CPI(M) In the Dock

The brutal killing of Comrade TP Chandrashekharan, Secretary of the Idathupaksha Ekopana Samithi (Left Coordination Committee, LCC) Kerala on the night of 4 May, has shocked democratic people in Kerala and all over the country. The circumstances of the murder raise disturbing questions about the CPI(M)’s complicity with the worst form of political violence.

Comrade TP Chandrashekharan had been a state-level SFI leader and formerCPI(M) Area Secretary of Onchiyam, one of the historicbirthplaces of the Left movement in Kerala.He left the CPI(M) in 2008, and in order touphold and defend the fighting Left movement, joined other likeminded comrades in forming the Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP). The Left Coordination Committee (LCC) was then formed along with RMP and other Left groups that had broken away from the CPI(M). The LCC Kerala is one of the founding constituents of the All India Left Coordination (AILC) that also includes the CPI(ML), CPM Punjab, Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) of Maharashtra, and Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM).

Comrade Chandrashekharan was hacked to death with sharp instruments, and his face so badly disfigured that only his body could be identified. Assailants threw bombs to keep people away from the spot.The horrific brutality of the killing was greeted with widespread outrage and condemnation in Kerala and outside.

Among the large number of public figures who paid final homage to Comrade Chandrashekharan at Kozhikode and Vadakara, were CPI(M)’s veteran leader Comrade VS Achutanandan and Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy. The former paid glowing tributes to Comrade Chandrashekharan, calling him a brave communist. Former CPI(M) MLA and SFI leader Simon Britto also paid tributes to the martyred comrade.

An all-party Kerala bandh called by a range of Left organisations (excepting the CPI(M)), and also by the ruling UDF, to protest the murder received a warm response. The CPI(M) has claimed that the murder was orchestrated to falsely implicate the CPI(M) in the murder in order to benefit the UDF on the eve of the by-poll in the Neyyattinkara Assembly constituency that is due in early June. But this claim appears far-fetched, given the recent history of similar attacks by CPI(M) on the RMP cadres, and the official CPI(M) leadership’s pointed distancing from any gesture of respect for the martyred comrade.

The CPI(M) is no stranger to the culture of political violence – and it is the CPI(M) which, above all, must answer for the heinous and unforgiveable murder of Comrade TP Chandrashekharan.

History of Past Attacks and Threats

The CPI(M) has tried to deny that it had a hand in Comrade Chandrashekharan’s murder. But this denial flies in the face of the fact that ever since theformation of the RMP and LCC Kerala, theircadres have been at the receiving end of physical attacks by the CPI(M).

As recently as February 19, not long before the CPI(M)’s Kozhikode Party Congress, a rally by LCC comrades preparing for the RMP’s Onchiyam area conference was attacked by CPI(M) cadres on motorbikes, followed by attacks on LCC offices. On the same day, CPI(M) State Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan had given a speech at a CPI(M) public meeting, warning that ‘heads would roll.’

On February 21, hired goons attacked the home of one LCC comrade and severely injured him with a sword. Comrade Chandrashekharan being hacked to death by hired goons is clearly no isolated instance – it follows a series of physical assaults and threats against the RMP by the CPI(M), including attacks of a very similar nature – i.e sword attacks by hired goons.

At the CPI(M)’s Party Congress Rally in Kozhikode, CPI(M) cadres had raised threatening slogans against the Revolutionary Marxist Party workers, one which can be translated as follows: “Let the Party Congress end/We have a program/A program with sword/A program with bomb/Don’t run scared then.”

With so many precedents, it is no surprise that the needle of suspicion points towards the CPI(M). As Comrade KK Madhavan, a senior leader of CPI(M)’s Balussery area committee leader, and father-in-law of the murdered RMP leader, said, “I cannot find fault with anybody who believes that the CPI(M) was behind his murder.”

Arrest of Local CPI(M) Leaders

The investigations by the police and Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the murder indicate links of local CPI(M) leaders with the murder. Among those arrested are Panayamkandy Ravindran, a member of CPI(M)’s Orkkatteri Local Committee, who the police say helped identify Comrade TP Chandrashekharan to the assassins; KC Ramachandran , CPI(M)’s Kunnummal Local Committee Member, who is reported to have confessed to the investigating team that he had given away Rs 50,000 as part payment to the killer gang,at the behest of someone in the Party; Vadakkayil Manoj , Branch Secretary, Meethale Kunnothuparambu Branch of CPI(M), and C Babu, Office Secretary in charge of the Area Committee Office, Koothuparambu (Kannur Dist).

But these local level leaders could hardly have taken the decision to arrange for the murder on their own, without directives from above. It remains to be seen if the police investigation will net only the small fish, or if it will catch the larger fish, the actual masterminds of this dastardly murder.

CPI(M) Insults Martyr

The official CPI(M) leadership in Kerala exposed its disrespect and contempt for Comrade Chandrashekharan even in death. Soon after the murder, the CPI(M) State Secretary PinarayiVijayan said that VS’ remarks hailing Comrade Chandrashekharan’s communist character were his personal opinion, which the CPI(M) would not care to endorse!

