'Pinarayi held me back, another man wielded sword': Book on Kerala's comrades reveals chilling murder bid

Pinarayi Vijayan, K C Nandanan
Pinarayi Vijayan and K C Nandanan when they were youth.

The war of words between Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and state Congress chief K Sudhakaran over their 'heroics' and rivalry during their Brennen College days has led to several violent episodes tumbling out of Kerala's distant political past.

At least two people have come out stating that they were attacked by Vijayan while the family of a CPM worker has sought a reinvestigation into his murder following what they call a 'confession' by Sudhakaran. 

An alleged murder attempt by Vijayan, narrated in a book released last year, adds to these bloodstained stories from Kannur.

The graphic details of the attack on K C Nandanan, a firebrand CPM leader who was expelled from the party in the late 1960s, were included in the book – Idathupaksham: Party Pinnitta Aalvazhikal – by senior journalist Saji James. 

Cover of the book 'Idathupaksham: Party vanna aalvazhikal' by Saji James
Cover of the book 'Idathupaksham: Party vanna aalvazhikal' by Saji James

The book, published in November 2020 by Olive Books, is a collection of feature stories on 13 veteran comrades, starting with former chief minister V S Achuthanandan.

It records a brutal incident involving Vijayan in the chapter on the life of Nandanan.

The book quotes Nadanadan as saying that Vijayan and another person tried to hack him to death when he was waiting to pick a fellow comrade from Thalassery railway station. The book does not mention the exact date of the murder attempt, but it states that Vijayan was a student at Government Brennen College at Thalassery at that time.

“Arayakkandi (Achuthan) and I were attacked (by a group) led by Pinarayi Vijayan when we were at the Thalassery railway station to receive KPR. I was sitting inside the car and Vijayan pulled back my hair while another person wielded a sword aiming at my throat. The sword slipped and went on to strike Achuthan's throat. He was wounded. Since it was night, the assailants fled the scene believing my throat was slit,” Nandanan is quoted in the book.

“A government hospital refused to admit Achuthan first. He was given treatment only after KPR, then a leader of bus labourers, went to the hospital and scolded the doctors,” the book states.

Nandanan, according to the book, became an enemy of the CPM after he, along with three others (Kanthalott Karunan, Arayakkandi Achuthan and A Balakrishnan), were expelled from the party following differences with its official line. Nandanan belonged to what is termed the KPR Brigade led by KPR Gopalan who left the CPM to form the short-lived Bolshevik Party. Nandanan died on March 31, 2017. 

KPR Gopalan
KPR Gopalan

Vijayan meets Nandanan

Neither Vijayan nor the CPM has responded to or refuted the charges even after it came in print twice, first in the Samakalika Malayalam Varika in 2011 and  then in the book. 

Vijayan, however, visited Nandanan at his home after becoming the chief minister in 2016. It has been mentioned as a footnote in the book.

One more Vijayan incident

The book narrates another incident involving Vijayan during his Brennen days. “After joining with KPR, some of us decided to hold a secret meeting in Thalassery. The meeting was at T C Ummer's house. There were around 40 people. Vijayan was also among us. The meeting lasted till 3 am. We searched for Vijayan when it was time to go home, but he was not around. Then we found out that Vijayan had returned to the CPM camp even before the meeting ended,” Nandanan was quoted as saying.

M V Raghavan
M V Raghavan

Another attack, with MVR’s approval

Nandanan said he was attacked when he was spending some time at a lodge in Koothuparamba. “Their aim was to chop my legs. Perhaps they did not want me to go from one venue to the other to address people. The attack had the approval of M V Raghavan, the then CPM Kannur district secretary,” it quotes Nadanan as saying.

MV Raghavan formed Communist Marxist Party (CMP) after his expulsion from CPM. Ironically, Nandanan joined CMP and even justified Raghavan for approving the attack on him.

“No matter whatever drawbacks he had, Raghavan was brave and sincere. I would have done the same things even if I was in Raghavan's place at that time,” Nandanan reasoned his decision to join hands with Raghavan later.

The page that narrates the murder attempt on Nandanan (left)
The page that narrates the murder attempt on Nandanan (left)

Who’s Nandanan?

Nandanan's life was full of dilemmas. A Communist to the core, he was never happy with the compromises made by the revolutionary parties he worked with. After his stints with the CPM and KPR's revolutionary outfit, Nandanan also worked with the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and the CMP. Nandanan contested the 1982 assembly elections from Thalassery constituency as an RSP candidate against CPM's Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. Balakrishnan defeated Nandanan by 17,000-odd votes.

‘I have quoted Nandanan’

The book’s author Saji James told Onmanorama that he interviewed Nandanan as part of a series on senior comrades in Kerala who persuaded different lines of Communism. “I worked on the series basically as a documentation project. I have quoted whatever Nandanan told me,” he said.

Onmanorama sought the response of a senior CPM leader from Kannur. However, he refused to comment saying he has not read the book.

A former CPM leader, who later joined another party, said he was aware of many such incidents in Kannur. However, he did not want to dig them out as he believed it served no purpose.

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