The murder of 28-year-old youth Congress leader SV Shuhaib in Kerala’s Kannur district with 37 cuts to the lower portion of his body is not the first such barbaric murder in the district. Nor is it likely to be the last one.
But in spite of innumerable peace talks, the inability of the ruling party to give up on the knife means nothing much has changed on the ground.
With the police suspecting four workers who hold membership with the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) for hacking Shuhaib, clearly the fingers once again point towards the CPM.
What put the CPM in the dock even before the police made its statement is a video that surfaced on social media a few hours after the Tuesday morning killing.
It shows party cadre shouting slogans such as – “Shuhaib your days are counted” – right in the centre of Mattanur town, recorded a month before he was killed.
It also shifts focus from the much hyped political violence between the CPM and the RSS-BJP combine to a much softer adversary in the Congress party. But the imprints of the CPM as the perpetrator once again is very much evident as per the FIR filed by the Mattanur police which clearly say that it is “political rivalry of the CPM that led to the killing”.
So why does the CPM always find itself on one side of such gruesome and well planned political murders in Kannur? To answer this one needs to throw more light on the alleged conspiracy behind the killing of Shuhaib.
Who Was Shuhaib?
Though little known to the outside world, Shuhaib had been one of the rare rising stars of the Congress party in a district that is dominated by the CPM and the BJP in that order.
In a politically charged atmosphere where the red and the saffron parties have been struggling to gain supremacy by killing each other’s opponents, Shuhaib was perhaps advocating politics of a different kind.
“I don’t even know whether to call him a politician. He was a Congressman but his social work was way beyond political affiliations. You may ask anyone in Mattanur, even CPM sympathisers. Shuhaib worked for the people, helping them in whatever way he can and people loved him for this. The day before he was killed he was engaged in arranging food for a very poor family in the same neighbourhood where he was hacked,’’ Shuhaib’s close friend Farseen told The Lede.
Farseen’s words are echoed by a number of people across Mattanur whom The Lede tried to connect with, most of them wanting to maintain anonymity fearing backlash from CPM cadre.
The common man on the streets here is seething with anger over this murder, something which is a rare phenomenon because mostly in Kannur such murders have always been seen as a normal political activity. Such had been the insensitivity till Shuhaib was put to sword on Monday night.
“I have seen so many people getting killed here who have earlier been a perpetrator themselves. But why did the party do to this to a young man who had no violent background? He was just a good lad who used to help others get along with their lives?’’ asks Ramankutty (name changed) who runs a small shop in Mattanur town.
Shuhaib had been working in the Gulf for the last ten years out of compulsion to support his family of three younger sisters all of whom he had managed to marry off with his hard earned money from Dubai.
Today his new house is half done as his body lay on its courtyard on Tuesday evening awaiting burial. Sitting close by his ailing father battled hard to control his tears.
“We have lost our bread winner. He was a lovely boy who wanted to take care of his family along with his political ambitions. That is the reason why I did not say no when he told me he was returning to join active politics,’’ he says.
Shuhaib had successfully set up a following among the younger generation in Mattanur town and was actively building up a base for the congress party by regular interaction with almost every household in the area. At the same time he was fast becoming a thorn in the flesh for the CPM.
“Even on the day he was lying dead in the hospital there was a message on his phone from someone asking why you are not picking the call we need blood for someone hospitalised. The day he was hacked he was returning after fixing someone’s marriage. That was Shuhaib,’’ reiterated Farseen.
Police believe that the immediate provocation that led to his Shuhaib’s death originated from a stand-off between the SFI (CPM’s student wing) and the KSU (Congress’s students wing) at the Edayannur Higher Secondary School where Shuhaib had intervened.
The next day a few CITU workers attacked the local Youth Congress office in Mattanur beating up the KSU students, which again Shuhaib had questioned in public.
On Wednesday, Congress Kannur strongman and former Member of Parliament K Sudhakaran raised a very serious allegation that CPM had formerly planned to bump off Shuhaib inside the special sub-jail in Kannur where he and Farseen where shifted to while they were in remand for another political case.
The special jail in Kannur is notorious for ill treatment of political prisoners of other parties by CPM affiliated prisoners who are lodged in large numbers here.
“I was very sure that if Shuhaib was shifted to that jail, the hired men inside would kill him. The jail DGP realised the threat and stopped the shifting. Such was CPM’s witch hunt against the young man. Now we need a CBI probe into this,’’ added Sudhakaran.