Later, Vijayan went further, branding Comrade Chandrashekharan and his RMP comrades as ‘renegades and traitors.’ He used the phrase ‘kulamkuththikal’ (betrayers of the clan) which conveys a feudal sense of ‘betrayed clan honour’ instead ofa political or ideological critique of another Left formation!

Veteran CPI(M) leader VS Achuthanandan has publicly denounced Vijayan’s comments, pointing out that the RMP comrades had left CPI(M) due ideological differences, which should be addressed by debate and persuasion rather than by branding them as traitors. VS said, “I am one of those 32 people who came out of the CPI national council in 1964 culminating our struggle against revisionist trends in the movement. We were dubbed as class enemies and betrayers by Dange then. Those who are calling the rebels as betrayers and renegades now are adopting the same autocratic approach.”

Why, in fact, is the RMP, a small Left formation, the target for CPI(M)’s relentless physical attacks? Why, even after such a dastardly murder, when Left and democratic forces and intellectuals like Mahasweta Devi are hailing Comrade Chandrashekhar as a brave communist who lived for the people, does CPI(M)’s official leadership insist on abusing him?

The answer lies precisely in the RMP’s communist character. A JyotiBasu can be lifelong friends with a Siddhartha Shankar Ray in spite of political rivalry and the latter’s infamous role in the witch-hunt and terror against communists in West Bengal. But the CPI(M) reserves its worst virulence for those who leave its ranks to offer an ideological critique and a political challenge, however small, from a Left perspective.

In Kerala, there are any number of leaders who have left CPI(M) to join the Congress and UDF. The RMP, by contrast, poses a challenge to CPI(M) from the Left, and that is what makes CPI(M) attack it with such ferocity. Wherever a Left formation offers an ideological and political challenge to the CPI(M), the CPI(M) has attempted to crush it with the worst barbarism.

There are many precedents for such political violence against the Left by the CPI(M). The Karanda massacre of 1993 is one of the most shameful instances. A section of CPI(M)’s rural poor mass base in West Bengal’s Bardhaman district had joined CPI(ML). To punish and terrorise them for shifting from CPI(M) to CPI(ML), the CPI(M) hacked five agrarian labourers to death at Karanda village near Bardhaman town on 31 May, on the day of panchayat polls.

In Onchiyam, though, there is said to be widespread resentment and uneasiness among CPI(M)’s rank and file regarding the murder of Comrade Chandrashekharan, who was held in very high regard by all local Left supporters. Hoardings accusing the CPI(M) official leadership of involvement in the murder are appearing even outside Kannur and Kozhikode, strongholds of the CPI(M). Local SFI-DYFI leaders have attended condolence meetings for Comrade Chandrashekharan, defying the party leadership’s official line. CPI(M), it seems, is having a hard time convincing its own comrades that Comrade Chandrashekharan was a ‘renegade and traitor’ to the Left movement.

The CPI(ML) demands that the political conspirators who organised this dastardly murder of a Left revolutionary be identified and punished at the earliest.

AILC Protests against Comrade Chandrasekharan’s Dastardly Killing

An AILC delegation comprising Comrades Mangat Ram Pasla, General Secretary of CPM (Punjab), Swapan Mukherjee and V Shankar, Central Committee Members of CPI(ML) visited Onchiyam, Vadakara and Kozhikode on May 11, 12 and expressed deep condolences and solidarity to the party and bereaved family of the martyred comrade TP Chandrasekharan (TPC), the secretary of Left Coordination Committee (LCC) in Kerala.

Despite the gruesome killing and the CPI(M)’s politics of intimidation, the family members and comrades of Com. TP remain ever more committed to the courageous path he had chosen in forming the RMP and joining the AILC to strengthen the Left movement in the country. During the delegation’s visit to their house at Onchiyam on May 11, they could witness the determination to fight back the politics of killing and intolerance. Visitors of various political hues, including Chief Minister Oomen Chandy and VS Achuthanandan of CPIM, have been visiting their house ever since the incident. VS was of course the lone CPI(M) leader to visit the family.

On the same evening, at the LCC organized condolence meeting in Vadakara town hall, people turned out in huge numbers despite heavy downpour. CPI(M) party activists too turned out in good numbers defying party dictates. Com. N Venu, the newly elected Onchiyam secretary of RMP (Revolutionary Marxist Party), presided over the meeting.

Com. Swapan Mukherjee condemned the killing in unequivocal terms and said that such killings can never halt the onward march of alternative and genuine Left movement in Kerala and in the country. He said that a clique of corrupt and degenerate leadership has taken over the CPIM party affairs in Kerala. CPI(M), instead of mobilizing Left and democratic forces as declared by their party Congress, is, in fact, acting against the genuine and alternative Left. He also called upon the people to rejuvenate the Left movement by upholding the legacy of historic struggles of Punnapra Vayalar and Onchiyam.

