Vol. XLI No. 11 March 12, 2017

An Open Letter to JNU Professor Kamal Mitra Chenoy: Get Out of Your Prejudices and Biases about ‘Violence’ in Kannur

Nitheesh Narayanan

Dear Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy,

I read your piece in web portal DailyO about the political violence in Kannur, titled “Why isn’t Kerala cracking down on RSS and CPM’s bloody war in Kannur?” I was dismayed to see that the article has completely ignored the ground reality. I do not see any difference between how certain corporate media houses portray Kannur and what you have written in the piece. As someone who has grown up in the district and had to face physical attacks and murder threats many times from the Sangh brigade, let me respond to certain arguments you have made.

As a former student of yours, I am terribly disturbed that the arguments advanced about the cause of the violence come out to be baseless, one-sided, and utterly false, except that these fit into the Sangh script. I hope you will find some time to visit Kannur and source the facts from the ground. I would affirm that it is not a “dark area”, as you choose to describe Kannur in the article. I am confident enough to say that one will find it difficult to find a district in this country which has more number of public libraries than Kannur. I have the same level of confidence to say that you will be surprised to count the number of arts clubs and cultural platforms and the vibrancy in their functioning in each locality of the district. It is also a place in this country where collective social entrepreneurship in the form of co-operatives provides employment to the largest number of people. Let me also state that you will fail to prove that it is in Kannur that the most number of murders are happening. I don’t know who is providing you the information about this place or you just chose to believe what you have read in the right-wing, corporate media. Anyway, you must spend some days in Kannur. Let me offer you one of the most fascinating experiences both as a political scientist and a peace-loving person. Try it, it will cost only your biases and prejudices. Here, I am only attempting to show the irrationality of the testimonials you presented in the article.

In the article, you write that once the truth comes out, many in the country will wonder how all this went on for so long. If people of great credential like you are presenting the matter like this, I am disappointed to say that the country may take a long time to learn the truth. Fortunately, we, who live in Kannur, have our lives to assess (definitely not to wonder) why this is so than waiting for your theories written from the glass houses. In the first statement, you are reproducing a right-wing argument that whether ruled by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) or the United Democratic Front (UDF), the social welfare system was maintained and efforts were made to improve the living conditions of the poor!! Don’t you think that by making this general statement and equalising the role of the Left and the right in improving the living conditions of the poor, you are committing an injustice to the history of Kerala which was filled with agrarian struggles and Communist movements for equal rights and dignity? I thought at least your long association with the CPI must have taught you about the land reform and education bill. You seem to be clueless about how the Communists ensured the continuity of the social reform movement of Narayana Guru, Ayyankali, Poykayil Appachan, etc. I can only wish you go through the works of your peers. For that matter, I do not think your colleagues in the CPI will have any other opinion.

Have you ever tried to trace the background of the widely talked about ‘violence’ in Kannur? Did it start all of a sudden at some point in the history? If so, why Kannur? Enquiry about this will lead you to the late 60s, the time when the Sangh Parivar planned its entry into Kannur as the henchmen of the owners of the Ganesh Beedi company which was based in Mangalore. This company got frustrated with the EMS government’s decision to implement welfare fund for beedi workers who were paid a meagre wage. The workers who were unionised by the Communist party stood vehemently for their rights. It provoked the Mangalore-based company and it brought the criminal gang to attack the protesting workers. They also attempted to destroy the unity of the workers by making another union which will dance at the tune of the company. They also dismissed the Left trade union members. The company was also closed for some time to weaken the living conditions of the poor workers and force them to surrender before the company. But the Communist party, breaking the calculations of Sangh brigade, formed a co-operative firm for beedi production, called ‘Dinesh beedi’. This actually aggravated the annoyance of the Ganesh company and it sent its allies to physically attack the beedi workers who stands with the Communist party. The beedi production units were attacked several times. Like what happened in Mumbai or Italy or Germany, the Sangh Parivar fascists came to the picture by attacking the trade unions workers’ unity in Kannur. The first attempt to destroy the powerful trade unionism was resisted. Then they tried to foment communal violence for expanding their roots. That is how they planned Thalassery riot by spreading hatred against Muslims. You must get a copy of Justice Vithayathil Commission report which enquired about the riot and understand the role of the CPI(M) under the leadership of the current chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in defeating the divisive communal agenda of the RSS. You will also get to know about UK Kunhiraman, a CPI(M) Branch secretary who was killed by the RSS for protecting a mosque. You will see the incidents of unleashing communal violence wherever the fascists have planned an entry. This is what was fought and defeated by the CPI(M) in Kannur. Since then, after failing in two different plans to make inroads into the region, the RSS now aims at physical annihilation of CPI(M) activists in the district and it still continues.

