P Jayarajan is the District Secretary of the CPI(M) in Kerala's Kannur, which has been the site of intense confrontations between the CPI(M) and the RSS for many decades. Jayarajan himself is a survivor of RSS violence. On 25 August 1999, which was the festival day of Onam in Kerala, a group of RSS workers barged into his house, threw bombs around to create an air of terror and attacked Jayarajan and his wife with swords. His arms almost cut off in the attack, Jayarajan survived to return and lead the CPI(M) in Kannur district.
Here we publish the translated first chapter of P Jayarajan's book 'Sangharshangalude Raashtreeyam: Faasisathinte Aasuravazhikal' ('The Politics of Confrontations: The Monstrous Ways of Fascism'), published by Chintha publishers.
Onam is the most festive occasion for Malayalees. In whichever far flung corner of the world they may be on those auspicious days, they take a break from work and assemble in houses for feasts and joyous celebration. Unlike most festivals, Onam is not associated with any gods or goddesses. Malayalees all over the world believe that their ancient and beloved King Mahabali is paying a visit to see all his people and his kingdom once again. Mahabali is supposed to be a king dethroned by Vamana, believed to be an avatar of Lord Vishnu. It is so believed that since his banishment, Mahabali is allowed to revisit his people and kingdom every year on the Onam days. Hence, Onam celebrations are the most ‘non-political’ days in Kerala. People are usually totally immersed in the raucous mood of the celebration with songs and dance and other cultural activities in addition to the grand feast laid out every day.
The Onam day that fell on August 25th, 1999, is forever etched in my memory alongside a lot of horrible dreams. On the evening of that day, I was ruthlessly attacked by RSS miscreants at my house in Kathiroor village in Kannur, when my wife Yamuna and I were alone.
My sons Jain and Ashish were at Kozhikode spending their Onam vacation at the house of my sister Sathi Devi. I found it quite difficult to take leave from my hectic political schedule as the election to Parliament was imminent. I was the Secretary of the Election Committee of the CPI(M) for the parliamentary constituency of Vadakara. On the morning of that day, some of my comrades from the nearby areas came to my house and spent some time with me and after their usual chat returned to the Onam celebrations in their respective residences. As the entire village was in the mood of a celebration there were no frequent phone calls either.
In the evening, at around about 5 O’clock while I was sitting in my drawing room, I heard the sound of a large explosion quite close. As I rushed to the front door of the house to see what had happened, I heard a second explosion, this time even closer. Just after that I heard a woman screaming in front of my house. Even in that panic, I could see Yamuna running towards me and we opened the door and walked out of the house to see what was happening.
I still vividly remember Kanaka, our neighbor running towards us screaming aloud. Behind her were a group of people carrying swords and axes. They were all RSS cadre who were well known. Some of them were carrying bombs that they detonated one by one to create an air of terror. I understood that I was the target of these RSS goons and we immediately went back into our house and tried to shut the front door.
That attempt was in vain as the RSS men were far too many for my wife and myself to hold the door shut. What happened next is difficult for me to recollect except as fragments, or tiny horrible snatches, of memory. They were all shouting the slogan “Om Kali Bhadrakali”. I recall the sharp sound of swords cutting through the humid summer air all around me. I realized that I had become drenched in my own blood; the shock of the physical attack must have numbed my pain. I remember making a weak attempt to shield myself with a cane chair. But the attack was so vicious that in one stroke of the blade my right arm was severed past the bone and flesh and left to hang by its skin. I also recall a long unending fall slipping in the pool of my own blood in our drawing room. Though I tried to get up once, I slipped again and fell back. By now my body was completely numb and I could not move.
The RSS goons looked at me for a few more moments to confirm my death. After that, they retreated throwing their crude country bombs one after another at my body. Astonishingly enough, I was not unconscious and I could still smell sulphur in the air, coming out of the country bombs that landed around me. My right hand was almost cut away. I could not make an attempt to get up. Within moments, my neighbours came running to my house to save me. Yamuna made a call to the CPI(M) office at Koothuparamba; they rushed to my house with a vehicle and took me to the Co-operative Hospital at Thalassery, which was about 10 km from our house. Though I was not unconscious, I could not open my eyes because of the blood flowing across my face. There was a cut directly on my spine too which was beginning to cause immense pain.
