The killing fields of Kerala
By SREELESH V K
TELLICHERRY, A costal town in Kannur district in north Kerala,
popularly known as Malabar, bleeds profusely these days with no
bandage around to stop spilling. The region is notorious for political
violence. Without knowing the happenings Arabian Sea washes its shore
as usual. The spate of violence this time round broke out on March 5
killing seven people so far. Though their blood is of same colour,
their political colours are of two, either red or saffron: The
Communist Party of India (Marxist) or Bharatiya Janata Party or Sangh
Parivar (read as RSS).
There are enough activists from both parties ready to give and take
blood. In the on-going violence RSS-BJP has lost 5 of its activists
and CPIM has lost 2 of its comrades; moreover, several others from
both parties are still in hospitals battling for life .No one knows
how many are yet to be sacrificed to the political deities of
Violence that continues for three days has thrown the common life out
of gear. People mostly sit before TV to know the toll which is usually
referred as “score” in the local parlance, as though it were a county
foot ball game. Fear has griped them to the spine for any one can get
killed. Except for the rare examples, in most cases people who get
killed are no more than mere sympathizers or rally hoppers. Yet the
killing spree that spans more than 30 years has no let up.
The run-down mortuary in government hospital here has so far seen
scores of maimed and mangled bodies. Each time somebody wounded in the
scuffle is taken to the hospital the victim’s political color is as
soon fixed. In this political laboratory of kerala testing political
colors of individuals are easier than litmus tests does with
chemicals. When the red is spilled, saffron is taken or Vice versa
.What follows then is the tongue lashing of a retinue of leaders that
can flare up the sensitive activists. Soon there will be reports
flooding from in and around tellichery about violence spreading.
Along side this there will start as DGP Ramansreevastava said target
killing with sporadic explosion of country-made bombs. A typical
murder has also something tellichery about it. Being target killing in
the beginning, a potential victim is tracked several days to make sure
his itinerary and movements. Things would take place as planed with
sudden attack rounding up the victim.
If onlookers ever try to interfere the assailants would hurl
country-made bombs. So people flee from the scene meanwhile the
assassins would also sneak away from the place, leaving the mangled
body on the wayside. In most cases victims die before being taken to
hospital with multiple stab injuries (approximately half a century of
cuts, scars and wounds) and often beheaded. Now things are prepared
for the worst as violence spreading in to in lands.
It is obvious that the villages mostly are fortress of either party so
the powerful would trammel all the political activities of the weak.
Hence, once the reports of murder spreads, party villages are likely
to witness either selective or mindless rival-hunt. There start serial
killings: when somebody from the weak-party-pocket is killed, the
activists of victim’s party would set score killing either key or
minor activist from their bastion. Almost every other cluster of
houses in a trouble-torn area has somebody killed at some point of
time in the thirty-year long violence. And violence so far has robed
more than 200 lives cutting across all party lines. So worst can
Things would take an ugly turn with ransacking the homes destroying
house hold goods, and marauding the party offices. When it is blown
out of proportion people prepare mentally for worst serial killings
and hartals. If the situation is too grim to stand male members of
each family in the trouble torn areas will seek safer places leaving
women and children behind. Top ranking activists at local level of
both parties would seek safety till the situation is good enough for
them to surface. Soon police raid will start for pre-emptive detention
of potential perpetrators. A notable feature is those who kill or get
killed belong to labour class with grade school education.
But walking the streets here you can not notice any trace of violence.
Only a few weeks ago there was a carnival organized by the civic body
here. It was much of a formal trite, despite hauling huge resource to
make it a big success. The cultural icons attending the functions
called for peace and love. Barely a few days after the program, a
youth, from the neighboring village was killed. What followed were the
hartals, counter attacks and vandalizing of public properties.
But people, in their self-contradictory style, move in the streets
here nudging each other with welcoming smiles. Shopping malls are
mushrooming all around, suffocating the dingy streets. The youths here
mostly enjoy modern life styles. They wear designer outfits, bike in
the street donning goggles and appear to be coming from Warner
brother’s movies. For all these sophistication there is no respite for
Sitting at the night table typing these words this wrier can hear from
the hotel room the sporadic explosions of country-made bombs from the
suburbs. The shrill of police vehicles and ambulances tent in the air.
Till now the news flashes on TV screens confirm seven murders, and
several critically injured ones. Fresh news of waylaying and target
attacks continue, perhaps will take the toll to the all time high in
this season. Here, violence never happens on a daily basis but mostly
surfaces after a lull of relative peace even in most trouble torn
At times a deceptive veil of peace comes causing people think things
are on a right foot. Then people believe that there is seemingly no
chance for any future outbreak of killing spree. It is then even the
hardcore activists who went on hiding during the violence begin to
move. No sooner do they find a whiff of civil life than there begins
violence. With out fail, there is routine peace meetings mostly
presided by either by law enforcement officials or District Collector,
and if the violence is so uncontrollable ministerial level talks
follow. No results whatever.
It was barely few hours ago, the clouds of violence loomed on the sky
here. An activist of RSS, P.Sumesh (38) was attacked late in the
afternoon at a sidewalk down town Tellichery. It was believed to be a
retaliatory action to the murder of five CPIM activists in four
months. A group of youths allegedly associated with CPIM swooned on
him. The critically injured youth was immediately rushed to Calicut
medical college, some 80 km off south.
In the counter attack that followed in the matters hours a rickshaw
driver Renjith (39) CPIM activist got killed on the wayside just a
mile off the first incident. This youth succumbed to wounds before
reaching the hospital. People began to desert the streets, shops
pulled down shutters, and an otherwise busy fish market wore a desert
look. What it was like a festive place turned out to be funeral in a
few hours time. BJP was to observe a 12 hour-long hartal in the
district. CPI (M) too declared hartal in and around tellichery town.
The police authority clamped curfew for one week. The common life came
to a stand still.
People in and around tellichery would eagerly be watching TV to know
details of the fresh bouts of violence. Some would buy meat and
alcohol for the hartal day. In a few hours time there will come
official communiqué telling Tellichery limping back to normalcy. The
next day sun will rise as fresh as usual; people would rush to work
place, as though nothing happened. There would be hushed snatches of
discussions about the nature of murder at coffee shops, wsayside Park
and work places. The police would set out arresting people who
probably have no close party affiliations. What followed it usually
are the street meetings of political parties being organized to
vindicate their actions and snub rivals. And also there will be appeal
to the public to react.
Tellicherry remains a riddle for the rest of the kerala. Its past was
more of artistic and literary leaving a wealth of contribution in
these areas by certain pioneering personalities: like Herman Gundert,
the great German Missionary who lived here compiling first Malayalam
dictionary and also publishing first news paper in this language,
O.Chandumenon, renowned Malayalam novelist, Sanchayan, great satirist
for all seasons. In the successive generation too there were
personalities who made people to think not to wield weapons. Pen was
rather a sword here not other way round. This metamorphosis needs
dispelling. So telling the story of tellicherry is nothing but
painting the portrait of a territory torn to pieces. There needs
piecing together of each piece.
Aneesh(32)CPIM activist at Poothur, Panoor was killed on march7 around
5:30 in the morning. His body was later recovered lying on the road by
police with multiple stab injuries. Suresh Babu(40)Iringal Pedika
Chokli was killed in his home before his relatives.
Mahesh 31 , A BIP activist killed at Chittariparambu 15Km off north
Eest of tellicherry, was attacked by a group of armed youths late in
the evening on march 6
Mangled bodies of youths taken to hospitals Tellicherry.
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