The two back-to-back murders in Alappuzha district in Kerala of an SDPI leader and a BJP leader has put the state on the boil, with the threat of a communal flare-up looming large over the last few days.
As opposition parties take aim at the ruling CPI(M) and police for its failure to stop the murders “despite having intelligence”, observers fear this could lead to widening of communal divide in the largely amicable state.
After SDPI state secretary KS Shan was killed late on Saturday night, BJP OBC Morcha state secretary Ranjith Sreenivas was hacked to death on Sunday morning in Alappuzha district.
According to sources, both the murders were premeditated, with the leaders being watched and stalked by “strangers” before their death.
Shan’s wife Faseela told the media that a man posing as insurance agent had turned up at their house a few days before his death and asked for his details.
Soon after Shan was killed, strangers were seen near the house of Ranjith, according to sources in the BJP and RSS.
K Surendran, BJP’s Kerala unit president, told The Federal that the police failed to act despite being aware of the friction between the two groups.
Other Opposition leaders also slammed the government for not being able to control political violence, even after the killing of Nandu Krishna, an RSS worker in February.
“There was a clear warning from the state intelligence three weeks back that there was chance of communal violence in five districts in Kerala. The police ignored this warning,” said K Babu, a Congress MLA.
Political murders are not new to Kerala. But some incidents have taken the state by shock. On November 15, S Sanjith, a local RSS leader was stabbed to death in Palakkad in front of his wife. Three persons associated with PFI were arrested.
Observers believe that both outfits on both sides of the spectrum are trying to polarise the state on communal lines and derive benefits out of it.
Also read: Alappuzha murders: Simmering tension could explode in the long run
“BJP realises that violence is the only way to polarise the Hindu community in favour of them. Hence they provoke and incite violence. SDPI also is doing the same. They try to create the impression among Muslims that no other political party including Muslim League is capable of protecting them from the RSS violence. Both are playing a very dangerous game in a state like Kerala that never had large-scale communal tensions,” said Dr J Prabhash, former head of the department of political science of Kerala University.
“It is too early to find a pattern, but there are dangerous signs of polarisation,” said Ashraf Kadakkal, a political commentator and professor of history at the University of Kerala. “When I talked to the leaders in both sides, I understand that even they have apprehension about this bloody game. If this is continued, they themselves are in danger.”
He told The Federal that organisations such as PFI and SDPI are internally propagating among themselves that the RSS may try the ‘Gujarat model’ in Kerala. “I understand that they are preparing to counter such a possible violence engineered by RSS.”
However, Dr Asharaf does not see sufficient evidence to conclude that the recent killings mark the beginning of large-scale violence.
Hate mongering has been intense, including on social media, with slogans being chanted by the BJP/RSS in the demonstration in Thalassery on December 2 to mark the death anniversary of KT Jayakrishnan, the BJP leader who was killed in 1999. Though Muslim organisations had no role in the murder, provocative slogans against mosques and Muslims were raised.
On the other hand, Islamist fringe groups portray the violence against Hindu groups as an act of ‘holy war’. Following Shan’s death, PFI and SDPI said it should not be mourned but called for ‘celebration’ as he had attained martyrdom for a larger cause. They drew a lot of support, with some people saying every SDPI member “aspires martyrdom”, shocking many in Kerala.