Attacking CPIM from the Shadow of Power
English translation of second and final parts of the article series by Com. Pinarayi Vijayan, state secretary of CPI(M), clarifying the stance of the party in the tragic murder of T.P. Chandrasekharan.1. Part I of the series was previously published in Bodhi: The tragic death of T.P. Chandrasekharan and the stand of CPI (M).
Immediately after Chandrashekharan’s murder, UDF declared CPI(M) guilty and used state power to direct the case against the party. A Home Minister visiting the location of police inquest is unheard of in Kerala’s history. Home Minister's participation in the meetings of police officers is common, but a KPCC president participating in the police officers’ group discussion and giving instructions is not common. Even this happened here.
DGP is the person in charge of overseeing police investigations and other day to day activities. After talking to the team investigating the T P Chandrashekaharan murder, Kerala DGP revealed that the murder was for private gains. Immediately the Home Minister negated this statement and entered the scene by trying to make it a political murder. It was a clear case of how the free conduct of investigation is interrupted. This kind of intervention by the Home Minister, even negating the DGP's statement is unheard of in administrative circles.
Maintaining order in the state comes under the purview of the State. Union minister of state for home affairs, Mullappally Ramachandran stated, at a satyagraha in Vadakara, that if the investigation did not move as expected, the case would be handed over to the CBI. In reality, this was meant to berate the investigation officers and was clear invasion of the State’s power. He also said that only a few small fish have been caught and big sharks are yet to be trapped. It is only after this speech that conspiracy related provisions were added to the case. The peculiarity of these conspiracy related provisions is that anyone can be made a suspect. This is another proof that the investigation is headed towards a political goal.
At this stage, some Congress leaders interfered and declared who all should be included in the accused list. It was KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala who declared that the CPI (M) Onchiyam area secretary C.H. Ashokan should be in the accused list well before his arrest. This incident is another indication to the political intervention in deciding the accused and their arrest.
Some UDF leaders, as if doing their part in creating news, put forward certain theories. One among such stories that the media had broadcasted include the assertion that C. H. Ashokan did not attend the NGO Union conference. Another one has declared that T. P. Ramakrishnan had not gone to China at all. The party had taken the stand that the real culprits have to be arrested and also offered all sorts of support and help to the investigation. The party has subscribed to the view that when finally the truth comes out, the clouds will be cleared. It is because of this conviction that the party did not raise any dispute when the party members were taken into custody, initially. We have also taken the stand that those whom the investigation team wanted to be present before them should do so. However, as it became evident that the investigation is being done according to an already written script and is also going in the wrong direction, the party raised its doubts about the investigation.
One such incident include the case of Babu, the office secretary of the Kuthuparamba area committee. He was asked to go to the CI’s office with regard to another case. From there, he was taken to the DYSP office in Vadakara. Even though he was taken into custody in an improper manner by giving false information, the party did not raise any dissent. The comrades who went in search of him were told that they would free him after questioning. It is only when Babu was kept in continued custody against the initial agreement, even after the legally allowed initial twenty four hours, that the party resorted to a democratic way of resistance under the leadership of Comrade M. V. Jayarajan. It is during this phase that doubts were raised about the conduct of the investigation. The transparency of the investigation process and the denial of the rights of a citizen were questioned. Even then, the party did not interfere with what was happening inside police custody. The party had taken a strong stand that the investigation should go on with its own pace.
The revelations that Babu had made regarding his experiences in police custody brought out the actual state of the current investigation. He was brutally tortured. He lost his consciousness three times during questioning.The police forced him to give statements on the involvement of Panoli Valsalan, who is the Kannur district committee member of party, in T. P. murder. His denial to give false statement proved to be the reason for the torture and he had to be admitted in the hospital. As it became clear that terrible things were happening in custody, the party asked permission to visit comrades who are in custody, but was denied by the police. Later, Com: Elamaram Kareem MLA (also, a party state committee member) and Com: K. K. Lathika MLA visited Padayankandi Raveendran once he was transferred to the judicial custody. Already the media had printed and broadcasted news which, they told, were based on the statements of Padayankandi Raveendran. He stated that he had not given any such statements and also informed them that he was tortured in police custody. He explained these in the presence of the jail superintendent. When being asked why he didn’t let the court know this, Raveendran explained that he feared the tortures that would follow.
