Periya murders put CPM on the defensive

Periya murders put CPM on the defensive
CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan (L) and the two Youth Congress workers who were murdered in Periya.

When chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan pointed out that the CPM had lived with the pain of martyring its cadres, he might have relived memories of past struggles from the days of the Kayyur rebellion in north Kerala. Not far from Kayyur lies Periya, where two Youth Congress workers were hacked to death this week. Periya was also hotbed of the revolutionary politics that was manifested in Kayyur. Yet the history Pinarayi wished to recall stands on its head in the small village.

After meeting the four heroes of the Kayyur revolt of 1943 in their condemned cell, the then CPI general secretary assured them that their martyrdom would draw in hundreds of people to the party. P C Joshi told the four comrades that their acts would draw more than 4,000 people to the party. The CPM today boasts of about 4 lakh members in Kerala. The party ascended to power in the state several time. Yet it struggles to shake off its bloodthirsty image.

The execution of four comrades attracted thousands to the communist party. It is also worth considering how many people wished to dissociate itself from the party after the double murder of Periya.

The murders stained official celebrations to mark 1,000 days of the Pinarayi Vijayan government. The government opted to mark the unusual landmark, more than anniversaries, in view of the general elections later this year. The CPM and the CPI have kicked off their road shows. The marches, however, had to be called off for a day in Kannur and Kollam after the murders snowballed into a controversy.

Periya murders put CPM on the defensive
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan

The party bosses have claimed that they took a break to avoid any provocation. Society is already provoked. CPI state secretary said that the incidents would not affect the march yet he did not sound very convincing.

The backlash was evident on the Facebook pages of the CPM and the Left Democratic Front it leads. The posts about the marches are followed by a barrage of barbed comments about the murders. Things are no different on the page of the chief minister.

The party could brush aside the comments by alleging an orchestrated move. Yet even the cyber activists of the party find themselves unable to counter the volleys. State secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan might be ruing the day he decided to announce his plan to appear live on Facebook every week to field questions from the public.

When Kodiyeri's road show was flagged off by CPI general secretary C Sudhakar Reddy in Thiruvananthapuram the attendance was not befitting a programme organised by the ruling party. The party was energising its cadres to make the march more lively when bad news struck from Kasaragod.

The double murders have put the party in the dock, just like the murder of party dissident T P Chandrasekharan did. The party has stood by P K Kunjananthan even after he was sentenced by the court.

The party's plight is not surprising given its directions to the local committees to defend themselves against adversaries. It has even organised local gangs to take on opponents. The state leadership claims that the mobilisation and training is just a way of self-defence. Going by the logic, A Peethambaran, a former local committee member accused in the murder of Kripesh and Sarath Lal, could claim that he was once at the receiving end. He could have easily got the go-ahead for a revenge attack.

The CPM has been trying to project that the murders were a direct violation of a party resolution against murders in the Thrissur conference. The party could also re-evaluate another guideline formed at the same conference for the formation of voluntary associations and the psyche behind such mobs. Why would the party need to deploy a militia for every local committee when it has the entire government machinery and the police to back it. Evidently, such a programme has not send out the right message to people like Peethambaran.

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