Com. Mangat Ram Pasla deplored and denounced the growing intolerance within the CPI(M) leadership and their reliance on intimidation and killings and refusal to face the growing ideological-political debate against the CPI(M)’s departure from the principles of the Left movement and surrender to neo-liberal policies. He said the CPI(M) had unsuccessfully tried similar means in Punjab too to try and stop the CPM Punjab which has emerged as a stronger alternative to the official CPI(M) unit in Punjab. The condolence meeting was also addressed by leaders of various political parties barring CPI(M) and also by Left and democratic intellectuals in the district.

The AILC delegation along with comrades Hariharan and KumaranKutty addressed the press on May 12.

This was followed by an impressive convention of political and cultural activists at Calicut condemning the killing of Com. TPC. People from all walks of life and with various political affiliations participated in the meet. Renowned writer Mahasweta Devi inaugurated the convention. Speaking on the occasion, Com. Mangat Ram Pasla asserted that TPC was not a ‘traitor’ as Vijayan wants to portray him but a brave fighter upholding the legacy of the communist movement in Kerala.

The state convener of Left Coordination Committee (LCC), Kerala, Com. KS Hariharan presided over the meet. Minister for Panchayat and Social Welfare MK Muneer, Socialist Janata (Democratic) leader MP Veerendrakumar and writers from various parts of the State attended the programme.

Comrades Hariharan, state convener, Kumaran Kutty and Prakashan, state leaders of LCC, John K Erumeli, state secretary, Venugopal and Joy Peter, State Leading Team Members of CPIML in Kerala, Javaraiah, State Leading Team member of CPI(ML) in Karnataka, Manju and Sunil of AICCTU of Karnataka also accompanied the visiting delegation.

The AILC leaders – Comrades Dipankar Bhattacharya, Mangat Ram Pasla, Bhimrao Bansode, RB Rai and KS Hariharan – have written to the CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat in the context of Comrade Chandrashekharan’s killing. The letter (a copy of which has been sent to leaders of CPI, RSP, and Forward Bloc), says, “We write this letter to you as it is widely believed in Kerala that Comrade Chandrasekharan’s killing has been orchestrated by a section of the CPI(M).... At a time when the entire Left is facing concerted attacks by rightwing forces in the country, it is highly shocking and regrettable that within a month of the CPI(M)’s 20th Congress, anti-Left violence claimed the life of Comrade TP Chandrasekharan right in the district that hosted the Congress. We strongly condemn this dastardly killing and request you to investigate the case. Under any circumstances, political differences within the Left should not lead to any political killings. We welcome healthy ideological-political debates within the Left and reject intra-Left political violence in the strongest possible terms.”

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False Flags to Put the Blame on ‘Islamic Terrorists’?

Media reports have quoted police sources saying there have been attempts to deflect the investigation of the TP Chandrashekharan murder by falsely suggesting a ‘Muslim terror’ angle. The police reportedly said that a sticker with ‘Mash-a-Allah’ written in Arabic, was pasted by the killers on the car hired by them to undertake the murder.

Interestingly, reporting on the murder a few hours afterthe crime, the CPI(M)-owned Kairali and People Channels reported that “the incident took place near a mosque”, and that “the car in which the assassins travelled had a sticker with“Mash-a-Allah” printed in Arabic pasted on the glass.” These channels also reportedly publicised a single name among the police’s longer list of suspects – the name of Rafeek, a Muslim name! These channels also reported that ‘extremists’ were suspected to be behind the murder.

These appear to be despicable attempts to falsely make a political killing in which the CPI(M) is the prime accused, to seem like a terrorist attack by Islamic outfits, by playing on Islamophobic prejudices.


Onchiyam’s Historic Legacy

In 1948, when the Communist Party had been banned by the post-colonial Indian state ruled by the Congress, the village of Onchiyam was a communist stronghold which emerged as a site of police repression and people’s resistance.

On 30 April, 1948, a police party had come to raid the village to arrest some leading communist activists. When people protested, the police opened fire on the unarmed protesters, and killed eight persons on the spot; two others died later in the hospital, due to injuries received through police torture. The repression could not crush Onchiyam’s spirit, and the village remained a communist stronghold ever since, where the Onchiyam martyrs of 1948 - Comrades Menon Kanaran, Alavakkal Krishnan, Purayil Kanaran, Parollathil Kanaran, V.K. Chathu, K.P. Ravutti, K.M. Sankaran, and V.P. Gopalan, all of whom died on the spot, and Comrades Mantoti Kannan and Kollanicheri Kumaran who died later in the hospital – are loved and honoured.

It is significant that it is this historic village which has revolted against the CPI(M), upholding its communist legacy. In 2008, on the 60th anniversary of the Onchiyam martyrs’ day, a large number of local CPI(M) cadres and members rebelled against the party to form the Revolutionary Marxist Party. Today, the CPI(M) is trying to crush Onchiyam’s revolutionaries, just as the State had tried to snuff out communism from Onchiyam in 1948. Comrade Chandrashekharan, like the 10 martyrs of 1948, has been martyred for choosing to uphold the communist movement.

While the murder of Comrade Chandrashekharan is condemnable, the CPI(M) probably stands even more exposed as a result of Vijayan’s derogatory and abusive remarks.

Who is the real traitor? Those who uphold the glorious Onchiyam legacy? Or those who seek to kill and denounce brave communist leaders?

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