32 years ago, CPI-M activists hacked off both the legs of Sadanandan Master, a former party member who moved over to the RSS.
Master learnt to walk using prosthetic legs and rebuilt his life.
Today he is the BJP candidate in the highly sensitive Koothuparamba constituency in Kannur.
He told Shobha Warrier/Rediff.com his story.
Over six feet tall and smiling, that is Sadanandan Master, left, for you. He is the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate from the highly sensitive Koothuparamba constituency, where political murders are common.
Master is a victim of such political violence. In 1994 when he was 30 years old, both his legs were chopped off by Communist Party of India-Marxist members. It took him six months to start walking again with prosthetic legs.
Though door-to-door campaigning has been difficult, Master is trying hard to meet people and tell them his story.
Master, 52, (or 'Maash' as he is called in the area) tell his story of how a young Students Federation of India leader from a family of Communists became a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh worker and now a BJP candidate.
I grew up in a small village near Mattannur in Kannur, in a very politically active family.
My father, a primary school master, was a Communist and my elder brother was in charge of the student wing at the zilla level. I too joined the student wing and became an active member.
It was when I was studying for my degree course that I started moving away from the SFI. The main reason was the way the party conducted itself on the college campus.
I saw party leaders coming to the campus and instigating students to indulge in violence during college elections. I couldn't somehow agree to this kind of violence.
It was during this troubled period that I got attracted to the RSS, all because of some of my friends in college. I moved from the Left to the Right ideologically.
What made me finally take the plunge was an article by the well-known poet Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri, Bharatiya Darshanam in Mathrubhumi weekly. Sitting in the public library in my village and reading the essay was a defining moment in my life.
My village was the stronghold of the Communist party and there was no RSS Sangham (branch) in our village. There was a Sangham outside our village where many youngsters were very active. When they came to our village and arranged a Raksha Bandhan programme only 10, 15 people attended.
After reading several books written by followers of the RSS, I came to the conclusion that this was the path I wanted. Though my father was a Communist at heart, due to differences with the other party members especially about violence the party was involved with, he had withdrawn from the party.
Though my father was initially horrified to see the change in me and was not happy with my RSS activities, he did not openly criticise me. My brother too was against me.
Slowly, I started seeing changes in the attitudes of my father, my brother, my mother and my four sisters. I didn't have to brainwash them; the changes that had taken place in me influenced them too. Today, my elder brother, who has retired from teaching, is the Mattanur constituency president of the BJP.
My friends who were with the Communist party advised me against joining the RSS. Senior party members met my father and asked him to advise me. They told me nicely not to do what I was doing.
When they discovered I would not budge, the tone changed. Advice became threats when along with some friends I started an RSS Sangham in our village in 1984. I was studying for my final year degree then.
I started getting threats all the time, but I ignored them and continued working for the RSS.
In 1992, after completing my BEd, I joined as a primary school master in our village. In September 1993, during a CPI-M sponsored bandh, the Communists destroyed the bus shelter and a cement bench we had built at the main village junction. This resulted in a skirmish between the RSS and the Marxists.
When I heard about this, I went there and told the Marxist leaders that what they did was wrong. They physically attacked me and the others with me. They didn't hurt us badly, but enough to get admitted to hospital.
Everything was quiet till January 1994.
My sister's wedding was fixed for February 13. I had gone to see our uncle on January 25. After meeting him, I came back by bus. I got down at the Uruvachal bazaar stop from where I had to walk around a kilometre-and-a-half to reach my home.
It must have been around 8.15 or so at night.
I heard an explosion followed by another. Because it was a bazaar, I heard people shouting and running. The next moment, I felt some people grabbing me from behind. I was pinned down onto the road. I didn't know what was happening. I felt something happened to my leg but didn't feel anything; no pain, nothing. They did all this while pressing me hard on the ground without making any noise. Finally I heard them say, 'Enough, let's go.'
After they left, I sat up slowly. To my horror, I saw that they had chopped off both my legs below the knees, and they had thrown one leg away. I didn't feel any pain but was bleeding profusely.
I cried for help, but there was nobody anywhere near. A couple of vehicles passed by. On seeing my condition, one man cried loudly, got into the car and sped away. I think I sat there for at least 15 minutes bleeding myself to death, almost.
The police came and took me to hospital. I lost consciousness on the way.
I had to be taken to the Kozhikode Medical College and was operated on for more than six hours.
Today I laugh whenever I recall the incident, but at that time I was in a state of shock. Because of the kind of support I got from fellow RSS members and leaders including K S Sudarshanji (the then RSS Sarsanghchalak) and my mental strength, I came out of the shock quite fast.
Remember I was just 30 then. The doctors treating me confidently assured me that I would soon be able to walk with artificial limbs.
After two months of treatment at the medical college and another four months for the wound to heal, the doctors fixed the Jaipur Foot on my legs.
It was extremely painful when I first started walking with artificial limbs. They were heavy too. I was not bothered about the wound bleeding when I first started walking. I only wanted to walk. My mind was preoccupied with so many things that there was no moment for self-pity.
It is true that I felt extremely angry with those who did this to me in the prime of my youth. Then I realised that I should not feel angry with those who did such a cruel thing to me because they were just doing what the party leadership had asked them to do.
In retaliation for what happened to me, Sudheesh, an SFI leader who was known to me, was killed. I don't agree with such retaliatory killings at all. When I came to know about his murder, I said that it was an unfortunate incident to happen.
Once I started walking, I worked with the Janmabhumi magazine for two-and-a-half years before joining a school in Thrissur in 1999. I have been teaching social science there since then.
In May 1995, I got married to Vanitha, the girl who studied with me for BEd. We had decided to live together before the accident. After the incident, I tried to dissuade her, but she was very firm in her decision. Today, our daughter is studying engineering in Thrissur.
I was working as the state vice-president of the teachers association and the editor of the magazine we publish for teachers for the last couple of years when the BJP asked me to be a candidate.
It came as a surprise to me. Perhaps the party wanted me to be the symbol of the kind of intolerant politics that we see here in Kannur.
I told them that I needed some time to decide. Given my condition I couldn't be physically that active. When they showed keenness, I could see the spirit behind having me as a candidate. I do walk around and campaign, but not like the others. I have to take many breaks in between.
I make people aware that all of us have to have the freedom to express our views and it is denied to most of us in these parts. I tell them that I am a victim of such intolerance.
Problems start when the CPI-M refuses to allow us to start RSS Sanghams in the villages which they consider as their bastion. When we open Sanghams despite strong opposition, they attack us like this. This is the modus operandi of the Marxist party.
Their argument is that if there are no Sanghams, there will not be any violence. How can this be possible?
Is it not our right to do what we want? They murder not only people from the RSS, but anyone who leaves their party.
When we open a Sangham in a village, they attack us. Soon our people retaliate. I know this cannot go on forever.
We have to coexist and not kill each other. There should not be any political violence in a civilised society.
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj for Rediff.com