Providing a democratic platform to politicians,
intellectuals and mediapersons, Organiser hosted a
day-long brainstorming in Kozhikode seeking a way out of the vicious cycle of political violence in Kerala, particularly in Kannur
T Satisan from Kozhikode
“Organiser” took a rare initiative in Kerala named “In Search of Peace, ” a one-day programme in Kozhikode, which was a first ever endevour by a media organisation to explore possibilities to bring peace back to Kerala in general and Kannur district in particular, the citadel of political violence and killings since the last more than four decades. Hundreds of people have lost their life in Kannur district alone since 1967, thanks to the political clashes taking place there. Most of the clashes happening since 1978, immediately after the lifting of the Emergency, have been between the CPM and the RSS.
RSS had taken several initiatives in the past in search of peace. It was started by P Parameswarji back in 1981 which led to several meetings between the senior leaders of RSS and CPM, the first one being the meeting in Delhi. It was pursued in Kochi, Kottakkal (both in Kerala), etc. But, they all failed to put a final end to the murder politics. Therefore, the weekly’s initiative is really laudable in view of the situation prevailing in Kerala. If the CPM-RSS clashes were reported from Thalasserry Taluk of Kannur district and Vadakara of Kozhikode district since the last more than 40 years, it recently spread to all parts of Kerala when a fake news took the rounds that Sitaram Yechury was attacked by Sangh men at CPM head quarters in Delhi.
When the Organiser editor Prafulla Ketkar met several prominent people in Kerala the response to the programme was tremendous. It was the barometer for the mindscapes the people held. Eminent historian and former chairman of ICHR Dr MGS Narayanan was all smiles to chair the reception committee. The press conferences addressed by the editor and MGS were well attended and properly reported by both print and electronic media.
“In Search of Peace” was inaugurated by BJP national vice president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe MP on July 1, 2017. He reminded the audience that the initiative was taking place on the first day after GST came to existence. He praised Organiser for putting forward a new thought process of integrating the people and the nation. He remembered the initiative taken during Assam agitations in 1980s upholding the view that the issue was between “Bharatiyas and non Bharatiyas” which repudiated the general argument of “Assamese Vs Non-Assamese.” Bharat believes in spiritual democracy. We always welcome new thoughts; we do not believe in monolithic ideas. No room for violence in our ideas, hence it should be put out. In history of humanity, political violence stems from political and ideological untouchability. It kills pluralism. Liberalism, broadmindedness and ‘live and let others live’ are the basic tenets of Bharatiya philosophy. Sahasrabuddhe added that mandate to rule is not the mandate for violence. Left wing extremism is a reality. Extremism leads to violence. Left extremism assumed strength in Bharat in 2006. A section of politicians and self styled scholars supported it. But, media failed to expose it. A country can develop only when it is peaceful. We have to use our own consciousness to condemn what is wrong.
Prafulla Ketkar, editor of Organiser weekly delivered the introductory speech. The editor explained the spirit behind the initiative. Putting an end to the violence is the need of the hour. He said, his endeavour was to conduct a one day programme attended by leaders of all political parties in the state. In this direction, he met leaders of major and small parties belonging to both ruling LDF (led by CPM) and Opposition UDF (led by Congress). Some of them agreed to come, but could not make it due to reasons known to them. Some others did not confirm attendance saying that they would let the organizers know later. He added that the weekly would continue its efforts in this direction.
MGS Narayanan, in his presidential address, said that peace initiative is always warm welcome whoever takes the lead role. There should not be any encouragement to violence. Emergency was the regime’s call for violence. Revolution is essentially violent which ruled the roost before parliamentary democracy turned the system. In Kerala, now violence has spread from Kannur district to other parts of the state. MGS appealed to all for stopping the blame game; all should go for introspection.
Dr KS Radhakrishnan, former chairman of Kerala Public Service Commission and former VC of SriSankaracharya University of Sanskrit, said, in his key note address, that there was no need of any post mortem of the history; on the other hand, the development of pluralistic and co-existent atmosphere will expedite the peace initiatives. TS Eliot has said that if we dig we get skeletons. Blame game will not bring any solution. It is high time the violence be stopped. What we need is a paradigm shift. Unemployment also is one of the reasons for violence. We have to stop destructive politics and go for constructive politics. Why Malabar has become a centre of violence is to be addressed. Let thousands of ideologies fight each other instead of physical violence.
Adv Alok Kumar, Managing Director of Bharat Prakashan Trust, the publisher of Organiser, delivered the felicitation speech. He described about the manners in which the media reports. If a senior Police Officer is lynched in Kashmir, it is not a serious issue! But, when a man is attacked by so-called cow vigilantes it is sensationalised; two different parameters for two incidents. Imagine the hue and cry the selling of pork in front of a mosque might invite! If beef is sold in front of BJP office or a university, it will be treated as freedom to choose one’s food! EN Nadakumar, Director of Bharat Prakashan Trust cast vote of thanks.
