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Kerala: Alappuzha political killings may up the ante

There have been five murders in Kerala this year in clashes involving SDPI and Sangh Parivar activists, with the disturbing political strife stoking communal tension

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: December 23, 2021 11:59:00 am
Renjith Sreenivasan and KS Shan

There are apprehensions that the latest bout of political violence in Kerala may raise communal temperature in the state, with the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its political wing, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), being pitted against the BJP and the RSS.

The state has witnessed violent clashes between the activists of the CPI(M) and the BJP-RSS for decades, in which many lives have been lost.

In the clashes between the workers of the CPI(M) and the BJP-RSS, which have regularly occurred in the past, both the assailants and the victims had been by and large Hindus, mostly from the OBC Ezhava community.

This year, however, there have been five political killings in Kerala in clashes involving the SDPI and the Sangh Parivar activists, three of them in Alappuzha district, where the latest killings also took place last weekend.

These killings involving the PFI-SDPI and the BJP-RSS members up the ante, as they are also charged with communal ramifications.

These disturbing political murders are stoking communal tension in the state, with both the Muslim and the Hindu right-wing trying to spread their wings by aggressively mobilising supporters through polarised campaigns.

Over the recent years, the SDPI has been trying to establish itself within the Muslim community as the only party that is capable of countering the “threat” posed to them by the Sangh Parivar.

The PFI-SDPI has been making the pitch to the people belonging to the minority community, especially Muslim youths, that the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) – the largest party from the Muslim community and a key constituent of the Congress-led UDF in Kerala – is not capable of protecting the interest of Muslims.

Projecting itself as a muscular party, the SDPI is underlining its message for Muslims that it is, along with the CPI(M), the “best bet” for their protection and interest.

Many Muslim youths in Kerala are said to have switched to the PFI-SDPI under the perception that they can “protect the self-respect of the Muslim community”.

Muslim fringe elements feel that the IUML is not capable of taking on the RSS or giving a “tit-for-tat response” to the Sangh Parivar, blaming the IUML for being tethered to power politics.

By joining a radical political theatre, the SDPI believes its message for the minority community that only it can flex muscle against the Sangh Parivar gets reinforced.

In the moderate stand taken by the IUML on various issues, the SDPI sees an opportunity to make its mark in the Muslim political sphere.

As an ally of the UDF and being engaged as a stake-holder in educationally empowering the Muslim community, the IUML continues to be on the right side of secular politics in Kerala.

In the last year’s local body elections and later in the Assembly elections, after the Jamaat-e-Islami’s Welfare Party of India backed the UDF, the IUML came in the line of attacks, with the ruling CPI(M) going after it over the UDF-Welfare Party “deal”. This led to furore among traditional Sunni Muslim supporters of the IUML, who do not see eye to eye with the Jamaat-e-Islami.

It is charged that the CPI(M) has been trying to promote the PFI, sensing that the outfit’s growth would help weaken the IUML, and eventually undermine the prospects of its rival, the Congress party, in the state.

After the SDPI emerged as a rallying point of non-IUML votes among Muslims, some political benefits seem to have gone to the CPI(M), which is now ruling several local bodies in Kerala with the SDPI’s backing.

The Alappuzha incident, in which a BJP OBC Morcha leader, Ranjith Sreenivas (45), was killed last Sunday barely hours after the murder of SDPI state general secretary, K S Shan (39), clearly appeared to be tit-for-tat political killings. In a span of 12 hours after the SDPI leader was murdered, retaliation came, by the break of next dawn in the same district, following which assailants slipped through the police net and are still absconding.

There seems to be a pattern in Kerala in such assailants remaining at large for a long time. Even one-a-half months after an RSS worker was killed in Palakkad, police are yet to arrest a single SDPI worker allegedly involved in the attack, although three of their accomplices have been arrested.

In 2018, when a CPI(M) student wing leader was killed in Kochi, the prime accused, an activist of Campus Front (student wing of the PFI) remained at large for two years. In the 2010 case related to the chopping of a college professor’s hand over alleged blasphemy, the prime accused Savad is still absconding.

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