of CPI(M) workers leaving the party and moving to BJP/RSS. Manoj was one of the leader who had been instrumental in attracting people to BJP/RSS. In order to boost the morale of CPI(M) party workers and to prevent them from deserting the party, a criminal conspiracy was hatched between Jayarajan and T Vikraman… to eliminate Manoj. They wanted to send a terror message to other RSS activists in Kannur and to create fear among public by murdering Manoj in a terrorising manner.”

Vikraman, a Jayarajan confidant and his former driver, belongs to Kathiroor. It was he who had put together the gang from CPM workers from across Kannur district, and procured weapons and mobile numbers for the operation, the CBI said. Vikraman had allegedly made three attempts on Manoj’s life in the last week of August 2014. The gang had gathered at Jayarajan’s family temple to launch the attack, and had waited at a house owned by Rijesh alias Riju, a close associate of Jayarajan’s, at Ukka Motta near Kathiroor.

The operation

On September 1, the killers were waiting on Manoj’s route. As he and a friend, Pramod, drove by in a Maruti Omni, Vikraman hurled a bomb, and the vehicle crashed into a wall. The killers smashed the windscreen to reach the injured Manoj, and hacked him several times. Pramod was chased away, Manoj was dragged out and hacked repeatedly, and his throat was slit. After exploding another bomb to terrorise local people, the gang escaped.

Why UAPA?

The accused, including Jayarajan, challenged the use of UAPA against them. CBI countered that bombs were used to terrorise people, both before and after Manoj’s murder. The court observed that if the object was to disturb harmony and tranquillity of society, terrorise people and create fear and insecurity, it would, undoubtedly, count as terrorist activity. “It would be sufficient if death or injury is caused to any person or persons or loss or damage or destruction of property is occurred in order to attract Section 15 [‘Terrorist Act’] of the UAP Act. We cannot interpret Section 15 to mean only largescale incidents of loss of hundreds or thousands of lives or destruction of property worth crores of rupees,” the court said.

P Jayarajan

Jayarajan was general manager of the CPM daily Deshabhimani when he was attacked in 1999 by the RSS gang that included Manoj. The attackers hurled bombs before storming his Kathiroor home. Jayarajan’s arm was nearly severed; he was rushed to hospital in Kochi, where doctors sutured it back. He has since been a symbol of surviving political violence in Kannur, and became a legislator in 2001 and 2006.

Jayarajan has also been linked with the killing of Indian Union Muslim League worker Ariyil Shukoor. On February 20, 2012, after a group of League workers stoned Jayarajan’s vehicle, Shukoor was caught by CPM workers who circulated his picture in party circles. Within hours, Shukoor was stabbed to death.

In August 2012, Jayarajan and CPM MLA T V Rajesh were arrested on charges of concealing the alleged design to commit the murder. On a plea by Shukoor’s family, the High Court ordered a CBI probe, but a division Bench of the court stayed that order this June.

Jayarajan, a school dropout, became a member of the CPM state committee in 1998 as a loyalist of former Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan. He later became a close confidant of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. He has been the CPM’s Kannur district secretary since 2010, after P Sasi was forced to quit following allegations of sexual misconduct.

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