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November 1, 1999


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Kannur: A small Bihar in God's own country

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George Iype in Kannur

One bomb explosion a day. Five violent clashes a day. Two murders in a month.

Kannur's crime record in past one year has ensured that this northern district of Kerala is now competing with Bihar as far as political violence is concerned.

Frequent political murders, revenge killings, bomb explosions and continuing gang rivalries in Kannur have made this small corner of God's own country a virtual killing field. If hundreds fall prey in fights between the low castes and the upper castes, the landed and the landless in Bihar, Kannur's story is a little different.

The fight in Kannur is between the Marxists and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh; the Marxists and the Congress; and the Marxists and the Muslim League.

The Communist Party of India (Marxists), that leads the Left Democratic Front government in the state, being the common accused party in all the cases of violence.

The bomb culture, so far unknown to the Malayalees, has taken such a vicious turn that the victims of the political violence are often not just politicians. They are children, women and even animals.

Last month, two kids who were playing on the Thalassery beach picked up a ball. Happy at the new catch, the children began playing their favourite game of cricket. But as soon as one boy bowled, the ball blasted, severely hurting the other. He ended up in hospital with 70 per cent burns. The police later said the ball was a country-made bomb.

In the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections, Bihar recorded the largest number of incidents of electoral violence. But Kerala recorded the second largest with Kannur leading the way with a whopping 160 cases of booth capturing and such other electoral malpractices.

In Panur, the family of K Kannappan was startled out of their sleep when a coconut fell on the roof. But no sooner than they got up, the house was ablaze with an explosion. Some local Marxist workers had hurled crude bombs at the house in an attempt to kill Kannappan, an active RSS leader. Some of the maimed family members are still battling for life.

In Iritty, an elephant stepped on a crude bomb, apparently planted by some political activists to scare the people. The explosion ripped the elephant's cheek.

Ever since the political hostilities started between the CPI-M and other parties in the district way back in 1980, some 119 people have been killed, according to police records. Ever since the E K Nayanar government came to power in 1996, some 25 RSS workers and 20 CPI-M activists have died in clashes. Besides the killings, more than 300 people have been maimed in over 2,500 clashes.

The political hostility and frequent revenge killings in Kannur are worrying because the ruling CPI-M and the RSS leaders have spurned a peace initiative by a citizens' forum.

"The vicious circle of hatred and violence is continuing in Kannur because political parties are irresponsible," says Justice Krishna Iyer, leader of the peace initiative organised by the Forum for Social Justice, a voluntary group.

On October 27, Justice Iyer and his team toured the violence-prone Kannur areas, talked to the local people and sat with leaders of all political parties to bring them together. "It is unfortunate that while they all supported our peace process, none of them promised to eschew violence and killings," Justice Iyer told

According to him, the culprits are not local leaders. "It is the state level and district political leaders who instigate local workers to chop off hands for hands and heads for heads," he said.

"The history of political violence can be traced back to the communal riots that engulfed Thalassery in 1971," says CPI-M's veteran leader V S Achuthanandan.

According to Achuthanandan, clashes between the CPI-M and the RSS-BJP workers started following large-scale riots when "we came to the rescue of the Muslim community."

"Our crime was that we protected the Muslim community. The RSS workers ruthlessly murdered CPI-M workers then. We were forced to retaliate," he said.

Achuthanandan says since then CPI-M workers have always been the targets of attacks by RSS-BJP leaders. "We will continue to retaliate if the RSS targets our cadres again and again," he said.

But the RSS leaders say the CPI-M claims of protection to Muslims are lies. "CPI-M leaders have been murdering innocent RSS workers because they fear that RSS-BJP presence in traditional Marxist areas is increasing," BJP Kannur district president P P Karunakaran said.

"CPI-M leaders like Achuthanandan and even Chief Minister E K Nayanar have been spewing venom at us. They are spreading the culture of violence by words and action," the BJP leader claimed.

"How can there be peace when the government run by the CPI-M itself presides over mayhem in Kannur" asks Karunakaran.

Locals say it is this deep hatred between the leaders of the CPI-M and the BJP-RSS that has caused to perpetuate the culture of violence.

According to R K Gopakumar, a retired IFS officer, in 1971 the CPI-M and RSS workers went on beheading spree for a month. "They agreed finally that that they would stop after beheading 24 people from each camp. Officially 48 people died in the worst political violence. I have never seen such absurd political violence anywhere in the world," Gopakumar said.

"The history of hatred and violence has not made the CPI-M and RSS workers see reason. It has only made them mad as years pass by," he rues.

Najim Moosa, a respected businessman in Kannur said the problem arises from the CPI-M's exaggerated view that their's is the only party capable of fighting the Hindutva forces in the country. "So they have turned Kannur into a killing field with the excuse that only through violence they can fight the BJP and the RSS,'' Moosa alleged.

Though CPI-M and BJP-RSS leaders have their own political compulsions to defend their respective local party cadres and continue with bomb explosions and revenge killings across Kannur, the Congress leaders insist that political murders can be at once stopped if the police is given a free hand.

"We want all political parties to co-operate with Justice Krishna Iyer's peace initiative. But I doubt if the CPI-M would agree to accept peace," says Mullappally Ramachandran, former union minister and MP from Kannur.

According to Ramachandran, the CPI-M cadres are resorting to violence because the Marxist leadership is frightened that other parties have branched out into what is considered the CPI-M stronghold. "Violence is the last resort of frightened people. CPI-M is using and sacrificing its cadres to ensure that Kannur remains its fiefdom," he said.

As Justice Iyer and his team get ready to talk to top leadership of the CPI-M, BJP-RSS and other parties, local people are hoping that an irresponsible bunch of political leaders would embrace peace.

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