Kerala’s Political Murders Continue; Thrissur Is Latest Battleground
The posters by the roadside, on the walls and those printed on flex; hung up by the roadside all call him a martyr - a political martyr who was murdered by the opposing political activists belonging to the RSS and Bajrang Dal.
Thakkudu as Sanoop PU was known to all who knew him, was beloved by the people of the colony he lived in.
He was a resident of Puthussery SC/ST Colony near Kunnamkulam in Thrissur district of Kerala.
Sanoop is the fourth such martyr belonging to the ruling CPM in Kerala this year to have lost his life in similar fashion - a number the party and its cadre hold on dearly to and that which those from the opposing camps accused of the crimes, both Congress and BJP refuse to acknowledge.
Murders are tricky and martyrdoms trickier still, for they come with the assurance of payback, sooner than later.
26-year-old Sanoop who was murdered in Chittilangadu had dropped out of school in his 10th standard and was from a financial background far from secure. His mother having died young, both mother and child passing at childbirth, Sanoop had been brought up by his aunt, his mother’s elder sister.
His father, Peralil Unni, too had passed away four years back.
“He fell ill and passed away suddenly,” says Sunitha Soman about Sanoop’s father.
Sunitha who lives near the EMS Hall at the entrance of the Colony was also a neighbour of Sanoop whom she calls Thakkudu like everyone else who knew him.
Darling Of The Colony
“Thakkudu had grown up without his mother and was hence closely looked after by all here,” says Sunitha. “In those days there were no facilities and getting medical help was difficult. Thakkudu was five or six years old when his mother Sathi died. He grew up in front of our eyes - as one of our own. It is an unspeakable loss for all of us,” she says.
“He was very soft spoken and will never talk back to anyone. He was the one all the women here went to for help as he would help, unlike many others his age. He was more than a son to me though he was younger to my own son,” she says.
“He had no ill habits of any kind,” said one person. “He wouldn’t smoke or drink like many others his age. Even when others drank, he will just sit around giving them company.”
And it is this friendly demeanour and speckless character that has left many in the Colony shell shocked at his murder.
“What wrong had he done in his life to meet this end?” asks Sunitha. “He had suffered enough during his childhood and despite that he had grown up to be caring. It has shattered me,” she says.
“The dire financial conditions at home had forced him to start working at a very young age. He worked first as a helper and now as a mason. His father had been a mason too,” Sunitha says.
And it was from these conditions that Sanoop rose to hold positions within the party and its youth wing DYFI. Sanoop was the Branch Secretary of the Kunnamkulam Puthussery Colony branch of the party.
He was also the Joint Secretary of the DYFI Regional Committee and was actively involved in its various initiatives including the community kitchen run by the youth wing, which he was in the midst of, as it was Puthussery’s turn the next day to arrange food kits at Thrissur Medical College.
“There are so many people who have no hope left to live on,” says Sanoop’s uncle who lives in Pattambi and visits Puthussery occasionally. “And here was a kid who had barely started living. Taken so early. I was supposed to come this Friday. He had called and told me he will come to my place when free instead. But now I am here, and he is not,” he breaks down recalling their last interaction. “They took his life and for what?” he asks.
Sanoop had no criminal background and was held by the local police as someone clean and decent, a marked departure from many they regularly interact with locally.
“He was a very good boy,” said Constable Premjith from Kunnamkulam Police Station. Premjith was on General Diary (GD) duty in the station when the case was first reported and went to the scene the night of the incident. “He wasn’t like many of those quarrelsome young people,” he says.
“We have always heard about attacks and murders like these elsewhere,” says Sunitha. “But we have never experienced them. We don’t know how to react. I was about to go sleep when I saw kids running and learnt he had been stabbed. It sunk me,” says Sunitha breaking into sobs, unable to finish her sentences.
“He was sitting here with the kids watching football till 9 pm at least,” she says pointing to the EMS Hall which housed a TV. “We didn’t even know he had gone out.”
The hall, the most prominent and well-built structure in the Colony, was where the people of the colony hung out and where Sanoop and many his age had been watching football on the fateful night.
“He didn’t go there directly,” says 24-year-old Amar Gopi who had been with the group who had tagged along to the fateful ‘compromise meeting’ where Sanoop was murdered near Chittilangadu.
“His phone was damaged and so he went to Anjooru to get it repaired. When we were there Vibin called asking for Sanoop,” said Amar.
28-year-old Vibin as Vibimon P was called, also hailed from the Puthussery Colony and was a close friend of Sanoop. He was the eldest of the group according to Amar and his friends in Puthussery Colony.
“We were told that Marathamkodu Chakka had an issue to compromise,” said Amar. Though Amar claims to have known Chakka, he was not aware of his actual name which the police have given out as Mithun.
Mithun, a CPM worker, had recently shifted to Chittilangadu near where Sanoop was murdered. Mithun, it is learnt, had had a scuffle with a few locals regarding over-speeding on a two-wheeler.
It was to settle this bad blood that Sanoop set out as mediator along with his friends, most of whom were party members too.
“From Anjooru, Sanoop went in a friend’s car,” says Amar Gopi. “I was on Vibin’s bike and few others were on another bike.”
Amar got lost, unable to reach the exact location along with others.
“It is a secluded area with rubber plantations and all nearby,” said Amar. “We got lost a bit on the way. Then we heard shouts and when we reached there, a scuffle was beginning.”
