Comrade TP Chandrashekharan

(A JNU Students’ Union team comprising JNUSU President Sucheta De and JNUSU Councillor Shivani (both elected from All India Students’ Association – AISA) visited the family of martyred comrade TP Chandrashekharan on 1 June. They were accompanied by JNU students from Kerala, Lal and Sharad. CPI(ML) Liberation Central Committee member Kavita Krishnan from Delhi also accompanied the team. A report by Shivani Nag.)

The CPI(M) organ People’s Democracy, denying any role in Comrade Comrade TP Chandrashekharan’s brutal murder, maintains that he and others who left CPI(M) to form the Revolutionary Marxist Party had displayed “a naked desire for position, parliamentary greed and absence of communist values.”

At Comrade TP Chandrashekharan’s home in Onchiyam (a village in Kozhikode district), we were greeted by his 17-year-old son Abhinandan (Nandu) with a warm ‘Lal Salaam’ (Red Salute). When we met his mother, Rema, we were struck by her simplicity and her courage. Meeting Abhinandan and Rema, we felt a deep conviction that we were in the presence of ‘comrades.’ Comrade Rema told us she and her sister had been state-level leaders of SFI, and her father, who met us, is still an area committee member of the CPI(M). In that house of Comrade TPC, among his family members who seemed to embody communist values, Comrade TPC’s spirit seemed to refuse to die. Rema described how her husband used to cook at home, and had, on the very morning of the killing, shown her how to clean fish. All who knew him spoke of how, at marriage functions, he could be seen helping to cook the feast and serve the guests, with all humility.

The town of Kozhikode, not long before Comrade TPC’s murder, had witnessed the lavish spectacle of the CPI(M)’s Party Congress. Crores had reportedly been spent on football matches and other events on the occasion. Comrade TPC left a party which enjoys great power, money, and scope for parliamentary positions. Unlike many others in Kerala, he did not leave the CPI(M) to join the UDF and seek power there. Instead, he took the hard, arduous road of building a revolutionary party from scratch, without any backing of the moneyed or powerful. Was this a sign of ‘naked desire for position’ and ‘parliamentary greed’? Or was it, in fact, the sign of true communist spirit and dedication?

Most people in Kerala have no hesitation in believing the CPI(M) to be behind the gruesome murder. Not just because a series of CPI(M) local leaders have been arrested for their links with the hired killers. But because they know that the CPI(M) had, for the past four years, a history of attacks and threats against RMP comrades. What makes their belief even stronger is CPI(M)’s behaviour towards those who are speaking in support of Comrade TPC. A leading Malayalam writer, C.V. Balakrishnan, recently spoke at a cultural gathering at Payyanur against the murder. Soon after, a poster appeared on the walls of his home, warning that he should “not forget” that he was “leading a peaceful life in the red village due to the courtesy of the Marxists.” All Kerala heard CPI(M)’s Idukki Secretary MM Mani boasting of how his party ‘hacked, stabbed, and shot dead’ political rivals in the past, and warning that the party would continue to thus eliminate those who ‘rebel’ against the party. The humility of Comrade TP Chandrashekharan, his family, and his comrades, is in stark contrast to arrogant threats and sneers of MM Mani and CPI(M)’s State Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan.

The next day, we travelled to Kodangallur in Thrissur district to join a memorial meeting for Comrade TPC. On the way, we heard some of the songs composed in memory of the historic 1948 martyrs of Onchiyam. During a raid to locate communists, police had shot dead 8 communists, and two others later died due to custodial torture. Revolutionaries in Kerala still sing about Mandodi Kannan of Onchiyam, who, following brutal custodial torture, used his blood to draw the hammer and sickle on the walls of prison before dying. Who upheld the legacy of the Onchiyam martyrs? Those who plotted to have a young Left leader killed by 51 hacks to his face and body? Or those like Comrade TPC, who were willing to relinquish power and position and risk their lives in order to uphold Left principles?

We arrived rather late at Kodangallur, but, in spite of the fact that night had fallen and it had begun to rain, hundreds of people waited to participate in the meeting. When he addressed the meeting, Comrade Hariharan never raised his voice. But the entire gathering felt the emotional and political impact of his speech. The gathering warmly greeted the speeches of Comrades Sucheta and Kavita too.