The Co-operative hospital was on full alert by the time we reached there. The surgeons Dr. George, Dr. C. P. Nasimudeen, Dr. Promod Shenoy and Dr. Ali were all waiting for me in spite of their Onam holiday. In that stage of semi-consciousness, I could understand that I was probably never going to recover. Believing those to be my last moments of consciousness, I tried to give information on the miscreants to my comrades nearby. The doctors who attended to me understood that several veins had been cut and a micro-vascular surgery was immediately needed. That facility was not available at the Co-operative Hospital. The doctors decided to immediately rush me to a hospital at Ernakulam, which was 300 km away. They arranged an ambulance to take me to Dr. Jayakumar at Ernakulam, who was a specialist in this type of surgeries. Dr. Jomon accompanied me in the ambulance from Thalassery.
The incredible pain in my spine was the only sensation I had that made me believe that I was still alive. One of my hands, which was hanging by the skin, was set to its original position by the doctors. I felt numb in those areas. On the way to Ernakulam, I was taken to the Medical College at Kozhikode too. The doctors of the Medical College were also of the opinion that I should immediately be taken to Dr. Jayakumar at Ernakulam. Party workers along my route had received advance information of the passing of my ambulance; they made all arrangements to remove the road blocks so that the ambulance could reach the hospital at Ernakulum by 10 o’clock in the night. By the time we reached there, Dr. Jayakumar and Dr. Rajappan were ready to take me to the operating theatre. There, I underwent a surgery that lasted for 13 long hours.
During the surgery, I still remember lurching back and forth from consciousness to unconsciousness. Later, I came to know that there were 17 major wounds on my body, which the doctors scrupulously cleaned and dressed. It was actually on the second day after the operation that the blood stains on my head and body were wiped out. Whilst cleaning my head, the nursing staff discovered a metallic object stuck halfway into my head. The doctors examined it and found it to be a nail that had gone fairly deep through my skull. It was a portion of the shell of a bomb thrown by the RSS men. The doctors were uncertain as to whether this nail would affect my brain. Luckily, it missed it narrowly. But the diaphragm of my left ear was irreparably lost. This must have happened when the RSS men threw their bombs at me at the end of their attack.
P Jayarajan's book 'Sangharshangalude Raashtreeyam: Faasisathinte Aasuravazhikal' ('The Politics of Confrontations: The Monstrous Ways of Fascism').
As everybody knows, the Sangh Parivar members and especially RSS, portray themselves as the protectors and nurturers of the cultural heritage of the country. As I had mentioned earlier, Onam is the most important cultural event for Malayalees. The selection of an Onam day to conduct a heinous crime shows their indifference to the indigenous cultures in the country as well as their self-serving hypocrisy.
I am alive to write down these horrible memories. I owe my life to the speed with which my comrades and friends rushed me to the hospitals. I owe my life to my comrades, my wife, to the doctors, to the various hospital staff and to my countrymen who didn’t rest even for a moment till the surgery was over. If my right arm had not been operated upon in time, it would have had to be amputated. Each day, I am reminded of the immense support and love from my comrades and the timely help of all the others that instilled in me the energy to overcome the fascist attack.
After my recovery, I felt that a lot of handicaps had afflicted my tormented body. It was the consolations that poured in from the side of the party workers, leaders and the masses who support the CPI (M), that made me begin to start overcoming my handicaps. I still remember with immense gratitude the head load workers of Ernakulam, who came forward to give blood to me. I feel proud that I am alive now with that blood coursing through my veins. After I was discharged from the hospital, I had to stay back at Ernakulam for another month for further treatment. I was staying in the building of the Deshabhimani newspaper there. Amidst continuing threats to my life from RSS goons, the comrades at Ernakulam stood guard for me till I returned to Kannur.
The reason that I became the target of an attack by the RSS goons is quite evident; my political activities in my village provoked them to attempt to eliminate me. My village is now portrayed as a “party village” by the media. Earlier, the Patyam panchayat including this village was a strong hold of the Praja Socialist Party and the Congress. They were ruling this Panchayat till 1978. Under their rule, the RSS fascists were generously encouraged. The CPI(M), other left parties and democrats put up a relentless defence to save this village from the clutches of fascism. As a result of this struggle, the Patyam panchayat came under the rule of the CPI(M) in 1979. The RSS people were infuriated by this turn of events and they were left with no alternative other than unleashing violence to regain their lost ground. That was the provocation to make the attempt on my life.
Now, when I recall a lot of incidents in Kathiroor and Patyam Panchayat in the span of the last twenty years, I can see a major design by the fascists to turn that region into their fortress. They started their activities in that area from an “illam”, the household of an old feudal lord, opening a “shakha” and starting drills. From this shakha, they unleashed a number of violent attacks in this region. Kuttichi Ramesan and Sukumaran were among the CPI(M) activists who fell victim to their attacks and turned martyrs. Later, they conducted hit-and-run attacks among the beedi workers of the Dinesh Beedi Company in Pathayakunnu who generally supported the communists of Patyam.
