State communalism, the left and the killings at Palakkad


It will be suicidal if the resistance against the state ordained communalism is left to Popular Front and SDPI. Those who believe in democracy must be led by the realisation that extreme Islamism is not the panacea for Hindutva. This is a critical time when Congress, the Left and Muslim League should be alert and awake. If the guards are let down at this juncture, the price we will have to pay will be really high.


RSS march held at Lucknow on April 14 | Photo: PTI

The Kerala state minister MV Govindan and ADGP Vijay Sakhare tell us that there is no point in blaming the police for the brutal murders in the Palakkad district. Two persons were killed back to back in a span of 24 hours. The police are firm on the conspiracy element. But we don't know if we should weep or laugh when the top brass of the Kerala police say that they have no means to gain access to the conspiracies in order to prevent the murders.

There are only 541 police stations in Kerala which has a population of 3.6 crores. It is also a reality that the Kerala FM has allocated only Rs 16 crores for the modernisation of the police force in the state. A former DGP told the correspondent of Mathrubhumi recently that there are only 1,400 personnel in the intelligence wing of the state police. He asks how the police can find out the activities of the communal forces with such a frugal department. The response to this question must come from none other than the CM Mr Pinarayi Vijayan himself.

One can understand if the police say that it can't pre-empt a murder that will take place after several months or years. The second murder in Palakkad was carried out in a short span of 24 hours. Alappuzha witnessed two similar murders last year. That should have given the police enough time to look deep into the activities of both the RSS and SDPI in the state. Both these organisations have a past. RSS was banned in the aftermath of the Gandhi assassination in 1948. It will celebrate its centenary in 2025.

SDPI, the political outfit of the Popular Front, was formed in 2009 only. But its roots too go deep into the past. It was on 10th July 2010 that the PF activists chopped off the right palm of Prof TJ Joseph at Thodupuzha in broad daylight. No one expects the Kerala police to believe that the RSS and SDPI are angels of peace. So, the police must have turned to its intelligence wing to know the consequences when Subair, an SDPI activist, got killed at Elappully in Palakkad.

It negates common sense, when the police, which had no problems in arresting two young men in Kozhikode under UAPA for their alleged links to Maoists, say that they are helpless before the communal forces. A fraction of the police force deployed to suppress the anti-Silverline protesters could manage these communal killings. But that requires two things basically. 1-The top brass of the police and the government should be held accountable for what they do. 2-The political intervention within the police force should be based on certain parameters.

What Julio Rebeiro says

Julio Rebeiro

It would be nice to recall the words of Julio Rebeiro, the former DGP of Punjab, in this context. Rebeiro says that the government shouldn't intervene in the appointment and transfers of police officers other than those who belong to the IPS cadre. He recalls how he handled the demand by Vasantdada Patil, the then CM of Maharashtra in 1982 when he took charge as the city police commissioner of Mumbai. Patil wanted Rebeiro to promote a police officer out of turn. Rebeiro refused it. Then Patil approached the DGP to get this done.

Rebeiro told the DGP that he could transfer him but he wouldn't yield to the unjust demand by the CM. Rebeiro made it clear that if he gave in, that would erode his credibility among his colleagues. Rebeiro says the DGP realised the scenario and there ended the matter. But it did have an impact on the morale of his colleagues: ''When I was leaving Mumbai to take over as the Director-General of the CRPF, 12 inspectors came to see me off at the airport. They told me: 'Because of you, our haftas [protection money] stopped, but we regained our self-respect.' I realised that if they were bothered about self-respect, why can't we take the trouble to set an example? The man on top must be firm.''

Self-respect is an important factor for all human beings. A police force without self-respect may be able to suppress the protesters who are out there to block the laying of stones for the K-Rail project. But they will be helpless before the murderers who carry out communal agenda in places like Palakkad and Alappuzha. Because, only an independent investigation team with self-respect, can tackle the communal forces. Now let us come to another compelling topic. Police alone can't eradicate communalism. Its roots go much deeper beyond the peripherals of the law enforcement agencies.

