2019 Periya double murder case haunts CPM again as CBI closes in for the kill

Sarathlal, Kripesh
Kripesh and Sharath Lal. File Photo

Thiruvananthapuram: The CPM in Kerala goes on the defensive whenever the 2019 Periya double murder case comes to the fore as the investigations and court proceedings over it hit the headlines. In its recent Assembly poll review report the Kerala State Committee of the CPM stated the gruesome killing of Youth Congress activists, Kripesh, 19, and Sharath Lal (Joshy), 24, just before the Lok Sabha elections had affected its poll prospects then.

"The party instructed the workers to deliberately avoid friction ahead of the (2021 Assembly) election. Our comrades did not fall to provocations, and exercised restraint, thus giving no chance to political rivals and anti-party elements to unleash a campaign against the party," the report said.

So far the CPM was relieved as there has been no untoward incident but the party is perturbed with the CBI arraigning its former legislator and Kasaragod district secretariat member K V Kunhiraman as an accused in the case on Thursday.

The central probe agency has also arrested five people, all CPM workers, in connection with the brutal incident that occurred at Periya in Kasaragod district on February 17, 2019.

Arresting Kunhiraman, a leader well-known at the state level, would raise several serious questions, much to the chagrin of the CPM.

The CBI has found that the former MLA had helped the accused at Periya, an area that boasts of a revolutionary past. The question, whether the CPM had misused the power and its influence in the murder, too, would be raised.

Other sensational cases
Though the May 4, 2012 murder of RMP leader T P Chandrasekharan at Onchiyam had shaken the CPM, the investigation did not extent to senior party leaders, who were accused of playing a role in the gruesome incident. The CBI finding in the Periya murders came at a time when Chandrasekharan's wife and legislator K K Rema has been demanding a CBI probe into the conspiracy that had led to her husband's murder.

Also, the CPM 2018 state conference at Thrissur witnessed emotions running high over the murder of S P Shuhaib, another Youth Congress activist. The conference instructed the party to shun the politics of violence, which the state committee later endorsed. But the instruction was ignored at Periya, opening up the possibility of putting the ruling party members in the dock.

Shuhaib was killed on February 12, 2018 at Therur, near Edayannur, in Kannur. As many as 17 CPM workers have been named as accused in the case.

The ongoing CBI probe revealed that senior leaders, not just local workers, were involved in the Periya murders. The Kasaragod district secretary, however, pointed at the party's win at Uduma Assembly constituency to justify that the incident had not affected the organisation's prospects in the district. But it has been believed that the double murder reflected in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll result, when the CPM had to forfeit the Kasaragod Lok Sabha seat it had been holding since 1989 to Rajmohan Unnithan of the Congress.

Soon after Kunhiraman was named as an accused, the CPM district committee alleged political motives on the part of the central agency. The state committee, however, remained silent. Though it was indicated that the state acting secretary A Vijayaraghavan would meet the media, the plan was later dropped.

CPM backs accused
The CPM has so far backed the accused in the Periya case. The party helped in employing the wives of the accused who are in jail. The spouses of prime accused and CPM local committee member A Peethambaran, second accused Saji George and third accused K M Suresh were posted as part-time sweepers at the District hospital. But following criticism, they were shunted out. One of them was later appointed in the Tata Hospital, Chattanchal, and another was provided employment at the dialysis centre attached to the Community Health Centre at Periya.

A day after the murder, Peethambaran's wife stirred a controversy, telling the media that her husband had carried out the murder on the party's behest. The party later pacified his family by offering help. The party also took over the responsibility of looking after the accused men's families.

The party is raising funds from the public for conducting the case in court even as it has been denying any role in the twin murder.

About Rs 88 lakh was spent from the exchequer as fees for advocates brought from outside the state to argue against a CBI probe in the High Court.

Additionally, more money — about Rs 1.5 crore in total — was spent to conduct the case in the Supreme Court. Advocates Ranjith Kumar, Maninder Singh and Prabhas Bajaj were hired to defend the accused.

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