KOZHIKODE: The spat between Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and state Congress president K Sudhakaran over an incident that happened on the campus around 50 years ago has brought into sharp focus the politics of vengeance in Kannur, which many from outside the district find it difficult to digest. Many had asked as to why Pinarayi had spent so much time to elaborate on a trivial incident at the official news conference.
But political observers who have been watching the developments for decades say there is nothing surprising in the outbursts of the political leaders hailing from the same turf. Major political parties often cater to the demand from the cadre to take a ‘tit-for-tat’ stand. Leaders with aggressive postures instantly win the hearts of people while saner voices are often drowned in the cacophony.
“As part of reporting, I had visited the house of a party worker who was killed in the political violence in Kannur. Amidst wailing, the women in the house were angrily asking the party workers to retaliate the murder,” said senior journalist N P Rajendran.
There is a misconception that it was the leaders who drive the hapless cadre to violence. “It is not true at least in some instances. I have heard that workers of a political party staged a dharna inside the party office demanding retaliation. The party had restrained the cadre not to go for attack. It was the stubbornness of the cadre that prevailed in the end,” said Rajendran, who hails from Thalassery. It is said that memorials and bus shelters erected in the name of the martyrs at every nook and corner of the district keep the bloody memories alive.
Sometimes, martyrs’ day observance becomes an occasion to renew the pledge to retaliate. It is very difficult to get out of the vicious circle of attack and retaliation. “At the news conference Pinarayi forgot that he is a chief minister and became a true CPM leader from Kannur. The particular action he did 50 years ago became the most important thing for him at that moment,” said Fr Scaria Kalloor, chairman of People’s Movement for Peace in Kannur.
“A deadly combination of ideology that promotes violence, a system that supports it and a cultural context makes Kannur different from other parts of Kerala. What counts for a political leader here is not what he did for society but the so-called heroic position he took against the rivals,” said Fr Scaria, who had visited the houses of the victims of violence several times as part of the peace initiative.
“Political criminals are held in high esteem in Kannur. They are the special invitees in party conferences and all their needs are taken care of by party while they are in jail. They are looked upon as heroes who did some great thing,” he said.
“Sudhakaran thinks that he is elevated to the new post because of his aggressive posture and Pinarayi has given an indirect signal that there is nothing wrong in attacking opponents. The message both conveyed is very dangerous,” Fr Scaria said.
“Basically, it is the quality of leaders that decides politics to a great extent. There were leaders like C Kannan and O Bharathan in CPM whose names are not at all linked with these kinds of violence. So are Congress leaders like K Kelappan and C K Govindan Nair,” said Churayi Chandran, former leader of the CMP, formed by the dissident CPM leader M V Raghavan.
“Some Congress leaders had publicly admitted that the attack on communist leader Moyarath Sankaran was wrong. But CPM has not done any such rethinking, though they might have done self-criticism inside the party,” he said.
NOT ALL ARE BAD APPLES
Churayi Chandran, former leader of the CMP, believes that majority of the party workers in Malabar are selfless and totally committed and ready to do anything for the party. “The leadership should not get swayed by the momentary emotions of the cadre; they should provide proper direction instead of playing to the galleries,” he said.