You must be aware of the number of Shakhas the RSS has in Gujarat. It is less than 1,800. In Uttar Pradesh, one of the largest states in the country, the RSS has less than 4,000 Shakhas. In Karnataka, the number is less than 3,000. Remember the criminal roles they played, genocides they unleashed, riots they organised in all these states. Do you know how many Shakhas they have in Kerala? It is more than 4,500! That is the organisational strength that they have built in Kerala over the decades with a planned agenda to infiltrate into the social lives of Kerala. I hope, as a serious political commentator you must have studied the RSS and learned how much plan and focused work is behind the building of any Sangh Parivar outfit. Still they could not repeat a Gujarat genocide in Kerala, they failed to do what they did in Kandhamal or different parts of Karnataka. We have seen the series of communal riots in UP prior to last Lok Sabha elections and the BJP winning huge majority of the seats after that. Kerala is, even with their strongest organisational machinery, still far from being a stage for the Sangh strategy of gaining ground through generating communal tensions. You will understand that this is not an ‘innocent’ development once you study the different attempts made by Sangh organisations to communally polarise the state or disturb the secular fabric in various times in the past. I can write a very long note only on this. The RSS in Kerala is not a different species, something different from their counterparts in other parts of the country. They follow the same strategy of aggression. All those efforts were resisted tooth and nail and defeated in Kerala. You can never dismiss the role of the left led by the CPI(M) in successfully blocking the Sangh agenda to be in a driving seat of the social fabric if the state. I hope you agree with me in that social atmosphere and people’s lives in Kerala is not a violent one. If violence is the character of the strongest party which forms government in the state, Kerala would have turned into a war zone long before. But then why when the RSS enters the picture there is bloodshed and murders on both the sides? This question must not be answered with a generalised notion of ‘gang war’ in Kannur. This has nothing to do with ‘genetics’, but definitely with politics. For that, one must study how the RSS infiltrated into the different parts of the country and have a comparison with Kannur. I sincerely wish, our political sciences studies and researchers grow up to that level, instead of putting out uncritical equalisations and practising selective ‘amnesia’.

In another part, you say the ‘CPI(M) and the RSS have done politics in other states. There, if there was any killing, the law intervened’. It sounds as if the people are in a free run to kill each other in Kannur. You should have at least looked into the case diaries, or the number of people arrested in political murders before making such statements. The CPIM is the largest political party in terms of its influence among the masses, number of seats in the assembly and also with a very wide and strong organisational presence throughout Kerala. Kannur is the strongest bastion where 54 per cent voted for the Left in last election. The RSS is lacking in both electoral arena and influence in determining the social dynamics. But they do have a very strong organisational machinery. Still, the number of CPI(M) cadres killed by RSS outnumbers the other one. This can be ended only with a high-level decision by the RSS to stop the attempt to infiltrate into Kerala with the violent methods.

Do you really think such politics is happening only in Kannur? Or are you in a belief that law is intervening in similar incidents in other states. 15 years is not an enough time for an individual concerned to forget the manner law found its place in Gujarat. Hope you correct such highly irresponsible comments. You must also not think whatever does not come to your notice or does not shake your conscience is not happening. Around 13 Sangh Parivar activists were killed by other Sangh cadres in Karnataka including one Hindu Jagran Vedika activist getting killed recently in Mangalore. I have the complete list of this heinous crimes committed by Sangh workers against their own colleagues. How long will it take to shake the ‘collective conscience’ of the nation?

Let me conclude citing another dangerous element in your statement presented as an ‘innocent’ one. You refer to an incident of one school teacher hacked to death in classroom. I have no issue in anybody talking about this barbaric incident. All the political killings, irrespective of parties involved in it, must be condemned. But the people like you must not limit yourselves to depend on the news which was circulated consciously and selectively. Why a student leader, named KV Sudheesh, is hacked to death in front of his parents at his home doesn’t come to your mind when you pick up the examples? ‘A brick would have fit in many of the wounds in his body’ this was the comment of the doctor who conducted postmortem on his body which was cut into pieces by the RSS criminals. Last year, an eight-year-old Fahad was killed by a Hindu religious fanatic who was a cadre of RSS in nearby district. Two of my close friends have lost their fathers in murderous attacks of RSS. You will never refer the name of my friend Dhanaraj who was killed in front of his wife at his home a few months ago. The day you wrote the article, one DYFI activist, called Muhsin, was hacked to death in Alappuzha. In another shocking development, one BJP worker Nirmal was killed by another BJP worker in Thrissur. The BJP called a hartal against CPI(M) after this murder! It was only a few days back, Sharirik Shikshak Pramukh of RSS, Vishnu, came out openly and said he was threatened to death for speaking out against the murderous plans of his own organisation. He was under the custody of RSS and tortured for 38 days. He was also forced to write a suicide note alleging a CPI(M) leader, Kannur district secretary to be specific, is behind his death. You can have a talk with him if want to know what is happening inside the Saffron contingents. This list will never end. All I wanted to say is, there must be no space for violence in politics. But, we must not commit a grave mistake by thinking political violence happens only when two parties are involved. You must at least go through the history of RSS and read what M S Golwalkar talks about the Communists in the ‘Bunch of thoughts’. I’m not done, but I will stop here. And I do welcome a detailed debate if you choose to reply. Or let us make a united effort to expose the cellars of the saffron inferno.