At a rally in Kerala’s Kannur district on Tuesday, Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah sharply criticised Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan for failing to protect Sangh Parivar workers in the state. Claimed Shah, “As many as 120 BJP-RSS workers have been murdered in Kerala so far.”

The rally marked the launch of the party’s Janraksha Yatra, or people’s protection march, which is aimed at highlighting incidents that the BJP claims are evidence of the failure of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which leads Kerala’s ruling Left Democratic Front coalition.


The next day, when Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath addressed a gathering in the district headquarters of Kannur as part of the same yatra, he cited a murder figure that was more than double the one Shah had offered. “Communists have killed 283 BJP workers in Kerala,” he said.

Neither Shah nor Adityanath mentioned the time span in which these alleged murders occurred.


Battleground Kannur

Led by BJP state president Kummanam Rajashekharan, the Janraksha Yatra aims to put the CPI(M) on the backfoot by highlighting the murders of Sangh Parivar workers in the state as well as the Vijayan government’s failure to check what Hindutva outfits refer to as “love jihad”, a conspiracy theory that Muslim men are marrying women from other religions solely to convert them to Islam. The yatra, across 11 of Kerala’s 14 districts, will culminate in state capital Thiruvananthapuram on October 17.

Shah said the BJP-RSS had lost 84 workers in Kannur district alone. “I want to ask Pinarayi Vijayan…Who has killed them?” he said.

Kannur, which lies 500 km North of Thiruvanthapuram, is the cradle of the communist movement in the state, and has been infamous for political murders for several decades. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological mentor of the BJP, has attempted to make inroads into this district for many years now.

Since the late 1960s, political clashes in this district have resulted in the deaths of political workers cutting across party lines – from the CPI(M), BJP-RSS, Congress, Indian Union Muslim League, Janata Dal and National Democratic Front.

What official figures say

Official data on political killings across the state is not available publically so far.

With regard to Kannur, police data obtained by through a Right to Information request shows that both the BJP-RSS and the CPI(M) have lost nearly the same number of workers between 2000 and 2016. Of the 69 political deaths in this district during that period, 31 were from the BJP-RSS while 30 were from the CPI(M).

Last year, the BJP-RSS lost four workers in political violence, one more than the CPI(M)’s three. However, in the preceding 15 years, both sides lost 27 workers each.

The CPI(M) released a factsheet on Wednesday in which the party stated that it had suffered more casualties in political clashes in the state than the BJP-RSS. Quoting Kerala police figures, it said that 85 CPI(M) workers had been killed in Kerala between 2000 to 2017 while 65 workers of the BJP-RSS have been murdered.

‘Spreading misinformation?’

Former BJP Kannur district president OK Vasu, who joined the CPI(M) in 2014, accused the BJP of deliberately spreading misinformation about the number of party workers killed in the state.

“They do not even know the number of people killed from their party,” he said. “It shows that they are conducting the Janraksha Yatra with the aim of making Kerala a political killing field.”

Vasu said that 59 Sangh Parivar workers had been killed in Kannur from 1967 to 2017. “Eight of them were killed while making bombs, while two others were murdered by members of National Democratic Front,” he said. “The CPI(M) has lost more workers than the BJP in clashes in Kannur. Let the government set up an panel to present the exact figures.”