When communalism becomes respectable

It is a matter of grave concern that communalism has gained respectability these days. There was a time when people were ashamed to reveal that they were members of communal organisations. It is no longer the case now. The activists of communal organisations flaunt their identity on their sleeves with pride and mirth. Gandhi's assassination was one major incident that shocked independent India. The Indians were shattered and rattled and it was beyond their comprehension that the communal elements could do away with a man who was the embodiment of love and peace. Godse and Co turned against Gandhi because he fought for the unity of the Hindus and Muslims. But, RSS was isolated and alienated in the aftermath of Gandhi's assassination. It was Sardar Patel, the then Home Minister of India, who was at the forefront, in banning RSS.

Jayaprakash Narayan, Indira Gandhi

Even though this ban was removed later, RSS was still outside the mainstream Indian society. But the emergency changed all these. When Jayaprakash Narayan formed a coalition to fight Indira Gandhi's authoritarian regime, he took RSS also along. That single act by JP saved RSS from the ignominy it was suffering due to the Gandhi assassination. It re-entered the public sphere of Indian society holding the hands of JP.

According to MG Devasahayam, the former IAS officer, who was in charge of JP during his days of imprisonment in Chandigarh, JP regretted this act of giving fresh life to RSS. One of the conditions that JP put forth when the Janata party came to power in 1977 was that both Vajpayee and LK Advani, who were there in the cabinet, should forgo their membership in the RSS. The Jan Sangh leaders and RSS top brass including the then Sarsanghchalak Balasaheb Deoras promised JP that the dual membership would be removed. But, none of them fulfilled this promise. And, eventually, this led to the collapse of the Janata ministry. When Devasahayam called on JP, who was bedridden with ailments, during one of those days, he told him that the betrayal of RSS hurt him badly.

The issue is the respectability of the communal organisations. What we witness in India today is the spectacle of the state itself turning communal. A PM, who says that the rioters could be identified by their dress, a Home Minister, who calls the migrants from Bangladesh 'termites' and a CM, who declares that the assembly election is a battle between 80% and 20%, do represent this communalism. When leaders like Kapil Mishra and Anurag Thakur, who ignited the communal fires that caused the Delhi riots, are honoured by the party, communalism gets resounding visibility. The court verdict, which terms on the one hand the demolition of Babri Masjid as a crime and hands over the property to the same perpetrators also travels along this route.

We simply can't forget the act of the state giving its silent consent to the hate speeches including that of Haridwar. When the PM himself keeps mum on the brutal act of the dead body of a Muslim young man being stomped upon, the message that is being sent across is clear.

Those who garland the perpetrators of communal riots also certify that there is nothing wrong with communalism. Popular Front, whose activists chopped off Prof TJ Joseph's right palm, is still very much active in the state. Communalism has become honourable and that makes the fight against it all tougher and more demanding.

Neoliberalism and communalism

Prabhat Patnaik

Communalism doesn't come out of vacuum. It has an economic, social and political context. Economists, like Prabhat Patnaik, have explained the kind of umbilical cord relationship between neoliberal economic policies and communalism. The regimes that are ready to sell out public assets to the private sector are the poster boys of the corporations. No CEO of a multinational corporation is wary of the communal conflicts in India. They will simply turn a blind eye toward these communal acts by the state. It is an irony that those who came to power promising concrete solutions to the burning issues of unemployment and inflation have now nothing but communalism as the one and only remedy. These governments are now being led by the ideology that the panacea for all these issues is the binary of 80% vs 20%.

The Delhi riots, the lynchings in the name of cows and the Palakkad killings all take place in this context. The weakening of the Left movement, which could lead the resistance against communalism, is one of the major crises that Indian society is facing these days. There must be clarity on one thing here. The term left includes not only the communist parties but all those who have a left-leaning attitude. Jawaharlal Nehru, who pronounced that there could never be any compromise with communalism was an integral part of this left movement.

