Peace talks and meetings are being planned in Kannur this month to break the cycle of violence between rival CPI(M) and RSS groups. CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, BJP state president Kummanam Rajashekharan and RSS leader P. Gopalankutty sat together at peace meetings held in Thiruvananthapuram and Kannur to come up with a solution to help resolve the crisis. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also took part in the meeting at Thiruvanathapuram.
What is the latest trigger?
Since the murder of RSS worker Rajesh in Thiruvanathapuram on July 29, the Sangh Parivar has stepped up its campaign against “CPI(M)-sponsored violence” targeting its workers. The campaign got an impetus when Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley visited the capital last Sunday as an emissary of the BJP’s national leadership and met the family of the slain RSS worker.
Who is to blame?
The BJP alleges that the CPI(M) is trying to experiment with its ‘Kannur model’ of elimination of political rivals in other districts of Kerala. The number of workers killed on both sides in political clashes over the past several years shows that neither side can claim to be innocent. Police figures show that of the 52 cases of political murders in Kannur since 2005, 26 were Sangh Parivar workers and 21 CPI(M) workers. The highest number of political murders during the period, however, occurred in 2006-2011 when the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front government was in power. As many as 31 incidents of political murders occurred during those five years. Though the CPI(M) is still a major political force in the district, the Sangh Parivar rank and file in the district now show a combative spirit, which is attributed to the coming to power of the Narenda Modi-led government at the Centre.
Where is the source of violence?
The social historical backdrop of the north Malabar region where Kannur district is located has shaped its combative political climate. There are factors such as economic and social backwardness in the region that explain why violence is often the means of political expression in Kannur. Added to this is the legacy of history and culture. The culture of violence that prevailed in the region over the past few centuries in the form of blood feuds has fostered a tendency to settle differences through violence and not through democratic debate and conversation. The history of Communist-led agrarian struggles, which often led to instances of violence, in different parts of the district before and after Independence helped Communists to consolidate their hold.
What motivates it now?
Post 2000, though the CPI(M) continues its domination in the district, the BJP is gaining a foothold in many areas traditionally known as CPI(M) bastions. The BJP-RSS has pockets of influence inside the CPI(M)’s pocket boroughs in Kannur. The increase in the BJP’s vote share in all the 11 Assembly constituencies in the district in the last Assembly elections has given a sense of confidence to Sangh Parivar workers and the leadership that they are going to be the beneficiary of what they see as the erosion of the CPI(M)’s mass base.
What is the solution?
For rival workers trapped in the logic of retaliation, an escape from the cycle of violence is not easy. The rate of political murders in the district since early 2000 has recorded a decline compared to that in previous decades. There lies the hope. Political killings reached their peak during 1989-2000 when 63 people lost their lives. Change in socio-economic profile of people in the politically vulnerable areas, mostly in rural parts of the district, is said to be one of the reasons for the decline. But the recent spate in political violence in the district raises concerns about fresh escalation.