Party and power: On political violence in Kerala
Incidents of political violence in Kerala need a thorough investigation free of interference
The ruling CPI(M) finds itself entangled in two murder cases in Kerala. In one, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a charge sheet against 24 persons, including former CPI(M) MLA K.V. Kunhiraman, who is also a district secretariat member, in the Periye double murder case. Congress workers Kripesh, 19, and Sarath Lal P.K, 24, were hacked to death at Periye in Kasaragod district on February 17, 2019. The case was handed over to the CBI on September 30, 2019, after the Kerala High Court found the probe by the State Police as ‘not trustworthy’. In an indefensible move, the Kerala government fought fiercely against a CBI inquiry, all the way to the Supreme Court, yet unsuccessfully after spending vast sums of public money. In the second, Sandeep Kumar, a local committee secretary of the party, was killed by a gang of five people led by a neighbour, who is associated with the BJP youth wing, last week, in Pathanamthitta district. The local police that had ruled out political rivalry initially, changed the script after being publicly chided by the CPI(M) State Secretary. In both cases, the ruling party allegedly attempted to influence the investigations by the State police — in the first to shield its workers, and in the second to add a political hue, which may or may not survive, to the gruesome murder of its activist.
The CPI(M)’s responsibility is twofold — as a cadre party that exercises immense control over its workers, and as the ruling party which is responsible for law and order. The party claims authority over the conduct of its cadres, including in their personal lives in many instances. The party must make it clear that it would not tolerate violence by its members; it must also allow the police to function independently and professionally. But the trend seems to be the opposite. Even convicted criminals linked to the party have been recipients of state favour when they serve prison terms. Mr. Kunhiraman and three others are charged by the CBI under the section of obstruction to lawful apprehension of accused persons. They forcefully released some of the accused who were taken into custody by the State police in the Periye case, according to the CBI. The district unit of the party has questioned the CBI findings in the case and called it politically motivated. It is a specious argument. The origins of the CBI inquiry were due to a judicial process, that went through three stages. Irrespective of the merits of the CPI(M)’s claim of being a victim of violence by political opponents, it is the duty of the State government to protect the lives and liberty of citizens, and ensure speedy justice through due process in incidents of violence, whether or not these have political motivations.