Well Planned Murders
CPM doing away with political opponents in a very methodical manner in Kannur is not new. Right from 1969 when the first Sangh Parivar (then Jan Sangh) leader Vadikkal Ramakrishan’s planned murder in which the first accused at the time is today’s Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to the latest Shuhaib it has a history written in blood.
Memories of the cold blooded butchering of TP Chandresekharan, former CPM strongman turned rebel from Onchiyam in 2012 has still not been erased from Kerala’s political landscape. The similarities to Shuhaib’s murder are now the talk of the town.
His wife KK Rema still fights a lone battle saying that the responsibility for Chandrasekharan’s murder does not stop with the local leadership but goes up to the top brass of the CPM.
“Just look at the incidents leading to Shuhaib’s death. It is exactly the same that happened to my husband too. The same threats were sloganeered then too. Then also they said they will chop you to pieces. Now wait and see just like they protected TP’s killers, just like they gave them legal aid, they will give to Shuhaib’s killers too. This has always been CPM’s way, to silence anyone who questions them,’’ Rema told The Lede.
CR Neelakandan is a political activist who had been following the CPM in Kerala for almost four decades now. He says unless the CPM learns to respect dissent in a democratic society, these killings will never be over.
“There is a lot of difference between murders during a violent agitation and a well planned one. It is so very evident that the CPM in Kannur has a well-oiled machinery which executes such planned murders against those who dissent. Shuhaib is just one such case. It is the dissent that they are not ready to put up with which means in Kannur democracy is non-existent. I don’t understand the difference between such killers and killers of Gauri Lankesh or Kalburgi. If that is fascism, then this too is fascism,’’ Neelakandan told The Lede.
No End To Killings
Over the past fifty years, Kannur has seen more than 220 political killings. While the CPM and the BJP have suffered the major losses other political parties too lost their cadre.
All the sides have also maintained score sheets. Once a BJP man’s head rolls there would be a patient wait to see when the next CPM member is hacked to maintain the balance.
Then there would be a temporary lull only to be broken by the next killing and the cycle continues. More than two dozen all party peace initiatives have taken place in the same period, written assurances have been given. But nothing has prevented the killings.
The RSS-BJP combine, the Muslim League and to an extent the Congress have all had their share of blood on their hands.
But what puts the CPM on a stickier wicket is its alleged involvement as a common element in a majority of such cases especially in some of the well planned murders.
TP Chandrasekharan of RMP, Kathiroor Manoj of BJP, Abdul Shukhoor of Muslim League and the latest Congressman Shuhaib are part of a long list of different political affiliations that fell to the CPM’s sword.
For instance it would be terribly difficult to recollect a BJP versus Congress killing or a Muslim League versus BJP killing in Kannur.
Shuhaib’s killing once again reinforces the fact that the CPM is the common enemy who does not shy away from killing its political opponents with no preference to the colour of their flags.
“We have been telling this for years that whenever there is someone who stands up politically against the CPM in Kannur, they are killed. This is how we had lost so many workers because all throughout the last 40 years, it is the BJP that has atleast to an extent stood up to CPM’s violent intimidation. Shuhaib’s killing only proves CPM’s eternal presence on one side of these killings,’’ K Surendran, General Secretary of the BJP told The Lede.
Neelakandan said that Kannur can only be saved if the CPM puts its mind to it.
“CPM is the party that should first keep the knife down. Firstly, they are ruling party now and they have the responsibility towards the common man to protect. Secondly they are much stronger than anyone else in Kannur and thirdly in almost every killing they are atleast on one side of it. Once they stop, I am very sure everyone else will have to fall in line,’’ added Neelakandan.
CPM In Denial Mode
The CPM leadership in the state along with the Chief Minister has been completely tight lipped following Shuhaib’s killing. The local leadership in Kannur has meanwhile adopted the normal practice of feigning ignorance.
“The party has nothing to do with this killing and we are sure no party men are involved in it. If we find anyone’s involvement strict action will follow,’’ said P Jayarajan, Kannur district secretary, CPI(M).
It is a claim that has been heard post every political murder in Kannur that not many are ready to buy into it.
Meanwhile the Congress party is gearing up for a state-wide agitation over Shuhaib’s killing with prominent leaders announcing fasting in front of the government secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram till the culprits are booked.
A revenge killing to Shuhaib’s death is unlikely to be on the cards as the Congress party unlike the BJP does not have the machinery or guts to attempt one. But Kannur’s fragile peace is once again on test.