‘Let it become hell’: In Kannur, an old woman mourns husband and son killed for politics

KC Narayani’s family has been destroyed by political violence. She isn’t voting ever again.

‘Let it become hell’: In Kannur, an old woman mourns husband and son killed for politics
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“I want them to come and I want them to kill me,” she said defiantly.

KC Narayani’s light cotton sari loosely falls over her tall, frail body. She always bolts her grill door from inside. She lives alone. She doesn’t like to go stay with her daughter or grandchildren. “What if my son comes home is what I keep thinking,” she explained.

But Narayani’s son isn’t coming home. Ever.

KC Remid, 29, an “RSS supporter”, was hacked to death, allegedly by eight CPIM workers at Pinarayi village of Kerala’s Kannur district on October 12, 2016.

A bloody history

Being killed for political ideology isn’t new in Kannur, described by some as “Kerala’s killing fields”. Since 1969, when the first political murder was recorded, it has accounted for the majority of the over 300 political killings in the state. According to police records accessed by NDTV, Kerala saw 173 political killings from 2000 to 2017 alone. Of those killed, 85 were from CPIM and 65 were RSS or BJP workers. The Congress and the IUML each had 11 workers killed by either the CPIM or the Sangh Parivar. Records obtained by 101reporters through an RTI application in 2016 show that Kannur saw 69 murders between 2000 and 2016. Thirty of the slain persons were from the CPIM, 31 from the Sangh, and the rest from the IUML and the Congress.

After Pinaryi Vijayan became the chief minister in 2016 until 2019, there were at least 20 political murders in Kerala, and most of the accused were CPIM workers.

In fact, on the very day the Left Democratic Front won the previous election, on May 19, 2016, violence had erupted in Kannur, including in Pinarayi, ancestral village of the chief minister, where workers of the CPIM, BJP and IUML clashed. According to reports from the time, the violence broke out when members of the CPIM carrying out a victory procession tried to destroy a BJP flagpole. A CPIM worker was killed in the clashes.

In Thalassery town, Kannur, we met KP Mohanan, 65, who has spent a lifetime writing about politics in Kerala. In his youth, he had been associated with the Kerala Students Union of the Congress. After the Emergency in the 1970s, he went over to the Janata Party. Currently, he writes and edits the magazine Punar Vayana, or ‘Reading Again’. Mohanan spoke of how the violence has become such a toxic loop that it’s impossible to try and understand who is to blame. “If any wrongdoing is done by workers of the BJP-RSS, CPM will carry out ‘justice’,” he said. “Same goes for the RSS-BJP.”

In Kannur, political violence has a long history, dating back to at least the 1960s, when the RSS, backed by businessmen from Mangalore looking to expand in the region, started making inroads. Their plan was to counter the communists who had set up a base there in the 1940s.

Kannur, as much of Kerala, was a strictly feudal society back then and the communists were starting to mobilise peasants to rise up against landlords and chieftains. To counter them, the Praja Socialist Party, the main rival of the communists in the region, allied with the Jana Sangh, political affiliate of the RSS and forerunner of the BJP. The tussle between newly emboldened workers, who became the CPIM’s footsoldiers, and disgruntled feudal lords who found support from the RSS, reached a boiling point. In the late 1960s, blood began spilling, and it hasn’t stopped soaking Kannur’s lands.

In recent years, both the RSS and the CPIM have come under fire for continuing to perpetuate political violence despite agreeing to keep peace. In 2017, then Kerala Congress chief VM Sudheeran demanded that Pinarayi Vijayan of the CPIM give up chief ministership as he had lost all control of law and order. Several rounds of peace talks have been held since Pinarayi came to power, yet the violence continues.

As one police officer had told Newslaundry in Kannur five years ago, “Peace prevails here only when the death toll is even.”

Mohanan held the state police accountable as well. “Look how many cases the CBI is having to investigate, this says something about the police,” he said, accusing the police of not conducting investigations properly for political reasons. "There’s no legal action because even within police, there's a lot of party politics and unions.”

In such a situation, it’s not surprising that Remid’s killing became a mere statistic.

KP Mohanan says political violence in Kannur has become a toxic loop.

KP Mohanan says political violence in Kannur has become a toxic loop.

Rage, revenge, retaliation

Narayani, now 62, has a clear memory of that day. She was sitting in her courtyard, hardly a kilometer away from Vijiyan’s home. She had undergone a hip operation a few days before and couldn’t stand or walk on her own. Her 8-month-pregnant daughter was also home. Narayani spotted her son walking back after buying medicines for her. As he crossed the petrol pump next to their house, Narayani saw eight men jump out of a van and violently attack Remid with knives and swords. Rendered immobile by the surgery, she sat there in her chair watching her son being butchered.

“I started screaming and my daughter ran towards them. She was pregnant, she fell down and couldn’t reach him on time,” she said, breaking down.

A month later, two CPIM workers were arrested in connection with the murder. As per a chargesheet filed in 2017, the police eventually found 15 local CPIM workers were involved. Nine ended up being arrested, but Narayani said they were all out on bail now and she frequently saw them about.