From June 2 onwards, Kerala’s papers and media were full of former CPI(M) Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan’s surprise visit to Comrade TPC’s house at Onchiyam. His gesture was clearly in defiance of the official CPI(M) State and Central leadership’s line. But it was equally clear that his visit, during which he offered flowers and a red salute at the spot of Comrade TPC’s cremation, struck a chord with Kerala’s people, especially with all Left sympathisers.

On June 3, the RMP and Left Coordination Committee had organised a ‘Communist Convention’ at Nalanda Hall at Kozhikode. Hundreds of comrades – not only from the RMP and LCC but also those who had hitherto been in the ranks of the CPI(M) – gathered at the meeting. They hoisted the red flag at the venue and raised slogans. The prevailing mood was to assert that the communist movement and red flag can have nothing to do with the politics of barbaric murder.

Right at the beginning of the meeting, the video visualisation of a poem by noted exponent of Kerala’s traditional Sopaana Sangeetham, Njeralath Hari Govindan, in memory of Comrade TP Chandrasekharan, was screened. This beautiful poem and its musical visualisation had a great emotional impact on the packed hall.

At the Convention, we were honoured to meet communist veteran ‘Berlin’ Kunhananthan Nair, who has the distinction of having attended the CPI’s first Party Congress in 1943. Among others who participated in the Convention were LCC Secretary Comrade KS Hariharan; Comrade TP Chandrashekhar’s son Abhinandan; RMP’s Onchiyam Secretary Comrade N. Venu; well-known writer N. Sugathan; and K.C. Umesh Babu, poet and political activist. The meeting was presided over by LCC President Comrade P Kumaran Kutty. When we addressed the gathering, our words and views were warmly received.

It is clear that the communist movement in Kerala is at a crossroads. Leftists are experiencing deep anguish at Comrade TPC’s murder. In Kerala, it is apparent that for most genuine Left sympathisers, there is no doubt that Chandrashekharan was a true comrade. And they are unconvinced by CPI(M)’s denials, and outraged by the abuse heaped on TPC by the CPI(M) and the CPI(M) leaders’ violent language. At many places, CPI(M) activists and members are joining RMP.

In an editorial, the English daily, The Hindu, had commented that “Political murders are non-events in Kerala, and, in any case, the course of the CPI (M) will not turn on whether Chandrasekharan is seen as a traitor or martyr.” Well, the CPI(M) had once believed that its fate would not rest on whether the peasants of Singur and Nandigram were seen as martyrs or traitors. Comrade TPC’s murder has exposed the CPI(M)’s intolerance, arrogance, and degeneration dramatically.

Human Chain and Condolence Meet for Comrade TPC at Delhi

On June 9, a human chain and condolence meet was held at Kerala House in Delhi, in memory of Comrade TP Chandrasekharan who was brutally murdered in Kerala in May. Participants in these memorial programs included students and professionals hailing from Kerala, journalists, teachers, and leaders of the All India Left Coordination (AILC).

Participants wore badges that had images of Comrade TPC and Gulmohar flowers, with the slogan, “Indraprastha salutes the Gulmohar that was torn off on a May twilight.” A long line of people joined hands in the Human Chain outside Kerala House, with placards saying, “Punish the Killers of Comrade TP Chandrasekharan”; “Opportunist Left Should Know:

Vendetta and Violence Cannot Silence Genuine Revolutionaries like Comrade TPC”; “Long Live Comrade TPC – Brave Communist Who Upheld the Legacy of the 1948 Onchiyam Martyrs!”; “Who Is the ‘Traitor’ to the Left Movement? Those who hack to death a young Left activist for ideological differences? Or those like TPC who lay down their lives for the Left cause?” and “All Genuine Leftists Know TPC Is a Martyr! Shame on Those Who Brand Him a ‘Traitor’!”

The Human Chain was followed by the Condolence Meet inside the Conference Hall of Kerala House. The meeting was chaired by Comrade Kumaran Kutty, President of the Left Coordination Committee, Kerala, which is an AILC constituent, and is the platform of which Comrade TPC’s party, the Revolutionary Marxist Party, was a part. Comrade Kutty introduced the meeting, telling people about the series of attacks on Comrade TPC and other RMP activists who had left the CPI(M) in 2008. He pointed out that there were many in Kerala who left CPI(M) to join the Congress; yet it was Comrade TPC, who remained committed to Left ideals, whom the CPI(M) branded as ‘betrayer.’ He also gave details about the ongoing spate of arrests of CPI(M) leaders for involvement in the case. He said that just a few days before the murder, CPI(M) cadres, while observing Onchiyam martyrs’ day on 30 April, raised threatening slogans such as ‘TPC your days are numbered’ and ‘TPC you will be laid out in white cloth,’ in the presence of CPI(M) Politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. The murder took place following a series of attacks and such explicit threats.

