Is Kannur’s reputation as a violence-prone district unjustified? The State of Kerala believes it is. An affidavit filed in the High Court on behalf of the State government asserts that the law and order situation in the district is no different from that in the others.
The affidavit, signed by an Undersecretary in the Home department, is in response to the proceedings instituted suo moto by the court after disposing of the bail applications of the accused in a murder case from Kannur district.
The court action came in March while Kannur was in the grip of violence. Seven persons were killed in five days of violence involving workers of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Rashtreeya Swayamsevak Sangh in the district.
The violence abated after RSS cadres made retaliatory attacks on the CPI (M) headquarters in New Delhi and select party targets in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kanyakumari and Dehra Dun.
The widow of a National Development Front activist of Thalasseri approached the High Court alleging that her husband was killed by CPI (M) cadres as he had left the party and joined the NDF. She expressed lack of faith in the investigation by the State police and asked that the case be referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
The NDF is a Muslim organisation which the CPI (M) characterises as extremist.
Mr. Justice V. Ramkumar, who allowed the petition, observed that, if reports were to be believed, Kannur district, particularly Thalasseri, had over the years become the hotbed of political violence and carnage of the worst order. He added, “All political parties there seem to freely indulge in the cult of violence.”
Immediately after the RSS attacks on CPI (M) offices outside the State, the party’s Kannur district secretary P. Sasi, writing in People’s Democracy, the party journal, said, “The CPI (M) had never initiated violence and will not do so in the future either.” The operative word here is “initiated”. According to the party’s version, its members are merely “resisting” RSS attacks.
The RSS, too, claims its cadres are only resisting attacks. Writing in the RSS weekly, Organiser, a correspondent, S. Gopalakrishnan, said the CPI (M) launched attacks after several of its cadres moved to the RSS, and “determined RSS cadres started resisting the attackers”
Gopalakrishnan put the number of cadres lost by the two parties in three decades of violence at about 200. Sasi, in his article, mentioned only CPI (M) casualties. He said 53 party activists and sympathisers had been killed.
The self-serving accounts of the two parties reinforce Justice V. Ramkumar’s observation that “manslaughter is a competing sport” in Kannur district. Going beyond the issue raised in the petition before him, he expressed the hope that the Governor would inform the Centre of the “urgent need for a permanent prophylactic action”.
Kerala has the highest crime rate in the country. According to reports of the National Crime Records of Bureau, more than 300 crimes per 100,000 people are reported from the State each year. The national average is only about 170. Crimes against public order in the State number four to five times the national average.
But, according to the State government, Kannur is not the most crime-prone district in the State, as is widely believed.
In his affidavit, Undersecretary Joseph Rajan, cites statistical data to dispel the impression that the district is a killing field. He points out that Kannur reported only 257 murders in the last 10 years. Five districts had reported more murders: Thiruvananthapuram 507, Thrissur 437, Kollam 433, Palakkad 430 and Idukki 328.
The affidavit claims that most of the crimes in Kannur are the result of personal vendetta and family feuds, but are given a political complexion later. It, however, concedes that there have also been incidents precipitated by political enmity.
These figures may not suffice to wash off Kannur’s disrepute, which stems primarily from the political character and gruesome manner of the killings. Both the CPI (M) and the RSS have established machineries to sustain criminal enterprises.
The criminal operation is financed, managed and directed by the party system. The party function extends to dealing with the criminal justice system, providing assistance for families and defence counsel.
There have been occasions when CPI-M and RSS cadres clashed in jails too.
The CPI (M)’s role in Kannur violence attracts more attention now than before since the party’s State leadership is now in the hands of a group of leaders from that district. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, September 1, 2008.