BJP Worker Murdered In Thrissur, But Are Such Killings Truly Political?
On July 02 this year, at around 10 am, 29-year-old Adarsh Suresh of Kuttikatt House in Thannyam near Anthikad in Thrissur district of Kerala was having tea from a stall near his house when a car halted in front.
They called him out and hacked him on the road.
The assailants escaped in the car. Adarsh, who was taken to a private hospital by the locals, died by evening.
Adarsh, according to the police, was an accused in a criminal case and listed in the police’s goonda list. On the auspicious day of Vishu in 2018, he had been critically injured in a rival gang’s attack and was recovering from the same when he was hacked to death. His mother, a CPI(M) worker was the chairperson of the Community Development Society (CDS) of Kudumbashree of Thannyam panchayat. Adarsh too was a supporter of CPI(M). The accused had links to the BJP.
Three months later, Anthikad region is again in the news.
28-year-old Nidhil of Muttichira near Anthikad had been amongst the accused arrested by the police in connection with Adarsh’s murder. Nidhil had been returning to his house in Muttichira with his wife when he was taken into custody by the police.
He was charged as the seventh accused and booked for helping the killers escape.
After being granted bail two months back, Nidhil had been staying with his wife at their house. The bail conditions had required him not to enter Anthikad police station limits. His bail conditions also required him to visit Anthikad police station on Saturdays and sign the register.
Nidhil who had dropped out in his eighth standard, had been an aluminium fabrication worker prior to his major run-in with the law. Nidhil’s younger brother, Nijil is presently lodged in jail. Nijil is an accused in many criminal cases according to the police, including the murder of Adarsh, and is on the police station’s rowdy list.
10 October 2020 was supposed to be the last time Nidhil would have been required to present himself in Anthikad police station. After signing in the station, Nidhil had returned alone to his house, just a few kilometres away in Muttichira, when at around 11 am, his car was waylaid by another car coming from the opposite direction near Mangattukara temple, opposite the gates of the Vattukulangara temple by ramming into his car.
The smaller Vattukulangara temple had no one in the vicinity, though the next day, when The Lede visited, it was being cleaned up for Ayudha puja to be held two days later. Two of the houses nearby were vacant while others were placed a bit inward from the gate.
A shop a bit further away was the only place of activity for some distance. By the time the locals had become aware of what seemed initially to be an accident, the assailants had hacked Nidhil and threw him by the roadside, onto the grass where he lay bleeding.
The assailants, meanwhile, unable to get the car they came in started, threatened two passing vehicles, a two-wheeler and a four-wheeler, wielding weapons. They made away in the stolen vehicles.
Even as the locals hesitated, shocked by the gory injuries Nidhil had suffered, police reached the spot and took Nidhil to Medical College Hospital where he died.
This was the third such murder in the region and the sixth in Thrissur district within two months. Nidhil and his family had been supporters of the BJP.
Even as family and friends waited for Nidhil’s body to arrive the next day, there were murmurs about the delay in handing over of the body.
“The SP and Deputy SP are sitting there and delaying the handing over of the body,” Nidhil’s father Udayan KR told The Lede.
Initially he had pacified those alleging a political angle to the delay saying they will have to go through all procedures before handing over the body. But soon enough, Udayan turned around and accused the police of discriminating against him and his family, for being BJP supporters.
The police at the Anthikad police station meanwhile had refused to talk to The Lede saying inquest was still going on. While those from the station were willing to come forward and talk, the presence of senior officers meant they were hesitant.
Udayan meanwhile appeared composed at their home in Muttichira. Nidhil was his second son while Nijil his third was still lodged in jail.
“I came to know of it at around 12 o’ clock,” he said, of his son’s murder. “He was required to sign in the Anthikad police station on Saturdays. The court had ordered him not to come within the confines of Anthikad police station. At the same time, he was required to come sign in the Anthikad station. So if you ask me it is the court which has created the circumstances for his murder. Else court should have provided him police security. This is my understanding. I am not a highly educated person and have studied only till fourth (standard). But when the highly educated people of the court behave thus how do you expect those lower down to behave?” he asked.
His understanding was that the murder could have been avoided had Nidhil been allowed to sign at the police station near where he was staying.
“The murder happened on the day of his last signing. Either police have a role in this or else those who did this had been sketching him. Both police and the killers both knew he had been coming to the station every Saturday. The bail condition told him not to come to Anthikad and at the same time to come sign here,” he repeated.
“Where is justice in this?” he asked. “I am not blaming the court. In the future many more such murders will happen and to avoid them, consider what I am saying.”
Local BJP office bearers of Anthikad claimed that they had filed a complaint with the police a few days back, accusing the gang of amassing weapons.
“They raided them and found nothing,” said BJP Anthikad general secretary Bibindas Raman.
“We don’t trust the Anthikad police,” said one party worker who was among the few who had reached Nidhil’s house. “SP and Deputy SP are there so we expect better.”