The comrades who visited Raveendran also understood certain other things. This visit helped bring out the pact between the investigation officers and the media. From the conversations it came to light that some of the officers themselves were giving wrong news to the media. The party came to know that things were different from the ones that were being printed and broadcasted by the media. As a politician, Elamaram Kareem had the responsibility to let the people know of this. This is what he explained during the S.P Office march. And this led the police to take charges against him continuously. What cannot be digested is the double stand of the police- the party members are not allowed to let the people know of the truth but the media has no restriction to spread lies.
The Constitution of India grants every citizen the rights to assemble, to protest peacefully and to express their views in a democratic manner. Now, these incidents give the impression that communists are not eligible for these privileges. The party decided to protest, with the aid of the common people, only when it became clear that the investigation was proceeding in the wrong direction. Apart from this, there were no moves from the party to hinder the investigation. Com: C. H. Ashokan, the area secretary of Onchiyam had been taken into custody by the police. In fact when the DYSP had informed that he wanted to meet Mr. Ashokan, he went to meet the DYSP, having nothing to fear. Even in this phase the party was co-operating with the investigation. However, the UDF, taking this as party’s weakness, is trying to ruin the reputation of the party with the help of police force. The CPI(M) was just revealing this fact to the public.
It is only when it became evident that the investigation is progressing as if based on a script, that the CPI(M) ventured to expose these wrong procedures. In the place of an independent investigation, what has transpired is an investigation marred by political interferences to protect vested interests, thus culminating in the violation of citizen rights. The coverage of this issue by the various media outlets have hid this truth from the public eye. The party is committed to completely cooperate with any proper investigation. However, the UDF chose this moment to use the reins of power at its disposal to isolate the CPI(M), in an attempt to crush the party. It was this effort that was opposed by the party.
Among all the democratic rights that the state should safeguard for its people, protection against all forms of state terror, is a rather important one. It is on the basis of this conviction, that the previous LDF government had formulated the Police Act. An important section in the Police Act aims at preventing any form of custodial torture. However the police is now flouting all those rules and are torturing the accused. As a party that is committed to protecting civil rights, we want to bring this issue to everyone's notice.
The need to ensure full confidentiality of the statements is considered to be of paramount importance by the judiciary and indeed in democratic system. The problems that can arise if the case investigation diary is leaked in the midst of the investigation has been noted by the Kerala High Court and the Supreme Court on several occasions. In a major observation in Murukeshan v. State of Kerala, the Kerala High Court has stated that after registering a criminal case and sending the FIR to the magistrate court, no investigating officer should divulge details regarding the progress of the investigation or any other related information. The court has recommended taking disciplinary action against any police officer who is found to have leaked information. Some of the evidence gathered during investigation may not be admissible in a court of law; or may have been extracted through torture or third degree tactics. The court has clearly stated that such evidence will not be applicable in a trial and that leaking such evidence can only hamper public interest. The High Court had made it amply clear that if such violations are committed, the investigating officers and media will have to face legal action.
The Supreme Court has also reacted sharply to media trial in the Jessica Lal murder case that put in jeopardy the accused's right to prove his innocence. The court said that such a media trial is a transgression on the accused's fundamental right to live and highlighted the need to stop such media trials. A similar opinion was noted in Kannan vs. State of Kerala too. Anyone can see that the media stories that rely on statements purportedly made by the accused while in custody are all of the above nature. When a torrent of such stories started appearing various media outlets, it was used as fodder by vested interests to mount an organized attack against CPI(M) - only then did CPI(M) Kozhikode District Committee choose to file a petition in the Kerala High Court. Some have interpreted this as antithetical to freedom of the press. Indeed if that is the case, then the media should have come forward to challenge the judicial rulings mentioned above. The very same people who who had been silent on those occasions, oppose CPI(M) when it raises this legal matter. It is clear that this is not being done out of respect for law or freedom of the press, it is merely that they want to make use of any available means to attack CPI(M). It is necessary to recognize that this is part of an experiment to destroy the party by any means.
