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Kerala: RSS-Popular Front Rivalry Claims Five Lives in Six Months

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan condemned the murders and the attempt to disrupt social harmony in the state. He urged the public to ‘isolate the forces that create unrest in the state by using communal venom'.

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala's Palakkad district saw two 'politically motivated' murders in quick succession this week, creating a highly volatile situation in the region. Subair, a leader of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) and the Popular Front of India (PFI) was hacked to death in front of a mosque on April 15, Friday. In contrast, Sreenivasan, an RSS leader, was killed the next day in retaliation.

Police arrested and remanded three RSS men suspected to be directly involved in the murder of Subair. The murderers of Sreenivasan were identified from CCTV visuals as PFI activists. These provocative attempts from the two organisations with an infamous track record of political-communal violence are seen as attempts to stir up the social harmony in the communally sensitive region. As an intervention to bring the situation under control, the district collector has imposed prohibitory orders in the region till Sunday.


Subair, an SDPI leader killed in Palakkad

Subair, an SDPI leader killed in Palakkad

Subair travelled with his father on a motorcycle near Elappully on April 15, when the assailants hit them with a car. Two people got down from the car and hacked Subair to death and escaped the crime scene in another car. The car that hit Subair's bike has been identified. The car is registered in the name of Sanjith, an RSS worker who PFI-SDPI men in November 2021 murdered.

Three accused in the murder of Subair have been arrested and remanded in separate rooms in the Chittoor sub-jail, Palakkad. Ramesh, Arumughan, and Saravanan – all three who were remanded are active cadres of the RSS-BJP and the remand report terms the murder 'politically motivated. The police have filed a request to the Chief Judicial Magistrate on Thursday for the identification parade of the accused.

The prime accused, Ramesh (41), an RSS worker and a resident of Elappully in Palakkad, was a close friend of RSS worker Sanjith who was murdered on November 15, 2021, in the district. Primary findings suggest Ramesh planned and executed the murder in retaliation. Although the accused admit the crime and deny anyone else's involvement, the police are expected to instigate a thorough probe into a larger conspiracy and the involvement of more RSS men.

Beyond resentment at killing a friend, the murder was precise and well planned. Moreover, the accused, who are active RSS activists, would not have planned and executed such a crime without the leaders' knowledge. This leads the police to probe the larger conspiracy and execution, media reports suggest.

ADGP Vijay Sakhare told the media that the killers conspired for months to murder SDPI activist Subair. They had planned to execute the murder earlier this month on April 8 or 9, but later abandoned due to police presence, he said. There have been reports that more people were involved in these previous attempts to murder Subair leading the police to investigate the involvement of local RSS-BJP leadership. Police hope to get more information after the accused are taken into custody for further interrogation.


Sreenivasan, an RSS leader killed in Palakkad

Sreenivasan, an RSS leader killed in Palakkad

RSS leader Sreenivasan's murder was a sudden retaliation planned and executed by PFI-SDPI activists, according to the police. On April 16, a six men gang arrived on three bikes at SKS Autos, a shop run by Sreenivasan near Melamuri, Palakkad. Three of them barged into the shop and hacked Sreenivasan to death. All six who went hiding immediately after the crime were identified from CCTV footage from the premises.

Four SDPI-PFI activists have been arrested so far in connection with the murder. Mohammad Bilal (22), Riyasuddin (35), Mohammad Rizwan (20), and Sahad (22) were arrested on charges of conspiracy and aiding the assailants. Bilal and Riyazuddin are suspected to be present near Sreenivasan's shop when the murder occurred. ADGP Vijay Sakhare told the media that 16 accused had been identified and all of them would be arrested soon. He added that the accused conspired to kill Sreenivasan on the ground behind the District Hospital mortuary the night Zubair's body was brought there for autopsy. He also added that all those who were part of the conspiracy in the twin murders of Subair and Sreenivasan would be taken into custody soon.