On 6 April 1979, RSS goons conducted multiple attacks on the beedi workers of Thalassery taluk. This was the implementation of a decision of the RSS at the State level. A lot of people assembled from various parts of Kerala to take part in this series of attacks conducted on the same day. There were professional killers who worked for the RSS. These concerted and unexpected attacks claimed the lives of K. V. Balan of Kodiyeri, U. P. Damu of Chambad and Madathil Balan. Comrade Damu of Eranjippuram was fatally wounded and admitted to the Medical college and later succumbed to his wounds. Despite all these attacks, the CPI(M) never attempted to counterattack a shakha of the RSS. Instead of counterattacks, the CPI(M) politically rallied the people of the panchayat to defend themselves from the RSS violence.
Sree Krishna Jayanthi was an ordinary festival in Kerala primarily among Hindus till the RSS appeared on the political scene. The major birthday celebration throughout Kerala before that had been the Sree Narayana Jayanthi (the birthday of Narayana Guru), conducted by the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP) through large rallies. After their inception, the RSS started conducting Sree Krishna Jayanthi rallies in the State. This novel form was adopted to attract children to the shakhas. Once, Sree Krishna Jayanthi and Onam festival fell on the same days. On that occasion, the RSS in Kathiroor conducted Sree Krishna Jayanthi celebration and ignored Onam. They introduced a Pookkalam competition for children. Pookkalam is a traditional floral decoration made in every house in connection with Onam. Actually, RSS was trying to sneak into the consciousness of the general public using the Onam celebration. They declared awards for this competition. They had a hidden agenda to rally the masses for their Sree Krishna Jayanthi procession. The communists of that area understood the danger behind this move by the RSS. They exposed the intention of the RSS through a massive information campaign. The RSS leadership that waited for children to come to their camp was unhappy as no children showed up for their celebration. The communists had already conducted a celebration under the banner of Balasangham in the Upper Primary School of Kathiroor earlier on the same day. That meeting had a massive turnout. Needless to say, the Sree Krishna Jayanthi procession was also not attended by the children.
These sorts of continuous resistance from the side of communists made the RSS angry, which finally made them resort to violence. Soon, the shakha and the drills were stopped as there was nobody to attend them. Since then, whenever there was RSS violence, the people of that panchayat showed the courage to resist it in a coordinated manner under the guidance of the communist party. On one occasion, RSS killed M. K. Surendran, the Secretary of the CPI(M) Branch Committee. It was through these continuous sacrifices that the communists could regain the Patyam panchayat. The massive influence of the party in that area has often made the media portray it as a “party village” out of sheer malicious jealousy. The party workers are proud of this, as they are the ones who paid an immense price for it.
The plan to annihilate the communists and democrats on the one hand and the moves to enhance the influence of the RSS on the other is not confined to one panchayat alone. The RSS had a great desire to turn Kannur into a laboratory to put down communist influence. Just before the attack on me, there was a meeting of the RSS at Panoor, in which one of their state leaders from Trivandrum expressed his fury as follows: “Since there are no more electric lines left, the transformers themselves have to be destroyed”. This sentence is evidence of the conspiracy to attack and eliminate me.
Moreover, the RSS usually adopts a method of character assassination immediately before and after a planned attack. If they want to annihilate someone or strike a target, they usually indulge in false propaganda against that individual or institution. In order to attain this aim, they propagate Goebbels-like lies in a consistent way so that they could tarnish the image of the target among the people. I know that these tactics were adopted in my case too. For instance, in a notice released by the District Committee of the RSS in Kannur, it was alleged that Panoli Valsan and myself were the culprits behind the assassination of an RSS member named Utthaman. When one of their cadres, Jayakrishnan, was killed in broad daylight in a class room, they alleged that the Party was behind it. They portrayed me as the squad leader of the criminal gang which conducted that assassination. The notice ran like this:
“The conspiratorial rule played by CPI(M) State Committee in the assassination of Jayakrishnan is evident. Almost all the evidence collected in this case stands testimony to this. The role played by Jayarajan, the present MLA, is to be unearthed. The leader of the criminal band in Kannur, P. Jayarajan is still untouched by the police. The role played by both the leadership of the state committee and of Jayarajan is known to the people. P. Jayarajan was present in the District Court of Thalassery where the criminals in this case were awarded capital punishment.”
This is a sample of their propaganda campaign. They always try to present those whom they want to annihilate as anti-social and anti-people and thereby create a sort of self-justification to legitimise their brutality.
