Last week, yet another political worker was killed in Kannur — this time in Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s village. The BJP, the party the victim belonged to, called for a hartal, which saw sporadic violence across Kerala. This time, the state governor, Justice P. Sadasivam, stepped in and called on political parties to resolve their differences peacefully. The Centre has sought a report from the state government on the violence.
It is ironic that the two parties involved in the face-off in Kannur are both holding office, the CPM in the state and the BJP at the Centre. Their respective leaderships have shown little inclination to end the bloodshed involving their cadres. At least six people have been killed since May, when the CPM-led Left Democratic Front was elected to office. Except for offering excuses for their respective cadre’s violence, the leaders of both parties have been conspicuously silent about the cycle of murder and mayhem. They seem to prefer that their lower level functionaries kill and die to protect political fiefs rather than negotiate peace. Police do make arrests in these cases, but rarely do they get to the bottom of these carefully planned and executed murders: The backroom boys — who apparently have the backing of top-level functionaries — are hardly ever punished. The murders in Kannur date back to the communal clashes of the 1970s and have continued unabated since, acquiring the nature of a blood feud. For instance, the father of the 19-year-old killed last week was hacked to death 14 years ago in similar circumstances. Families have been wrecked and the legitimisation of violence by parties has poisoned social relations in the villages. The indifference party leaders have shown to this saga of blood lust is appalling: The response from both leaderships since last week’s murder does not suggest any regret, but only hints at revenge and retribution. State leaders seem to believe and propagate that violence, including murder, is a legitimate form of political action. Do these parties realise that their reliance on force to win the political argument is a tacit admission of their failure as parties of government? What does it mean when the CPM, the ruling party in the state, claims that the violence of its cadres is in self-defence? It amounts to a tacit admission that the state police is incapable of enforcing the law. Similarly, the BJP, in power at the Centre, betrays a lack of respect for the rule of law when it tries to settle the political battle in Kerala on the streets.
It has become necessary for the central leaderships of both parties to step in and talk civility and sense to their state leaders. The cycle of political violence needs to stop and sanity must be restored to politics in Kannur.