Focus

Kerala clashes expose CPM’s secular façade

By Riyas Tanur

Kozhikode: Sporadic break-outs of political clashes in Nadapuram in Vadakara Taluk of Kozhikode (Calicut) district in Kerala since past four decades have so far claimed more than a dozen lives, maimed hundreds, and have caused destruction to the tune of several crores.  The victims of the clashes between cadres of CPI (M) and Indian Union Muslim League have always been Muslims and backward classes.

Since 1970s, CPI (M) played communal politics unlike anywhere else in India, and most often Indian Union Muslim League played well into their traps. Major riots of 1987-89, 2000-01 and the minor riots that followed have left irreparable loss to the Muslim community, both physical and social.

The recent clashes began with the murder of a CPM youth called Shibin (19) by a group of Muslim Youth League members at night on 22 January at Thuneri near Nadapuram. Losing no time, the CPM cadres unleashed an orgy of destruction against the Muslim community in the locality. The aim it seemed was to loot and burn the maximum number of households in minimum time.  They started the attacks with a late night steel-bomb attack on a Muslim house in the night of 22 January. Next day, CPM declared hartal in the area.

Since Nadapuram is already a communally-sensitive area, it has a special police patrolling system unlike anywhere in Kerala. In the morning itself a large police force including ADGP, Rural Police Chief and other officials of higher rank arrived in the area.  Before Shibin’s body was brought to Nadapuram from Calicut Medical College, which is 60 kms from Nadapuram, three Muslim houses were attacked in Vellur, a nearby village while the police stood by, watching. While the body was being carried to the funeral ground in a procession attended by prominent CPM leaders and a massive number of people, they shouted provocative slogans. If the police had intervened in time, further arson, destruction and looting could have been prevented but they didn’t.  On their way, it is believed, members of RSS coming in pickup vans and other vehicles joined them to spread the attacks on Muslims shops, offices of Muslim parties and vehicles of Muslim institutions. They targeted everything that is “Muslim” regardless of the victims’ political or ideological leanings.
 
Pre-planned, North-Indian Style

It became clear that the attack was preplanned when the funeral procession reached Vellur near Thuneri.  What followed was the complete destruction of Muslim properties within a radius of two kilometers.  Muslim houses were marked with red flags and other houses with black to identify one from the other. Victims say that the attackers came in three groups.  Most of the Muslim men had fled the area fearing retaliation and some were out for Friday prayer. Only women and children stayed home hoping that police would come to their rescue. The first group, around 25-30 men, some were masked and some were not, pelted stones at houses. This first round was to scare those in the houses and to make them flee. Police, instead of stopping them, only played the role of passive onlookers.

There is strong circumstantial evidence that there was a sort of understanding between some police officers and CPM leaders. Not long after the first team left, came the second team carrying weapons and forcefully looting gold ornaments worn by women and children and carrying away everything valuable in the houses. Reportedly, a total of 5 kilograms of gold ornaments, worth around 1.3 crore rupees, were looted along with large amounts of money, smart phones and costly electronic items. The attackers simply took everything they could and destroyed what they could not. It has even been reported that a woman was robbed while she was being taken to hospital unconscious in a police vehicle.

Mysterious Chemical Powder

The third team came with an unknown chemical powder and used it as catalyst for quick arson. They were meticulous and carried away the gas cylinders to avoid injury to themselves. They destroyed the wells dumping in them household items they could not take away. Most of the domestic wells in the area still remain unusable. Many vehicles were torched. At the end of the orgy, around 80 houses had only outer walls left while everything inside was destroyed. Some of those houses were worth anything from 25 lakh to one crore and 50 lakh rupees. During the attack, a woman jumped from the first floor of her residence with two children. These children have not yet started speaking since the incident. About 18 children are undergoing psychiatric treatment for shock of witnessing the brutal attacks.

Destruction of this magnitude in such a short period was never seen earlier in Kerala. Use of a similar chemical has been reported previously in an incident in which a Muslim owned textile showroom was destroyed causing a loss of Rs one crore almost a year ago in Nadapuram town.  Police and forensic officials say that this special chemical is used for fast burning. Such chemical was earlier used in the Gujarat pogroms of 2002.

KPCC President V M Sudheeran and K Sudhakaran, former Congress MP, have demanded special investigation into the carnage.  State home minister, Ramesh Chennithala, seems to agree but nothing has come through.

Helpless IUML  

Curiously, the police neither stopped the criminals nor recorded the attacks while everything was taking place in front of their eyes. Only later, after protests from the victims, both the Chief Minister and Home Minister visited the place and announced a paltry compensation while earlier the UDF government had announced a compensation of Rs 25 lakh to the parents of the murdered youth.

This was an unprecedented move in the history of political clashes in the state. At the same time, Muslims have lost more than 40 crores in the attacks. All this happened  despite the fact that the Indian Union Muslim League has five ministers and twenty MLAs in the current ruling dispensation. They have failed to bring relief and ensure justice to the victims and have received much flak from their own ranks itself. It is also believed that there is a tacit understanding between CPM and IUML local leaders to hush up the clashes to protect their respective political fiefdoms. In the past too they made secret settlements, letting the culprits go scot free.

While all the IUML activists allegedly involved in the murder were arrested, even after one month, only 48 out of around 800 CPM cadres have been arrested for burning and looting of a whole area.  Of these 48, 45 are CPM members, two belong to RSS and one to CPI which is suggestive of the nature of the grouping. Arrests are being delayed due to the pressure from RSS and CPM. Police recovered some ornaments and mobile phones from two CPM members.

Political parties like SDPI are holding protest programmes like highway march, rallies and protests against the inaction of police and the state government.

The latest incidents show that the factors that keep Nadapuram communally volatile will remain as such in future. CPM will play  the Hindu communal card and IUML will go along with backroom political games while Muslims and BCs of all political hues will continue to be at the receiving end.            

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 March 2015 on page no. 1

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