An all-party meeting was convened on Monday at the Collectorate Hall, Palakkad, seeking support from across the political spectrum to tackle the tension prevailing in the district following the twin murders. Minister K Krishnankutty chaired the meeting, which called for social unity to ensure peace and harmony in the region. The resolution passed by the all-party meet observed that anti-social fringe elements are trying to create communal division in the society by taking advantage of the untoward incident.

Members of Parliament and Legislative Assembly, representatives of various political parties, Collector Mrinmayi Joshi, and ADM K Manikandan attended the meeting. BJP representatives walked out of the all-party meeting.

Speaking to the media after the all-party meeting Minister K Krishnankutty said the political parties had assured their cooperation to prevent the recurrence of violence. The BJP representatives who came to the meeting were pre-determined to walk out. The government can do nothing about this, as the accusations by the BJP for boycotting the meeting are baseless, Krishnankutty added.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan condemned the murders and the attempt to disrupt social harmony in the state. He urged the public to ‘isolate the forces that create unrest in the state by using communal venom'. Vijayan, who also handles the Home portfolio, said directions were given to the police to take stringent actions against the culprits.

Calling for peace, MB Rajesh, the Speaker of the Kerala Legislative Assembly and an MLA from the district, urged the public to stand united on the foundation of secularism and democracy and isolate forces that aim to subvert the peaceful atmosphere in the state. "This is a move to cause widespread conflicts. Communal forces of an extremist nature are behind this. Their aim is political gain through intensifying communal divisions in Kerala when all other attempts have failed. They are two sides of the same coin. They have trained gangs ready to kill and die" – Rajesh wrote on Facebook.


KS Shan, an SDPI leader killed in Alappuzha

KS Shan, an SDPI leader killed in Alappuzha

The twin murder is not just an isolated instance in the track record of RSS and PFI. In the past six months, the RSS-PFI duo has claimed five lives among themselves in the state. The series of murders started on November 15, when RSS worker Sanjith was murdered 20 km away from Elappully in Palakkad. Sanjith travelled on a bike with his wife when he was followed and hacked to death; the accused were SDPI-PFI workers.

Renjith, a BJP leader killed in Alappuzha

Renjith, a BJP leader killed in Alappuzha

In December 2021, two murders of similar nature within 12 hours in the Alappuzha district shocked the state. SDPI State Secretary KS Shan and BJP State Committee member Renjith Sreenivas were murdered on December 18 and 19th the early morning. In both cases, active members of RSS and PFI respectively were the accused.

Four months later, another twin murder involving the same 'rivals' has now occurred in the Palakkad district. With the planned execution and sudden retaliation, many suspect a more giant ploy to disrupt the social harmony in the state, given the polarisation agenda of the RSS and the PFI. The dubious past of RSS and PFI in Kerala, which includes episodes of horrible political-communal violence, is more alarming.

The ruling Left Democratic Front has announced mass rallies from 25 to April 30, at important centres in Palakkad district, to campaign against the communal agenda of RSS and PFI. The rallies will put forward slogans of secularism against the attempts to communally polarise the society for mere political gains, district leaders of the LDF said in a press conference.

Both the RSS and the PFI have unleashed violence against their political rivals, particularly the left. Certainly, the RSS outnumbers PFI in murdering the left cadre, with numerous murders in the Kannur district alone. In February, the latest among such murders was Punnolil Haridas, a fisherman and CPI(M) worker from Punnol, near Thalassery. The murder of Abhimanyu, an SFI activist from Maharajas College, Ernakulam, in 2018, had resulted in a wide public uproar against the Popular Front and their student wing Campus Front in the state.

The 2010 assault on TJ Joseph, a professor, in Thodupuzha is another infamous episode in PFI's past. A militant group had chopped off Joseph's right hand at the wrist on the accusation of 'blasphemy', gaining PFI a dubious reputation nationwide.

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