The sickle and hammer, the Marxists' proletarian symbol, have bloody
meanings in Kannur. They are weapons that the
Marxist and Sangh Parivar cadres use in this violence-prone
northern district of Kerala.
During elections, revenge political killings, bomb
blasts and attacks on police patrol teams used to be the order of the day in
Kannur's villages. But now that the Election Commission has deployed dozens
of companies of para-military forces across the district, the political mayhem is
in control, at least for the time being.
But the decades-long rivalry has made Kannur a hotbed of politically-inspired killings.
The result of the ferocious political rivalry is that village after village in Kannur lives in fear as election day approaches.
The district administration, which has requested the EC to
send additional para military forces to Kannur, seems to have lost the count of the dead in the last two decades. "The number of political murders could be certainly more than 200 over the years,"
says a senior police officer.
K Sudhakaran, Congress candidate from Kannur, claims the CPI-M has let loose its cadres with all kinds of weapons "to terrorise and kill people".
"The Marxists are utilising their symbol in Kannur to murder innocents and political
opponents," Sudhakaran alleged.
Sudhakaran, who has escaped numerous attempts on his life allegedly by CPI-M
cadres, claims the Marxists have unleashed the violence because they are losing their clout in the district, known as the citadel of the Communist movement in Kerala.
Historically, Kannur has remained the hotbed of communism. Many villages in
the sprawling district are today better known as "party villages" belonging either to the
CPI-M or the RSS.
"Our support base in Kannur has made political opponents jealous. We have always remained the number one political party in Kannur. But the RSS leadership is perpetuating violence to discredit our party," claims CPI-M leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, the candiate from Thalassery.
Balakrishnan says CPI-M workers are peace loving. "The RSS and BJP have exploited the people with a communal agenda in Kannur. They are pumping money and thugs into Kannur to eliminate our cadres," he points out.
Violence began in Kannur in the 1970s, when the RSS's influence began to rise in the area. Communal clashes followed. RSS and CPI-M cadres attacked each other in a two-week orgy of violence in 1981 that left 24 dead: 12 from the RSS and 12 from the CPI-M.
Since then the cycle of violence has continued unabated, despite innumerable
peace initiatives. In the last five years, under the CPI-M rule, some
4,000 incidents of political violence and 68 killings have been officially recorded.
"This is a huge number. Nowhere in the country, except for Bihar perhaps, does
this kind of political violence takes place," says social activist K N Sridharan
Pillai in Thalassery.
He says in the Lok Sabha elections in 1999, Bihar recorded the largest number
of incidents of electoral violence. "But Kannur was second with 168 cases of booth capturing and other electoral malpractices," Pillai points out.
These days, CPI-M and RSS workers are working overtime to ensure that
Kannur keeps up its record. Thus a large number of country-made bombs are manufactured in village houses of party activists; crude weapons are specially made and parties have created
special "hit-squads" to whip up violence and frenzy on election day.
"Already we have recovered a large number of country-made bombs and crude
weapons from party workers' houses. Search operations will continue to ensure that
poll violence does not hit Kannur this time," assures the young Kannur
Superintendent of Police Manoj Abraham.
As Kannur goes to poll under heavy security cover everyone is hoping that political violence, murders and reprisals do not happen during this assembly election.
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