Kerala Sunday woke up to the murder of two state-level leaders of the BJP and Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), the political arm of Popular Front of India (PFI), within 11 hours of each other, in what looked like tit-for-tat political killings.
SDPI state general secretary K S Shan (39) was attacked at Mannanchery in Alappuzha district on Saturday night. While riding a two-wheeler, a car-borne gang hit him from behind. After Shan fell from the two-wheeler, the gang hacked him, inflicting multiple wounds. He was rushed to a local hospital and later to a Kochi hospital, where he died around 11.30 pm.
Around 6.30 am Sunday, death came knocking at the door of BJP OBC Morcha state secretary advocate Ranjith Sreenivas (45) in Alappuzha municipality, which is 10 km away from Mannanchery, where the SDPI leader was killed.
Ranjith, who had contested the 2016 assembly elections as the BJP candidate from Alappuzha, was hacked to death in front of his wife and mother in the drawing-room of his house. A 12-member gang, in six bikes, had come to his house, CCTV footage from the locality showed.
A local person, who does not want to be named, said: ‘Some people were found under suspicious circumstances near the house of Ranjith around 10.30 pm (hours after the SDPI leader was attacked). In the morning, Ranjith returned home after leaving his 11-year-old daughter for tuition. The gang beat him, threatened his wife Nisha, an advocate, before hacking him multiple times,” he said.
Outraged over the killings of their state-level leaders, BJP and SDPI workers hit the streets in protest and the police stepped up vigil across the state. Prohibitory order under Section 144 of CrPC has been imposed in Alappuzha district, where around 1,000 police personnel have been deployed to prevent further untoward incidents.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in a statement, deplored the killings in Alappuzha. ‘There would be stringent police action to nab the assailants as well as those who worked behind the heinous killings. Such criminal activities are detrimental to society. I am sure that people would isolate the criminal elements and their hateful attitude,’ said Vijayan.
Opposition leader V D Satheesan blamed the CPI(M)-led LDF government for recurring political killings in the state. ‘The killings are an outcome of the communal appeasement of the CPI(M). Pinarayi (Vijayan) calls his appeasement social engineering. The LDF government is not keen to arrest culprits in cases involving the RSS and the SDPI. This government is furthering the communal interest of the BJP as well as the SDPI,” he said.
The BJP and the SDPI have blamed each other over the murders. Mannanchery, where the SDPI leader was killed, is a stronghold of that party, which even has two members in the CPI(M)-ruled panchayat. Last month, there were stray incidents of skirmishes between the SDPI and CPI(M)
BJP state president K Surendran told the media that the party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have no role in the killing of the SDPI leader. ‘We deplore it. There is a conspiracy behind the killing of a BJP leader. The PFI is trying to create communal violence in Kerala. That party has the backing of the ruling CPI(M), which is in alliance with the SDPI in several local bodies in Kerala. Despite the provocation from the SDPI, the police haven’t acted effectively,” he said.
‘We have no role in the killing of SDPI workers. However, SDPI-CPI(M) tension has been prevailing in Alappuzha,” he said. Surendran said the PFI is a social menace and Kerala would not tolerate its ‘Taliban culture’.
SDPI state secretary K P Ismail, meanwhile, blamed the BJP and the RSS for Shan’s killing. Shan’s father Saleem said his son was killed only because he stood for a political ideology. ‘My son was never involved in any criminal case,” he said.
South zone inspector-general (IG) Harshitha Attalluri, who is overseeing the probes, said 50 persons have been taken into custody in connection with the killings. ‘We are looking into what is the motive behind the killings and the political links. Among those taken into custody, there are workers of the BJP as well as the SDPI. Their roles are being ascertained now,” she said.
The IG said there was no laxity on the part of the police in preventing the killing of BJP worker in the wake of that of the SDPI leader. ‘We have taken preventive steps so that we could save many persons from being targeted in retaliation. At the same time, we cannot give protection to all,” she said.
The police are investigating to see if the killing of the SDPI worker was a retaliation to the murder of 22-year-old RSS worker Nandu at Vayalar in Alappuzha in February. The SDPI had been blamed for this killing.
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