“They kept pressing him and it is what has got him here,” says Nidhil’s father Udayan.
“For anything that happens in the area, they will come asking for him. After he stopped living here, the police also stopped coming,” he said. “Even for minor traffic violations, they treated him like a criminal. There are so many who commit bigger crimes like smuggling who are just walking around freely. That is the state of affairs in Kerala.”
Even as Nidhil’s wife Prathiba lay inconsolable inside their house, BJP leader and former member of Kerala Women's Commission and state vice-president of Bharathiya Janata Party Kerala, Dr J Pramila Devi visited Nidhil’s house in Muttichira.
After Nidhil’s death, BJP state president K Surendran had come forward and said that Nidhil was an active worker of the party and his murder was a “political killing”. He accused the CPM of being behind the murder.
“They have been sharpening their knives we knew,” said J Pramila Devi, fierily addressing the friends and family who had assembled for Nidhil’s cremation. She had gathered information about the incident from the local party men only upon reaching their house; right from Nidhil’s name or Appu as he was called by family and friends and referred to as such by her ever since. The accusations she raised betrayed any inkling of the newness of information and the conviction of her address was conclusive in its judgments, enough to convince any lay listener.
“That is the politics of CPM. In such a scenario, it was the duty of police to ensure that he wasn’t attacked by anyone. It is the failure of the police that is coming to the fore here. Whether it is only police that have failed in their duty or if this is the result of planning executed at the level of ministers is our doubt now,” she told them even as Nidhil’s body was yet to arrive and cremation awaited.
“Such a thing can happen only with the planning of ministers and their leaders. By killing our workers, they are creating an atmosphere of fear. Thrissur is known as the cultural capital of Kerala. It is clear what CPM is doing in such a district. They are importing the techniques they have for long practiced in Kannur,” continued Pramila Devi.
“If we throw stones at the police or attack them, let them attack us also. But this is not like that. No organisation associated with the BJP has ever attacked the police. But the police have been attacking us. We have doubts if all these people in police uniforms are DYFI workers themselves. Or they could be green lights,” she insinuated. While DYFI is the CPM’s youth wing, ‘green lights’ is a reference to Muslim outfits.
“This murder seems well planned. That yesterday was going to be the last signing will be known only to the police. No one outside will know of it,” she told those assembled. “What is most painful is that CPM’s politics of killing is continuing here. It is not only about a BJP worker’s killing. That a young man has been murdered cannot be acceptable for any human being with a conscience.”
“A week back when a worker of CPM was murdered in Kunnamkulam, they were very fast to allege that BJP was behind it. Now the truth is coming out and we all know what it is. Many from the CPM including ministers have been responsible for creating an atmosphere of enmity towards BJP and its workers in Kerala,” she said.
The police have said that there were no clear political motives behind the murder of 26-year-old Sanoop, branch secretary of Puthussery Colony branch as well as a DYFI leader by those having links with RSS and Bajrang Dal. AC Moideen, minister for local bodies in Kerala had then called it a political murder, a charge BJP state president denied.
The Lede had reported from the ground on Sanoop’s murder as well.
“There are a lot of suspicions regarding Appu’s (Nidhil’s nickname) murder. That yesterday was the last day of signing at the station would not have been known to anyone outside except for those close to the system and those who would be able to gain access to insider information. That such a murder will happen was made clear through a Facebook post also.
We had complained to the police after we received the threats. First it said that there will be “a happy news from Thrissur within three days” and later it was changed to “within five days”. We had also lodged a complaint with the police when we came to know that they were amassing weapons. Despite all these warnings how is it that the police have been unable to prevent this killing?” she asked.
“It is CPM’s intolerance which is coming to the forefront. BJP’s popularity is rising in Thrissur. And they are unable to live with it. As far as we are concerned, the death of a young man, a head of a family is an unbearable loss. We are unable to bear the pain. As far as CPM is concerned, it is just a number amongst the many they kill every year. Wherever they exist, they kill, and this young man is just one among the thousand such people. We are prepared for the legal struggle as this case deserves. Proper investigation should happen. Whoever is behind this - we know who they are - they have to be brought to the forefront. BJP will respond to this. Not in the ways of CPM, but legally. As we stand on this soil soaked with tears and blood that is the promise BJP has to give,” said Pramila Devi.
“BJP’s politics is not the politics of murders. That is their politics. 30 lakh people is what Joseph Stalin has killed. In China, kids like the ones standing in front of me, have been killed using baton tanks. This is CPM’s method. To scare people into silence,” she added.
While Nidhil’s father Udayan agreed to the political points being raised, he had a point of his own to add at the end.
“This politics of killing has to be stopped. One shouldn’t try to counter killing with another killing. No matter how much one does that, there is no point in it. Wrong has to be countered with right. No matter which party does it here, whether it is BJP, Congress or CPM; they will win,” he said even as a single person at the back somewhere clapped and quickly cut it off.
