Kannur, a northern district in Kerala, is now infamous for its series of political murders, spanning over a period of several decades. From the 1960s till date, more than 220 lives have been lost in the political violence witnessed in Kannur. Hundreds of mothers, wives and children mourn the untimely death of their dear ones, while politicians are happy making martyrs out of them.

The district, which was once famous for its handloom, beedi and plywood manufacturing units, has catapulted into limelight because of ghastly political murders, thanks to the insensitivity of politicians and also the quasi-intellectual leaders who react at the drop of a hat.

Instances of political violence are not uncommon across Kerala. However, what makes the situation different in Kannur is that the violence is unending and is mostly between the two archrivals - the CPM and RSS. The LDF and the UDF come to power alternately in the state, and naturally an outsider might assume them to be the perennial enemies. But except for one or two incidents, it’s the CPM and the RSS who have been the real foes when it comes to political violence in Kerala.

The political violence in Kannur started as early as the 1960s.

The CPM in Kerala has always been controlled by its Kannur cadre. In the turf war with the CPM in Kannur, the Congress and other parties more or less accepted defeat a long time ago, while the RSS kept fighting back and trying to retaliate in the same coin.

With the influence of RSS increasing in Kerala from the 1960s to 1970s, a string of murders of Sangh workers happened in different parts of the state, followed by RSS’s counter killings. While the violence did not persist in other places, the Sangh attracted more and more youth into their fold in Kannur, and the killing spree continued in the district. RSS’s foray into the monopoly of trade unions of CPM, and the exodus of their cadre into the saffron party - especially after the Emergency, made the CPM cadre desperate, resulting in them murdering deserters and led to the resultant retaliation by the RSS.

Kannur, known as a Marxist citadel, has given birth to renowned communist leaders such as AK Gopalan, KPR Gopalan and Azhikodan Raghavan.

However, the party leadership became intolerant in the last few decades, establishing violence in the form of party villages or ‘gramams’, where only the writ of the party runs. Even dissent within is crushed ruthlessly, as we've witnessed with the RMP.

According to Umesh Babu, who was a CPM worker in Kannur once and was  later expelled, the party has a system where trained killers are kept in the background. These hitmen come to the fore when they are called for, though senior leaders never contact them directly. After a murder, they are given protection in the party gramams, where even the police are scared to enter and do a thorough probe.

The party then gives the names of willing party workers as culprits with the connivance of corrupt police officers. Party arranges a team of efficient advocates, and culprits are let loose without much difficulty. In case they are punished, the party gives hefty compensation to their families, and they also get to live like VIPs in jail. Apart from the CPM, the RSS and the IUML are also said to have developed party gramams in Kannur and neighbouring districts in the last few years.

Though most of the murders have been brutal, two cases attracted widespread attention 

BJP’s KT Jayakrishnan Master, who was brutally killed in front of his students in 1999, and RMP’s TP Chandrasekharan, who was hacked to death in 2012, werre two of the most infamous murders in Kannur in the last two decades. Chandrasekharan's body had 51 ante-mortem injuries, most of them on his face.

After the LDF came to power last year, the spurt in violence has increased even further. Eight political murders have taken place in the district in the past year, the latest being that of RSS worker Choorakkad Biju. The BJP has urged the Governor to impose the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). The onus now is on the LDF and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to make an effort from their side to end these wanton killings.

It is a pity there has been no action from the civil society to prevent the political violence in Kannur, while the so-called elites have also kept a criminal silence in the matter. How many more lives will be lost in Kannur? Only time will tell.