Cadres of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) clashed in Payyanur, a town 50 km north of Kannur city in Kerala, on July 11. No casualties were reported but people from both sides suffered injuries. As many as 20 houses and an office of the RSS were also damaged.

Kannur has for long been a hotbed of political violence between the CPI(M) and the Sangh Parivar.

According to Kerala police, Kannur district saw 69 “political murders” from 2000 to 2016 – 31 of the slain people belonged to the Sangh Parivar and 30 to the CPI(M). Of the other eight victims, five belonged to the Indian Union Muslim League and three to the National Development Front, which has since merged with the Popular Front of India.

The number of violent incidents has come down drastically since Pinarayi Vijayan, who hails from Kannur district, became chief minister last May and took steps to find lasting peace. He has even won appreciation from Sangh Parivar leaders for his efforts.

The latest incidents, however, have put a question mark on the peace initiatives.

Payyanur had been relatively calm after the twin murders of CPI(M) leader CV Dhanaraj and BJP worker CK Ramachandran last year on July 11 and July 12, respectively. Until that is, RSS worker Biju, an accused in Dhanaraj’s murder, was hacked to death on May 12 this year, allegedly by CPI(M) workers.

Forensic experts collect samples from the RSS office in Payyanur on Wednesday. Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen

The trigger

The latest bout of violence, the police said, was triggered by RSS men who threw country-made bombs at a group of nine men on their way to a meeting commemorating the death anniversary of Dhanaraj on Tuesday, July 11 afternoon.

“We were travelling on five motorcycles flying CPI(M) flags,” said Bashayar, who was among those attacked. “When we reached Mottakkunnu, an RSS stronghold, a group of people hurled petrol bombs at us.”

“All of us fell down from our bikes,” he added. “We couldn’t see or hear anything due to the sound and smoke of the explosions. Nail and glass pieces pierced our bodies. In the melee, I heard screams like ‘kill the communists’. We were lucky to get back on our bikes and ride to safety.”

Bashayar suffered a deep cut to his joint, forearms and thighs. “It is painful,” he said.

The nine injured men are being treated at the Cooperative Hospital in Payyanur.

Retaliatory attacks began within hours, starting with the RSS office in the town. The room near the entrance where RSS cadres uniforms are kept was burnt. No one was present at the office at the time.

According to the police, 10 houses of Sangh Parivar activists and as many of CPI(M) workers were damaged in the ensuing violence. “The situation is under control now,” Sub Inspector KP Shine said.

CPI(M) worker Damodaran's house was damaged in the violence. Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen

Blame game

The violence has now triggered a blame political game. The RSS observed a hartal in Payyanur Wednesday to protest the attacks. RSS state chief P Gopalan Kutty Master, who had attended the peace meetings with the chief minister, refuted claims that his people had hurled bombs at CPI(M) cadres. “We didn’t do that,” he said. “CPI(M) leaders spread lies to find a reason to burn the RSS office.”

CPI(M) leader TI Madhusudhanan countered, “They carried out pre-planned attacks. Nine of our members suffered injuries. Scores of houses of our cadres were also damaged.”

“Sangh Parivar’s media cell circulated the photos of violence across the country,” he added. “Those who circulate the pictures should not forget that CPI(M) cadres suffered injuries and losses to property.”

The RSS office, which was set ablaze by miscreatns, in Payyanur on Tuesday. Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen