On a moral and ethical level, it is not at all good to seek any benefit from a tragic incident, as gruesome as the murder of TP Chandrasekharan. But on a practical and philosophical level it is imperative that we seek positive outcomes from any adversity and TP murder should be no exception.
The investigation so far is reiterating the popular belief that this murder was political and carried out at the behest of Communist Party of India -Marxist (CPM). Such political murders are anything but new in those parts of Kerala. However, the manner in which this murder of an upcoming popular leader was conducted, wherein there were as many as 51 cuts on his face and head alone, left a very bad taste in the psyche of common people. The arrogant and distasteful reactions from the official leadership of CPM only exacerbated those feelings.
Barring the eternal rebel VS Achudanathan, the entire official leadership of CPM challenged the popular belief that TP was murdered by his erstwhile colleagues in CPM. CPM leaders, especially those belonging to the infamous Kannur Lobby were quick to explain that the murder had nothing to do with CPM or its cadres and in fact the Secretary of Kannur District Committee even named Mr PC George, the Chief Whip of Kerala assembly, as the brain behind the conspiracy and murder! Later the accusations kept changing from religious fanatics to mysterious businessmen to Congress scripts etc. However, the media attention and the public perception refused to die down in this case, unlike in the precious instances of similar murder. The pressure on Party was only increased by VS’s occasional verbal firings aimed at Kannur Lobby.
Usually when a political murder takes place in Malabar, the leadership of accused Party gives a list of its workers whom Police charge with the offence of murder. They either get absolved of the charges for want of evidence or get protected inside the jail by party machinery. Their families are looked after by the Party outside the jail. The real killers, who are the prized assets of the parties, are not exposed to any investigation. Also at no time, the inquiry or public opinion leads to the leaders of the respective parties. TP murder was an exception. The inquiry soon pointed to involvement of important leaders of CPM and some of them were even arrested and remanded.
Day by day, it was becoming difficult for the leadership of CPM to hold on to their theory of innocence. Impending Neyyattinkara By-election only contributed to their discomfort. VS was tightening the screws on the leadership. In the typical VS style, he managed to put entire blame on the Kannur Lobby and was getting ready to once again become a hero for the gullible public of Kerala.
People like me who are very concerned and disturbed about the frequent political murders taking place in the Malabar area in particular were hopeful that the unprecedented public opinion and media attention on the TP murder might lead to a very positive outcome- the unearthing of conspiracy and party leaders’ role in a murder. Most people believe that only when the powerful leaders behind conspiracy are brought to book these murders will end in Malabar (For more on the TP murder please read my post “Yet Another Political Murder and Some 'Reactionary' Thoughts”).
Mani Enters the Scene
That was when the powerful Secretary of Idukki district committee of CPM, Mr MM Mani, blasted an atom bomb. In a public meeting, while explaining to the workers that CPM was not involved in TP murder, he claimed that murdering political opponents was nothing new for CPM and they have no problem in owning it up whenever they do it. As an example of this ‘transparency’ of CPM, he mentioned three killings of Congress workers in early 1980s, wherein he claimed that these were the first 3 people from a list of 13 Congress workers who tried to create an INTUC trade union and were marked by CPM for elimination. He went on to describe graphically how each of these was killed. “First was shot dead, second was beaten to death and third was stabbed to death” thundered Mr Mani.
The speech, which was recorded on camera by a local Cable TV channel, came to light by next day and it was all over the news media of Kerala. Since the recordings of the speech were being aired there was no way to deny the speech. Mani was interviewed by journalists and he told them that he stood by his speech. However, admittedly there was pressure from party leadership and he was forced to issue a press note, expressing regret for his speech. Please note that he did not correct or deny any facts but only regretted having spoken in a manner that led to ‘misunderstandings’ about the Party!
Why this Kolaveri, Mani?
Mani is no minion in CPM or Kerala politics. He started out as VS’s favourite in the faction wars of CPM. However, as Pinarayi Vijayan (PV) got control over the party apparatus Mani changed his loyalties and became a prominent member of PV camp. He successfully took on VS, when the latter tried to evict the land grabbers of Munnar, a prominent tourist destination of kerala and Mani’s area of action.
While he is known for his irreverent style of speaking, no one expected him to be foolish enough to admit to murders in public, that too when his party was on the defensive on this very issue. Even PV, the State Secretary did not deny what Mani said. He only censured Mani for deviating from the Party line in speaking about these murders! Pinarayi chose not to deny categorically any role of the Party in those murders.
Was it an innocent slip of tongue by an old man? I do not think so. I strongly believe that Mani was out on a mission to save his beleaguered leader and the Kannur lobby. Mani knows if they could get away in the initial murder probe, it is very difficult at this later stage to collect enough evidence to punish him or anyone else for those murders. He may undergo some difficulty in the short run. But eventually he will escape from any serious consequences.
Then what is the aim of this outburst? Well, I believe that it was consciously done with two clear objectives in mind.
Firstly, it checkmates VS Achudanathan, who was the State Secretary at the time of those murders. VS cannot absolve himself from the liability for Party preparing a list of people to be killed and then executing it, while he was in charge. In other words, if Pinarayi is responsible for TP’s murder (as accused by VS) then VS is responsible for many more murders committed during his watch! If the re-investigation into these murders proceeds further, VS may even have to be questioned by the Police.
It may be pertinent to note that, in the very same speech Mani had blamed VS in such stringent language that is unusual for a CPM leader while he is talking about a senior leader from the Party.
Second objective is to divert attention from TP murder case. If you look at the Malayalam News Papers, you can see that diversion of focus from TP murder has already happened. Everyone is talking about Mani and his speech. As we already noted, that damages VS more than PV. When the attention is shifted, the heat is likely to be off the leaders who were directly involved in TP murder and hopefully police will go slow and let them off the hook! There are enough friends of PV in the UDF government and Kerala Police who will be more than willing to oblige him in such a tight situation.
CPM has never been in such a bad light in Kerala. The challenge this time is not limited from public opinion alone. Cadres are seen openly challenging the party by participating in public functions organised to commemorate TP. VS will have to be tackled as soon as the by-election is over. Political pundits are even predicting a split in the Party.
Under these circumstances, the two objectives above are critical for the very survival of CPM in Kerala. Mani seems to have, like a true loyal cadre, sacrificed himself to save his Party. Mark my words; he will come back a winner in this whole episode.
The losers will be people of Kerala, and particularly of Malabar, if the conspirators of TP murder manages to get off the hook! We should not let the possible positive outcomes of the TP's murder be lost to a political gimmickry from a shrewd politician like Mani. Therefore, it is imperative for the media and public to understand these political games and keep the pressure on for a free, fair and efficient investigation in the TP murder case.