Political murders have returned to haunt Kerala. Last Sunday, two Youth Congress workers were hacked to death in a village in Kasaragod. The first information report mentions that the victims had been threatened by CPM activists. Two days later, police arrested a local committee member of the CPM. The CPM has denied any role in the murders and expelled the arrested person from the party. CPM Kerala secretary, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, cited a resolution against political murders to buttress the innocence of the party in the killings. With elections round the corner, these murders will haunt the CPM, which has been trying to shrug off the public perception that the party is intolerant of opposition and does not mind the physical elimination of its opponents.
If the CPM state leadership is to be believed, a local unit of the party may have ordered an action without consulting the top leadership. It is, of course, possible that the accused acted as a lone wolf, independent of the party. But that scenario is remote considering the structural and operational dynamic of a cadre party like the CPM, which works on Leninist organisational principles and where orders flow down from the top. In the wake of the widespread criticism following the murder of T P Chandrasekharan, a rebel leader, by party workers, the CPM passed a resolution at its last state conference against political killings.
But the public pronouncements of many leaders give the impression that the message has not gone down the ranks, who see the sentiment against political murders more as a tactic than a clear moral stance. This is least surprising considering the messaging from the party, which extends legal aid and other protection to activists and even henchmen who have been jailed on murder charges.
At least 20 political murders have been reported since the CPM-led Left Front came to office in 2016, most of them involving CPM and RSS workers. Almost all of these have been meticulously planned and some of them conducted by criminal gangs to whom the murders had been outsourced. The political class ought to recognise that this criminalisation of politics is eating away the gains Kerala society has achieved over decades through public action centred on a rights discourse. Politics in Kerala has historically been a battle of ideas, not a war fought with sticks and swords. It should remain as such. The CPM, being the most influential political force in the state, ought to take the lead and start the cleansing from its own ranks.