“Except for Abhay Raj, everyone else from their side were carrying knives,” says Amar. “Abhay had a pipe in hand. They were at least 10-12 in number. I didn’t know all of their names, but I am learning them from the photos now,” he says. “Even we weren’t aware who we were going to meet. It seems they already had the weapons stored at the place or they were carrying it. It was kind of a trap I feel now.”
The reason according to Amar, was an earlier skirmish which Sanoop had helped compromise.
“This was a year back, I think. It was during the church feast in Marathamkodu. Some from our side had got into a scuffle then and it was Sanoop who had talked a compromise and settled things amicably,” he says.
“The earlier issue had been on party basis. We had forgotten the issue, but they held on to the grudge, it seems,” says Amar. And so it was that Sanoop and his friends went to Chittilangadu to settle a compromise for Mithun.
“All of it was over in ten to fifteen minutes,” says Amar. “It must have been around 9:00-9:30 pm,” he says. “They were talking loudly still when a scuffle broke out. It was Vibin they stabbed first, from the front. Abhijith and Jithin Raveendran were slashed from behind. We all ran then. We picked Vibimon and put him in the car and took him to the hospital.”
Abhijith and Jithin have since been discharged while Vibimon continues to be in a critical condition.
“Everyone ran once they started attacking with weapons. Abhijith and Jithin tightly tied cloth around their wounds to stop the bleeding and could walk. We thought Sanoop had run too. Once we realised he was missing, search parties went out. Locals had informed the police by then it seems. We are learning that the police had reached the spot within 10-15 minutes. Thakkudu was found by the roadside. He had bled to death.”
His body lay at the spot until the next morning.
“It seems they chased and stabbed him. His body was found a bit further away from where the scuffle had broken out. They had come prepared. BJP-CPM issues had been happening here earlier also but didn’t go so far and never to the extent of murder or stabbing,” says Amar.
The Irreplaceable Loss: For The Party
“Across Chowannur Panchayat everyone held good opinion about Thakkudu,” says PK Shantha, Vice-President of Chowannur Panchayat and a member of CPM. “He was an exceptional worker at the grassroots level and was at the service of the people at all times. It is an irreplaceable loss for the party,” she said.
CPM was quick to call Sanoop’s death a political murder, accusing the RSS-BJP of using violence to attack its cadre, a charge it had long been accused of. All of those who had attacked the young party members had RSS-Bajrang Dal connections, locals insist.
“Nandan had only returned from Gulf a month back,” says Amar Gopi about the main accused. “We have seen some of them before. But I didn’t know their names as such. The one with the long hair is Sreerag. He is an auto-driver. I have seen him before.”
Minister for Local Self Government, Kerala, AC Moideen, held up the fact that Sanoop was not accused in any cases to show that the attack was an attempt by the BJP-RSS combine to cut down on the political influence of ruling CPM by exterminating a grassroot leader. Criminal backgrounds of the cadre killed or found accused of killing in similar instances have been CPM’s burden for long.
The BJP on its part has denied all such claims with BJP Kerala president K Surendran saying that the murder was the fall out of a turf war within the CPM and their cadre and holding that his party had no role in it.
He threatened to initiate legal proceedings unless the CPM leaders AC Moideen and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan stopped accusing the BJP of being behind the murder.
Meanwhile in Puthussery Colony where Sanoop was Branch Secretary, the mood is along the lines taken by their leaders.
“Sanoop was an exceptional worker of the party. If such a person is exterminated thus, what are the gains for those who did it?” asks PK Shantha Vice-President of Chowannur Panchayat and belonging to CPM. “It is aimed at supressing party workers and their work. It is something that cannot be tolerated nor forgiven. That is all I have to say.”
BJP state general secretary K Surendran had a few years back courted controversy by saying that the party has retaliated every time their workers were attacked or murdered.
In similar fashion CPM leader and State Electricity Minister MM Mani had, in 2012, courted controversy by stating how the party leadership was instrumental in eliminating political rivals in Idukki district in the 1980s.
If the past is any clue, the future could get bloody.
The Irreplaceable Loss: A Home Without Its Son
“He had told he would be back in half an hour,” cries his aunt at Sanoop’s home in Puthussery Colony. She had raised him by herself after her sister’s death.
“At night I had kept calling him and it was busy. I had thought he must have been talking to someone on the phone,” she cries as others watch. “Nobody told me anything. I kept asking everyone. I saw people running down and I felt something bad had happened to my Thakkudu. But nobody will tell me anything,” she cries.
Those assembled at Sanoop’s home could not hold back their tears either.
“He had not had any work for the last six months. He had no money,” she said sobbing. “He didn’t even buy a new mundu (dhoti) this Onam. He must have known it was to be his last. Let it pass on an old mundu he must have judged. I will no longer send the kids down to the hall to check if you are there Thakkudu,” her cries get louder.
“Earlier he would not tell me where he was going and when he will come home but after I scolded him once, he will always call me up whenever he went out. Everyone was his friend, Thakkudu would tell me always. And how all his friends betrayed him. What all they did to my son,” she cries inconsolably as the Colony sobbed with her.
Something suggests that this may not be the end of the story but the beginning.
All four main accused remain missing. While the police continue their search, locals have been circulating images of the accused hinting at a not so subtle threat of retaliation.
“These are the dogs who killed him. Nandanan, Satheesh, Sreerag, Abhayraj. Don’t cry when you get it back,” it reads.
Another poster on the wall is perhaps a reminder of the many more to follow.