After my one month long stay in Ernakulam for treatment, I returned to my native place on a November 24th. It is also the day to commemorate the martyrdom of five comrades in Koothuparamba, who were mercilessly shot and killed in police firing in 1994. I was there to participate in the meeting at Kannur. The main invitees of that meeting were Harkishan Singh Surjeet, the General Secretary of the party and Pinarayi Vijayan, the State Secretary of the party. When I reached Kannur on 25th November, my outward appearance had changed drastically. Everybody knew that I had a narrow escape from death. As a dear one who had come back to life, I was provided with all the love and affection by my comrades. They gave me a warm welcome in that meeting.
I continued my treatment with the physiotherapy unit at the Co-operative Hospital, Thalassery. Dr. C. P. Nasimudeen who gave me first aid at the time of the attack was wonder-struck to see me walking towards him. His first observation on examining me after the attack was that my spinal injury would hinder my ability to walk. That I still could walk was a miracle for him. While I was in the hospital in Ernakulam, a lot of leaders and cadres came to see me and consoled me in the days of pain and strain; they included E. K. Nayanar, V. S. Achuthanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan. The visit of Comrade C. Kannan, whom I respect enormously, was of great significance for me. He told me about the malicious propaganda being propagated by the RSS people outside. While I was battling against death in the hospital, the RSS was portraying me as the organiser of killings. Quite often, not only the mainstream media, but even the common people were misled by this propaganda. They always were being given the impression that the CPI(M) was the sole reason for the unrest at Kannur. They always forgot that hundreds of CPI(M) workers and leaders have been killed or mutilated there.
This was evident from an article by name ‘The disaster of Kannur’ printed in the Mathrubhumi Weekly published on 6 July 1998. In this cover story, a large photograph of RSS cadres carrying their ‘danda’ was printed. The caption given to this picture was “The Growing Resistance in Kannur”. In that article, they described RSS and CPI (M) as alike; more than that, they portrayed RSS as an antidote to the CPI(M) violence. This sort of propaganda made people in other parts of the state to feel that Kannur was some horrible and dangerous place. This propaganda is quite misleading.
I was the candidate of the LDF contesting from Koothuparamba constituency in the Assembly election of 2001. Mr. Ramesh Kumar IAS was the observer from the Election Commission. He hailed from Kadappa in Andhra Pradesh. When he was deputed to Kannur, he said that some of his friends advised him not to go there. They tried to explain the danger of the place. Later, Mr. Ramesh Kumar told me that he understood that none of his advisor friends had ever been to Kannur. They only had a terrifying picture about Kannur based on reports in the media. Mr. Ramesh Kumar travelled to all the 150 polling stations of the constituency and conducted an exemplary observatory work. When the elections and the declaration of the results were over, he told me: “From the advice of my friends I thought Kannur as a terrible place of bombs. In my experience, the election in Kannur was extremely peaceful. Stray incidents that take place even in Kadappa were not to be seen here. I don’t know why the media portrays Kannur as a terrible place.”
This shows how the mainstream media distorts reality. Mr. Ramesh Kumar IAS is not the only one who gradually changed his opinion on Kannur after coming there.
While I was on my hospital bed, I had enough time to think about my native place, of Kannur district and the significance of our resistance against the fascists. Kannur had a glorious past of fighting injustice. Its ancient art Theyyam is a manifestation of the relentless struggle for justice. In the modern times, Kannur produced a series of people’s resistance movements against foreign occupation and feudalism. Kannur has also sadly produced many martyrs in these struggles. The people in this district were never apolitical and their political will is indomitable. The recent fight against RSS fascism is a continuation of this old and heroic struggle. But the media in Kerala misrepresents it completely. They place both RSS and CPI(M) on the same plane in order to mislead the people regarding the real political differences and roles played by both parties in the conflicts.
I can earnestly say that nowhere in Kerala did the CPI(M) ever initiate armed clashes against any political opponent, including the RSS. It is true that we are a party ideologically different and opposed to the fascist ideas of the RSS and the larger Sangh Parivar. But that does not mean that we attack and kill them. Needless to say, a massive party like CPI (M) that is answerable to people cannot rely on armed clashes in a democratic society. However, that doesn’t mean that there have not been retaliatory responses. We do not feel the urge to show cowardice when our comrades are mercilessly eliminated with the support, encouragement and apathy of the state machinery, who will sit idle before a series of inhuman atrocities are unleashed by ideological opponents.
We consider that the greatest thing in social life is the right of a peaceful living and allowing others also to live a peaceful life. Critics of the party love to spread the lie that CPI(M) is a violent party in Kerala, especially in Kannur. Nothing is farther from truth. “Party villages”, as the media loves to call them, exist in Kannur not because the CPI(M) rules with some iron hand; it is because the CPI(M) is loved by the people in these villages. Is it the fault of the CPI(M) that people love it?
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