According to the chargesheet, Remid’s murder was a revenge killing.

Two days before his murder, suspected RSS workers had hacked to death a communist leader at Koothuparamba, a village 20 minutes away from Remid’s by bus. And Remid was killed in retaliation.

Narayani explained that in their largely communist-leaning village, hers is one of the few families that vote for the BJP. “My son only sympathised with the RSS, however. He never worked with them or attended their meetings,” she claimed. “They simply killed my son for revenge.”

Remid wasn’t the only loved one Narayani lost to political violence.

In 2002, her husband C Unnithan had been similarly hacked to death, allegedly by CPIM members. “A case was filed but I do not know if anyone was arrested,” she said. “I was 31 then and mother to two small children. So I didn’t bother following the case, fighting for justice. I just wanted to focus on my children and bring them up well.”

Today, Narayani couldn’t have expressed her anger more clearly. “Let everyone kill each other, let everything get destroyed,” she said. “Let this place become a real hell, only then will peace prevail.”

Pinarayi Vijayan's pictures have come up everywhere in Dharmadom.

Pinarayi Vijayan's pictures have come up everywhere in Dharmadom.

Not voting anymore

Outside Narayani’s home in Dharmadom constituency, where Vijayan is contesting, the mood is starkly different.

Posters and photos of the chief minister are all around, including a 20-foot flex of him right opposite her house. Loudspeakers blaring CPIM election songs and speeches drive past on a daily basis.

Asked if planned to vote, she immediately said no. “I have no interest in politics or life anymore. I am not voting for any of these animals to come to power anymore.”

Narayani is not just heartbroken, she’s also deeply confused. She goes back and forth, piecing together her memory of how things were and how they have turned out.

Narayani recalled that when she was a young girl, her younger sister and Vijayan were in school together and the future politician would frequently eat and play with children from Narayani’s family. “Even a dog who you have fed once will have some gratitude for you. But this man, I can’t tell you how angry I am with him and what he has turned this party into,” she said.

After the death of her husband and son, Narayani never considered moving out of her house. She has lived by herself all this while. Has she ever been scared?

“Scared of what? Death? Only death can save me now. At least then I can go join my husband and son in heaven. At least then we can be a family again,” she replied.

Poll campaigns, case diaries, courts, lawyers – they mean nothing to her. “I have left everything to God,” she declared. “It is only in God’s courtroom that I hope to find some closure.”

Pictures by Aditya Varier.

***

This story is part of the NL Sena project which over 300 of our readers contributed to. It was made possible thanks to Vedant Kanade, Madhukar R, Shreyansh Jain, Navas, Ayan Dutta, Mathivanan, Padmani, Arjun Goutham, Sudarshana Mukhopadhyay, Ravi Pandey, Rajesh Shenoy, Sahit Koganti, Sarthak, Uma Rajagopalan, Somok Gupta Roy, Sam Sadguru, Tulasi Pemmasani, Praveen Surendra, Kamesh Goud, Ankur Mishra, Sharique Damda, Himanshu Singh, Akshaydeep Singh, Saurabh Bhatia, Chitrak Gupta, Mayukh Roy, Suhesh Lodh, Sumit Dhiman, Farzana Hasan, BK, Sandeep Sharma, Yuvraj Arora, Ranjith PS, Inderdeep Singh, Joseph M Raj, Gregory Cooper, Sayani Dasgupta, Soumit Ghosh, Daman, Raunak Dutta, Mhetre, Puneet Dravid, Md Rafat S Siddiqui, Shayan Sarkar, Aliasgar Khokhawala, Rinku Goel, Vijesh Chandera, Rohit Duggal, Qaim Alvi, Shubham Bangar, Sainath Naidu, Prabhat Lakra, Daksh, Bibhas Adhikari, Anima Dey, Sujith Nambudiri, Rahul Chauhan, Murali K, Aikya Chatterjee, Harshal Geet, Aditya Deuskar, Anindita Brahma, Abdeali Jivaji, Kamran Hambali, Pranav Prabhakaran, Ankur Mehrotra, Ston, Phani Sista, Kartik Rao, Sourav Banerjee, Ravinder Dasila, Rohit Jain, Gaurav Kumar, Anishkumar Madhavan, Abhijeet Kumar, Akash Chandra, Ridhima Walia, Priyanshu, Deepanker Mishra, Rishi R Mehta, Vaishali Miranda, Mithun Singh, Roger, Sandeep Roy, Bindhulakshmi, Jashan Ghuman, Subhadeep Banerjee, Suhas Gurav, Nahas, Apoorv, Reid Alexander Dsouza, Abhishek Chakraborty, Varun Arora, Oindrilla Mukherjee, Shageer, Arnab Chatterjee, Sahil Ali, Roushan Jha, Shamik Das, Srinivas Iyer, Simranjeet Singh Kahlon, Imran Shariff, Souvik Deb, Tamnjum, Rajeev Kumar, Nabil Shaikh, Sushmit Roy, and other NL Sena members.

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