Role of Media
Next in line was Media Session. Prof MD Nalapat, senior journalist and the editorial director of The Sunday Guardian, inaugurated the session. Nalapat said, frustration starts from unemployment and violence stems from frustration. Prof Nalapat explained, Kerala is a model for the whole world with respect to reduction in birth rate, longevity of elders, etc. But, Kerala lacks economic progress. It needs 10 to 12 per cent increase in GDP. If the development and progress take place, people will be engaged in their jobs hence they will not get time for street fights. At the same time, media has got an important role in ensuring peace as it influences the people a lot.
N P Rajendran, former deputy editor of Mathrubhumi daily and former chairman of Kerala Press Academy said, he hails from Thalassery, the place infamous for the continued political violence. He said that this is first time that a faction involved in the clashes takes initiative for peace. He stated that since 2000, both factions (CPM and RSS) have been losing their workers in violent clashes in equal numbers; but, since 2016 it has been one-sided attacks (obviously reference to CPM-led LDF rule in the state since 2016). During the stints of Congress leaders AK Antony and Oommen Chandry as CMs in 2000s, the political murders were less in number; there was no murder in 2003. The mindset to take revenge comes up when “our minister handles home” (obvious reference to LDF rule; because, BJP has never ruled the state). He cited the incident of a ‘faction’ observing satyagraha in their party office for not getting permission to take revenge! These days, number of murders has come down in Thalassery. It has moved to Payyannur, different part of Kannur district. Some CPM men are misusing the advantage of their rule, but not necessarily with the knowledge of their leaders. But, fact remains that their leadership fails to control their rank and file. And, all parties fail to control their new recruits ! When a convict on parole goes out, he gets heavy security and escort by his party; it is an open encouragement for the criminal activities. Congressmen behaved like goons during Emergency. So, eliberate campaigns like this also are needed for peace.
Adv TG Mohandas, the state Intellectual Cell Convener of BJP, said that media has got constructive and destructive roles to play in putting an end to the political violence. He said one media man’s Whatsapp message calling for the journalists to depict the two intruders as RSS men who tried to misbehave in CPM head office in Delhi, played the gravest role in causing state wide violence in Kerala. Several innocent people were arrested and jailed just because of that! Several houses of RSS/BJP men and several BJP offices were destroyed! Several men were injured and hospitalised. Mohandas said that there was not a single incident of violence following the mass massacre that took place in Maradu, Kozhikokde in May, 2003. Hindus left their homes in the beach en masse. Still no violence. But Kozhikode Press Club men led by NP Rajendran took initiative for peace talks. He deposed truth before the Enquiry Commission and invited the wrath for it! So, media has got a role, but, in Kerala it is used as a destructive force. Mohandas justified putting the riot prone and riot-struck areas under AFSPA. KPS Gill won in Punjab using AFSPA. Centre can do it sans the state’s demand. If good governance and good policing are there, political violence can be contained.
Next speaker M.C. Rejil of Kerala Kaumudi daily said that media can not stop violence but, can maintain balance in reporting. But, social media appears to be reckless. It would have been better if some mechanism was there to control them. He reminisced the role taken by the media persons of Kozhikode when Maradu killing took place. He opined, if innocent are caught the violence spreads. Culprits should be isolated by their own parties. He said, the Organiser’s efforts should be supported by the media in Malabar zone; let this be a beginning.
Subhash Babu, retired Superintendent of Police, said that media can either maintain balance or aggravate the violence, but can not put an end to it. No media person can do impartial reporting these days; no true reporting at all. Media is the only lot sans any sort of code conduct. Notorious violence take place in Nadapuram, Thalasserry, Chokkly. But no serious study on it nor any commission to enquire into! He called on the media men to add somewhere a note, along with the report, saying that whatever reports are there, the actual fact is ‘like this.’ He says, goons turn defunct after a period of time. He has seen such a goon who keeps a collection of paper cuttings of his “activities.”
A Political Way Out
The last programme was Political Session. Addressing the session Adv PS Sreedharan Pillai, leading lawyer and former state president and national executive member of BJP said that court verdicts in connection with the murders of at least five RSS/BJP workers mentioned the illicit nexus between the police and ruling party to sabotage the whole case and evidences. They include the murders of Pannyannur Chandran, Jayakrishnan Master and Kodiyeri Dasan. They read that even the documents kept under safe custody of the court rooms were manipulated in this direction. But not a single court verdict in Kerala has ever blamed any RSS/BJP leader for resorting to these sorts of illicit actions. This itself proves that both CPM and RSS/BJP leaders are not equally guilty in crimes and offences. When Fazal, a former CPM man who joined NDF, was killed on the 28th Ramadan day and CPM tried to manipulate it to make RSS/BJP workers the culprits, a police officer found out the real truth. He mooted the idea of CBI inquiry. But, CPM kept mum. Later on the police officer was caught under the pretext of a cooked up illicit relation case. But, he was acquitted. When UDF took over, the case was handed over to CBI. The culprits were booked. Then comes the forced confession of the RSS worker which he denied later. CPM and the police officers owing allegiance to CPM forget that such confession does not carry any legal validity. CPM did not attend this programme because they claim that they are the protectors of minorities from the RSS killers! RSS and BJP should expose these bogus stands of CPM. No political violence in any BJP ruled state!