Indira Gandhi, who was never ready to have any tie-up with RSS, the young Turks and the bureaucrats including PN Haksar, who were led by this left consciousness, were behind the bank nationalisation and the cancellation of privy purses. This crucial force got weakened in the wake of the emergency. Even Though Indira could reject the apologies of the RSS leaders and incorporate the word secularism into the Indian Constitution, Congress as a political party failed miserably in its encounters with communalism later.

The compromises that Congress made in order to stay in power began to define and determine the party. The stand taken by P Sundarayya, the then general secretary of CPM, must also be recalled here. But CPM rejected Sundarayya's stand and got ready to hold the hands of even the devil in the fight against the authoritarian regime. Even the resignation of Sundarayya from the post of general secretary, couldn't make CPM change its stand.

Communalism and neoliberalism walk hand in hand. That is why the left thinkers like Prabhat Patnaik vehemently opposed the appointment of Gita Gopinath as the economic advisor of the Pinarayi Govt in 2016. The projects like Silverline are byproducts of neoliberalism. This column had discussed in detail the perspective put forth by Naomi Klein on how neoliberal policymakers make use of disasters to implement their hidden agenda. The critique, raised by social scientists like Prof Kunhaman and Yogendra Yadav, that the victory of the left front govt in the last assembly election in Kerala was not really the triumph of the left ideology but the success of a political party gains more momentum in this context.

Police station march organised by SDPI activists in Kannur | Photo: Mathrubhumi

Denial of Justice

Communalism can be resisted only through strong and alert movements by the people. Rebeiro has pointed out the role played by the neighbourhood committees in preventing communal riots in Mumbai. Local-level committees are hugely effective in tackling communal conflicts.

People turn towards parallel forces when they feel that they don't get justice from the existing systems. Godfather, the iconic novel by Mario Pusso begins with the scene where Amerigo Bonasera decides to go to the Godfather Vitto Corleone, to get justice, which he feels the court of the land denied him. Our rulers must read the description of the meeting between the baker and the Godfather poignantly narrated by Pusso.

The feeling, that they are being denied justice, is intensely prevalent among the minorities in India. The Muslim society is forced to turn towards the Popular Front and SDPI when the state itself becomes communal. The communal outfits grow stronger on the helplessness of the minorities. It is here that political parties like the Muslim League must be extremely vigilant.

Proud of you, Brinda

It will be improper if this note doesn't mention the intervention by Brinda Karat, the CPM politburo member, at Jahangirpuri in Delhi. The contemporary Indian society stands testimony to the harrowing sight of the state itself implementing the vicious communal agenda. What happened in Jahangirpuri on April 20th was the continuation of the bulldozer politics by the Yogi and Chauhan govt in UP and MP.

Brinda Karat blocking a bulldozer at Jahangirpuri | Photo: PTI

The visual of Brinda Karat, stopping the bulldozer with the copies of the SC verdict in her hand, has become an iconic image across the nation. Brinda has become the symbol and image of Indian secularism. Indian democracy demands such meaningful interventions on the part of the left in the coming days. These interventions could definitely play a significant role in regaining the trust of the minorities.

Bulldozers reflect the deadly scenario where the state becomes both the executive and the judiciary. We must recall here the brutal act of the Indira govt, which demolished hundreds of settlements in Delhi during the emergency. The Indian people gave a fitting response to Indira in the next general elections in 1977. It will be suicidal if the resistance against communalism is left to Popular Front and SDPI. Brinda's fight against the bulldozers becomes a role model here. It is fervently hoped that Brinda will become the General Secretary of CPM in 2025 when Sitaram Yechuri retires after his third term. (The age restriction of 75 years shouldn't be a stumbling block here. If Pinarayi Vijayan can be given an exemption, Brinda too deserves that.)

It will deeply affect the Indian democracy if the minorities are forced to consider militant Islam as the alternative to Hindutva. This is the critical juncture when Congress, the communist parties and the Muslim league must keep awake. Time and history won't forgive us if we blink right now. After all, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

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