Comrade Mangat Ram Pasla, Secretary of CPM Punjab, saluted Comrade TPC as a true communist. He said that the CPI(M) has a history of attacking those who present an ideological and political critique from a radical Left perspective and called for Left supporters to show true solidarity with Comrade TPC by strengthening the struggle to build a fighting Left movement in Kerala and in the country.

Comrade Swapan Mukherjee, CC member of the CPI(ML), said that those who killed him hoped to confine the RMP to a few pockets of Kerala; but the murder has had the opposite effect. RMP and LCC leaders are being contacted by Left supporters from all over Kerala, eager to join the movement represented by Comrade TPC.

The meeting was also addressed by Sumit Chakravarty, editor, Mainstream, Gopi Krishnan, journalist with the Pioneer, RG James, former JNUSU office-bearer, Kavita Krishnan, CC member of CPI(ML), Shivani Nag, JNUSU Councillor, and Ravi Rai, General Secretary of AISA. Historian Tripta Wahi, and senior journalist Jawed Naqvi also participated in the meeting.

The meeting adopted a pledge saying, “politics based on violence will only weaken healthy political movements. We respect the political consciousness showed by Com. T P Chandrasekharan. We will do our best in order to ensure that such crimes will not repeat anywhere in the future,” and a Condolence resolution detailing major highlights of Comrade TPC’s biography, and stating, “In the land where political murders are a part and parcel, martyr Comrade T P Chandrasekharan has become a hope of an ideal political culture.”


Prabhat Patnaik Expresses Anguish

Reportedly, noted social scientist KT Rammohan had objected to an invitation extended to Left economist Prabhat Patnaik to speak at the Chintha Ravi Memorial Seminar in Kozhikode, since he continued to belong to the “killer-party”. Below we reproduce excerpts from KT Rammohun’s mail and Prabhat Patnaik’s response, both of which were publicly circulated.

KT Rammohun’s mail

“...I am sure that Prabhat is not a person who would justify the present killing. And now to have Prabhat (and that too to a place not far from Onchiyam), so closely identified as an intellectual of the killer-party, a government official during its earlier regime in power, would imply legitimising the murderous-party...At Kozhikode, this would be the 52nd stab...” – KT Rammohun

Prabhat Patnaik’s response

“Dear Ram,

I appreciate the point made by you in your mail, and wish to say the following in that connection.

I have been with the Party for 37 years, having joined it at the start of the Emergency. My father had been a freedom-fighter and an early Communist (he was a founder of the Communist Party in Orissa in 1936). Having seen in my childhood the enormous sacrifices the Communists made, and the dedication to the cause of the working people that they had, it had always been my ambition to join the Party which was finally realized in 1975. For this very reason however the developments in Kerala over the last several days have been a source of great pain and anguish for me. The problems they pose for me are not just moral but also existential.

I see Communism in India today as being threatened in two ways: either being hegemonised by bourgeois liberalism, or as falling prey to a feudal-Stalinism. What is common to both these trends is an implicit lack of conviction about socialism, an implicit subscription to the neo-liberal “development” agenda, and an implicit denial of scope for people’s empowerment. Succumbing to either or both these threats would be disastrous and totally against the interests of the people. If socialism is to be brought back on the agenda, then an alternative de-Stalinized Marxism has to be practiced. I was looking forward to the Chintha Ravi Memorial seminar as an occasion to discuss these issues, and hence to critique the feudal-Stalinist trend that one encounters in Kerala, and also elsewhere. I saw the seminar as such an occasion because I knew that it would be attended by intellectuals seriously interested in Marxism. I do not often get an opportunity to interact with such a group.

One final point. The official position occupied by me in Kerala under the last government was not out of any Party mandate but at the personal request of Com. V.S. Achuthanandan. Most of my friends, including in the Party, advised me against it, but I took it up nonetheless, and have never regretted that decision.

With regards,

Prabhat Patnaik

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