How The Police Sees The Murder
“All of those involved have criminal backgrounds,” said an officer with the state intelligence. “One can’t call this as politically motivated. The enmity was not for organising a protest march or raising allegations or anything of the sort,” he said.
Was it a political killing then?
“These are primarily criminals and then there are political parties who are also involved as they are supporters of opposing factions,” he said. “When the other murder happened, the same political parties were disowning those arrested. Now that one of them has died, they have become party workers. That is how it goes.”
“The kid who was killed was himself recently arrested for possession of ganja. There is also possibility of revenge being taken for Peringottukara murder, in which Nidhil was an accused. They had been quarrelling every now and then for some time here. There would be small skirmishes now and then. But this attack was done with the sole intention of killing is what is becoming clear. Investigation will reveal more,” he added.
Supporters of BJP and its party workers also agree that the attack was with the sole intention of killing.
“They used hand axe to cut,” one worker told The Lede. Showing an image of the body, he said, “Look at the cut on the calves and just below the calves. It is done so that the person attacked would be unable to stand or walk. Only professionals use such weapons. There are definitely some outsiders amongst those who attacked. Dhanish seems to have been there too. His walking stick was recovered is what is being said.”
Dhanish was a name which cropped up in the conversations with the police as well.
“It seems there had been an attack on this one fellow named Dhanish which had injured him and handicapped him. It seems he was of the opinion that it wouldn’t have happened without Nidhil’s involvement. That is also an angle being looked into,” said a policeman.
BJP supporters meanwhile at Nidhil’s house claim that Dhanish just carries his walking stick for style. “He drives all kinds of vehicles,” they said.
With police being blamed for the murders, the SP and Deputy SP are camped in the Anthikad station. Policemen from nearby stations have also been put up at varying points as a precaution to be able to react immediately in case of a flare up.
“The policemen are all trapped for now,” said an auto-driver at an auto-stand near the station. “As if all that is going around wasn’t enough. Sadder still are the politicians owning up these deaths. There won’t be an end to this. This place was not like this,” he said.
“One of the accused has been found at a hospital in Thrissur,” said a policeman on condition of anonymity.
“His arrest is yet to be recorded,” the officer said. Sanal, the one found at the hospital had been injured during the melee. He had escaped on a stolen two-wheeler while others escaped in a stolen four-wheeler.
“A sword was recovered from Nidhil’s car as well. He might have tried to retaliate as well,” he said.
BJP supporters though claim Sanal might have been accidently injured by his own mates while attacking Nidhil.
“Search is on to get hold of the others. We are on to them. Sooner than later, they too will be arrested,” the policemen said.
“One Must Call A Spade A Spade”
Leftist thinker and critique of CPM NM Pearson says neither the murder of CPM worker Sanoop PU in Kunnamkulam nor that of Nidhil Udayan in Anthikad can be considered political killings.
“Political killings in its earlier form as had been seen in Kannur were planned as political exercises carried out by both the CPM and BJP leaderships,” he says.
“But most of what happens these days are not of the same kind. There are two main reasons. First and foremost, there are no major political struggles that are going on in Kerala today. The way the state is presently poised, there is little actual ground struggle happening anywhere. Second reason is that since there are no such struggles going on, there are no major conflicts between people on either side.”
“But at the same time, those who are murdered today could still be political workers. And it so happens that the political parties concerned uses their deaths for political purposes. They will jump in to stake claim to the deaths and take them up as political deaths,” explained Pearson.
Immediately after Sanoop’s death in Kunnamkulam, minister AC Moideen had jumped in to call it a political murder. Police investigation revealed it had little to do with politics even though Sanoop had been a branch secretary and those accused had links to BJP-Bajrang Dal.
In Anthikad, even before Nidhil’s body had arrived, the BJP state vice-president was provoking friends and family present at Nidhil’s home how the police were biased in favour of DYFI or Muslims and suggested the killing could not have happened without the planning of CPM ministers and their leaders. All posters pinned blame on CPM in Anthikad as was the case in Kunnamkulam where BJP-Bajrang Dal combine was blamed.
“If you ask me, the fault lies with the media. Media is behaving irresponsibly. They carry news as claimed by the politicians. They quote whatever the politicians say. Media uses their exploitative statements and sensationalises these deaths. Just think for a moment, if they do not carry such claims and start checking for truth; politicians won’t come either,” said Pearson.
“Media can investigate and the least they could do is to clearly say that these are allegations coming from some political leaders. Watchdog journalism has disappeared as it is from the media landscape. They are inventing news. It is high time that the media especially did a course correction.
One must call a spade a spade. Media must do this. Those belonging to either side will go on with their slander. It is media’s responsibility to verify. But as things stand today, market forces dictate,” he added.
Meanwhile, in Anthikad, policemen who had come on duty from afar were searching for a hotel to have lunch in. With hotels nearby closed because of the pandemic, some requested passing vehicles for a lift to the nearest town.
BJP had on its part announced a harthal for the day.
Two more accused have since been arrested - Akshay and Srirag. More details are awaited.