Until three days ago, when the political lines blurred in this Kerala village. And left the 48-year-old daily labourer and his family in a daze. On Sunday, Kripesh was hacked to death along with Sarath Lal, another Youth Congress worker from Kalliyot, allegedly by workers of the party that Krishnan has backed his whole life.
“I was liberal in my political outlook and allowed my son to join a party of his choice. But that choice proved costly,” said Krishnan, tears flowing down his cheeks.
On this political patch in the north of the state, the tussle for supremacy is between the ruling CPM and the main Opposition Congress, which has a strong presence in the region. From one scuffle to another, from one attack to another, the Youth Congress has been resisting the CPM’s challenge in the village over the last two years, said residents.
“Last year, my son had joined a local polytechnic for a diploma course. But he had to abandon the course after he was assaulted by students belonging to the SFI (the CPM students wing). They nabbed my son and took him away from the range of CCTV cameras to assault him. The attacks continued, and I asked him to quit the course. He acted accordingly and stopped his education,’’ claimed Krishnan.
The other victim, Lal, an engineering graduate, was in judicial custody for 22 days in connection with an assault earlier on local CPM leader A Peethambaran — Kripesh was another accused in the case. The attack happened ten days after their release.
Peethambaran, who has since been sacked from the party, was arrested for the murders, with police stating that the youths were killed “due to political rivalry”. On Wednesday, police arrested another accused — identified as Saji George who allegedly arranged a vehicle for the killers.
“When my son was in judicial custody, the CPM men used to say that his days were numbered. They had fixed his fate. The CPM feared that these two would emerge as a threat to the party in Kalliyot,” said Lal’s father Sathyanarayanan.
“We belong to the Yadava community (which has a presence in this part of Kasaragod district). Peethambaran is also from the same community. He was jealous over the rise of my son as a local leader and organiser,’’ he claimed.
According to Kalliyot residents, Kripesh and Lal had organised local youths to start a group for “panchari melam”, a traditional percussion ensemble. “The group started attracting youths from CPM families, after which the party encouraged its men to form another group. But the CPM attempt failed,” said Rijesh K, Kripesh’s brother-in-law.
“Two years ago, CPM men torched the building where the Youth Congress had kept the musical instruments. In a counter-attack, the Youth Congress attacked the CPM’s local office. At that time, the CPM leaders had publicly threatened to chop off the hands of Youth Congress workers,’’ claimed Rijesh.
According to police, the latest incident stems from a series of clashes between the KSU and SFI, the students’ wings of the Congress and CPM, over the black day observed on January 3 by the Opposition party in protest against the entry of young women at the Sabarimala shrine.
On January 5, Lal allegedly led a group of Youth Congress workers who waylaid a college bus in search of SFI workers. The group then allegedly assaulted Peethambaran who questioned them. It was in this case that Lal was remanded in custody — Kripesh’s name figured on the list of accused named by CPM but police later found he had been falsely implicated.
“We never imagined that Lal would be attacked in Kalliyot village, where the Congress has such a strong presence,” said Sathyanarayanan. Giving the political drama another twist was a statement by Peethambaran’s wife Manju that her husband took responsibility for the attack to “save his party”. “He is ready to do anything for the party. Without the party’s consent, my husband would not commit such a murder,’’ claimed Manju.
However, CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan denied the claim and described the family’s reaction as “emotional”. “The CPM has no role in the killing. It is quite natural that the family (of Peethambaran) would react in such an emotional manner,’’ he said.