The past has a way of creeping up on the present. All the forgotten political murders in Kerala have now quite unexpectedly returned to public memory with the Idukki district secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), M.M. Mani, claiming that his party systematically eliminated political rivals in the 1980s. Did Mr. Mani suffer from a sudden twinge of conscience? Sadly, this was no guilt pang, but either a sickening boast or a defiant form of truth-telling. The district leader later sought to explain that his remarks made at a public meeting in Thodupuzha last week were in the context of the historic resistance put up by the party in difficult circumstances. With the CPI (M) continuing to feel the fall-out from the murder of Revolutionary Marxist Party leader T.P. Chandrasekharan earlier this month, Mr. Mani's revelations will certainly hurt deep. At a time when ongoing investigations into the T.P. murder have pointed to the involvement of activists of the CPI (M), his remarks have given the political opponents of the CPI (M) more ammunition. In effect, Mr. Mani seems to have implicated the whole party in the Idukki murders.

Quite rightly, the police have registered a charge of murder against Mr. Mani, who had alluded to three killings: one shot, another beaten to death, and the third stabbed. From the manner of the murders, and the period, the victims have been identified as Congress workers Ancheri Baby, Mullanchira Mathai and Muttukad Nanappan. All the accused in the three cases were acquitted for want of evidence or witnesses. There is no legal bar on the reopening of these cases, and a thorough interrogation of Mr. Mani is essential for bringing out the truth behind these murders. All political formations in Kerala have suffered on account of the culture of political violence. The Left parties, the Congress and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have lost workers to petty political rivalry carried out in the name of ideological warfare. Often, one murder sets off a cycle of violence, with the suspect behind one killing becoming the victim of the next. But Mr. Mani's remarks have added a new dimension to the violence: he indicated the murders were part of a strategy, and involved those at the leadership level, not just rank-and-file party workers. The CPI(M) Polit Bureau has done well to condemn Mr. Mani's justification for what it describes as the “retaliatory killing” of political opponents. The party promises “appropriate action.” What it must do is ensure its members cooperate with the police so that the full truth about the murders emerges.

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