Addressing the gathering Swapan Dasguptha MP said that “In Search of Peace” has witnessed a wider discussion on democracy. It is really sad that some people opted out. Political untouchability simply because one does not agree with another is not healthy. It is not ideological but due to a mentality. Under democracy, no one can own complete monopoly of truth. All philosophers should have intellectual modesty. Otherwise it will lead to Taliaban mind set. Taliban videos are available on YouTube displaying beheading in
public, etc. In Kerala we see the same. Talibanism can not co-exist with humanity. We have to contain the epidemic of this violence.
M Radhakrishnan, Sah Prant Karyavah of RSS Kerala, said, that the boycot by some parties means, future is not going to be violence free. Why should we miss a dialogue? CPM PB member MA baby boycotted Jaipur Literature Festival saying that an RSS representative was there. RSS inspired representative was not invited to Kozhikode Literature Festival. At last former Naxalite leader and intellectual personality Civic Chandran asked why RSS representative was not invited. Are Leftists afraid of RSS ideology? He said, RSS is capable of converting any enemy into friend. He added that RSS got this clout due to their dedication and not with the power of weapons, etc. That means, now they realise that they can not fight RSS ideologically.
Referring to CPM’s murder spree, Radhakrishnan said that before and after every murder of a Sangh worker they spread scandals about the victim like he is the henchman of a feudalist or capitalist, is an anti-social or he is a caste Hindu, etc. RSS flourished in Kerala among the poor and the Dalits. CPM murdered agricultural labourers simply because they were Sangh workers. They paint Vadikkal Ramakrishnan, the poor sweetmeat maker and RSS swayamsevak, killed in 1969, as the agent of the capitalists! Despite the planned CPM attacks, RSS gets stronger and stronger day by day. It reflects in the voting pattern also. BJP scores more votes in all constituencies in Kerala, because the dalits and the poor, the conventional CPM voters vote BJP these days. It was evident in Thrissur, Thiruvananthapuram, etc. In Thiruvananthapuram Municipal Corporation, BJP’s tally is equal to that of CPM! Minorities are coming to BJP fold too. CPM goons attacked a Muslim woman in Thiruvananthapuram. Joining BJP is the crime she committed! In Kerala, they keep on attacking Muslims. Vadakara and Thanoor are glaring examples for this. They attack and kill those who desert them and join Sangh or BJP. Ninety nine per cent of the RSS victims of CPM attacks are former CPM men. They believe that RSS men are bound to be killed. We did not go for a violent retaliation when the Maradu incident took place.
Narayanakutty, Kozhikode district secretary of Communist Marxist Party (CMP), the party founded by late M.V. Raghavan, once an inflammatory CPM leader from Kannur, said that the first of its kind initiative by an RSS inspired weekly is a welcome step. He reminisced the attacks and murder attempts his leader Raghavan and leaders like him had to face from CPM when they left the party. He thinks, RSS fell into CPM trap by retaliating their attacks. He says, CPM is a murder syndicate. He thinks, biometric standards should be linked to ID cards for stopping fake voting.
Former union minister of state and leader of a Kerala Congress faction P.C. Thomas said that CPM should have participated in this programme. They are not in any ideological fight. On the other hand, they are always against ideology. They killed T.P. Chandrasekharan, because, he went against them; no ideology behind that murder. Setting up party villages in its own strong holds is not the ideological war either. He added that sometimes, absence of retaliation might be construed as weakness.
Adv. Alok Kumar delivered the concluding remarks. He mentioned that transparency and genuineness boost one’s acceptance. He cited the example of the classic debate between Adi Sankara and Mandana Mishra. Mishra’s wife Ubhaya Bharati could declare Sankara the winner, even though she could not attend the whole exercise due to household duties, because she notice that the flowers in garland worn by Sankara were fresh while those of Mishra had dried. Sankara completed his Digvijayam sans any army but with spiritual power and truth. Answer to any argument is not violence.
Sree Narayana Guru resorted to peaceful style for implementing social reforms. Alok Kumar said, “In Search of Peace” is just a beginning.
The one day programme was attended by a large audience consisting of intellectuals, media persons, writers and social activists. Print and electronic media in the state gave deserving coverage to the programme as an unprecedented project; all did highlight it as a weekly’s initiative in search of peace.