The media has the right to function and investigate in their own way. But this should not be by distorting the facts in the case diaries or based on statements obtained through third degree methods or by publishing fabricated stories as confessions. It is for mentioning those facts the courts had pronounced regarding these issues, that the police registered a case against Mr. Elamaram Kareem. How does pointing out the legal provisions that ensure protection of the rights of people from police brutality become unlawful? Kareem was fulfilling his responsibility as a social worker and as a member of the legislative assembly, in acting with the intention of safeguarding the interests of the people. The democratic society will, without doubt, recognize this. Following the brutal killing of Chandrasekharan, atrocious attacks were launched at Onchiyam lead by the RMP with police assistance. Nearly 78 houses were destroyed. Those who take pride in being more ‘revolutionary’ did not have any hesitation in destroying the portraits of Marxist scholars including Marx and Engels. The memorial of Mandodi Kannan - who defied the police brutality in jail and sketched hammer and sickle on the prison wall with his own blood - was also vandalized.
In the aftermath of the ban on the Communist party in 1948, Congress's vigilante groups and the police had indulged in the wanton destruction of several libraries in this region. A similar trail of wreckage was left behind by RMP activists with the assistance of the police. For the sole crime of being CPI(M) supporters, many have been forced out of their homes in certain areas in Onchiyam. The party has decided not to do anything that might aggravate the conflict. Those who seek to place the blame on CPI(M) should realize that only because such a principled stand is the entire region not descending into large-scale rioting and violence. The police has not even bothered to file appropriate charges against those who have destroyed homes and led the spree of attacks. It should also be noted that even the mild charges and token cases being filed were filed only in the wake of people's protest against the Police's policy of condoning attacks against CPI(M).
There is an interpretation being put forward that the formation of RMP in Onchiyam was the outcome of serious differences in policy. That has no factual basis whatsoever. This particular group had left the party because CPI(M) decided to honor its electoral alliance understanding to vacate the post of president in Eramala Panchayat to Janata Dal after 2 1/2 years. It was not a parting of ways based on a disagreement over policy. Indeed majority of those who had left the party had done so based on a misunderstanding, the party has been working closely with them to bring them back to CPI(M) after rectification of their mistakes. The party had adopted a two-fold approach to accomplish this. On the one hand, we had attempted to explain how this split is detrimental to the communist movement and how it can only serve to help right-wing forces. On the other hand, party comrades at various levels had engaged in personal and group discussions with those who had left, to ring them back to CPI(M). In the beginning, we achieved a lot of progress in these discussions, at one point it almost looked as if the talks will succeed, however at the last moment for reasons unknown to us, the dissidents backed out from the talks. Inspite of that, many comrades did rectify their mistakes and return to the party. We will continue to work in this direction.
One has to realize who stand to gain from these divisions on the left. Vadakara paliament constituency was known in the recent past as a left stronghold. However in the last parliament election, the UDF was able to win this seat. Along with several other reasons, the formation of RMP also helped UDF win in Vadakara. Onchiyam residents, especially the RMP activists, know very well about RMP’s interventions that led to UDF’s victory in the parliamentary elections. The very group that claimed that they were the true left alternative ended up providing support for right wing forces to enter left’s bastions. RMP claims that CPI(M) lacks revolutionary spirit and that CPI(M) should have opposed Congress and right wing forces more forcefully. It’s rather clear from any analysis of RMP’s politics why they dont emerge as an opponent to the right wing forces. In a place like Kerala, which has a strong inclination to left progressive politics, not many people will take seriously, the accusations and opposition emerging from the right. However if a group pretends to be leftist and then puts forward criticism and accusations, it may succeed in planting doubts and fooling some. This is precisely why right wing forces provide all assistance to these sectarian forces. What is being attempted is to build a rainbow coalition, very much like the one in West Bengal where Maoists, Trinamul Congress and Indian Congress joined hands to defeat the left front.
Left supporters have to realize this truth. CPI(M) does not believe that elimination of individuals can defeat their ideals. CPI(M)’s own struggle against left extremist groups is itself an example of our opposition to murder politics. CPI(M) has thoroughly opposed the Naxal doctrine of elimination of class enemies. This is why when some of our comrades go astray and commit such mistakes, we have openly condemned them. It was Congress leader K. Sudhakaran who openly announced the murder of Nalpadi Vasu. He along with MV Raghavan had sent a criminal “quotation” gang to assassinate Com: E.P. Jayarajan. The same Indian National Congress that has refused to condemn these criminal acts of their own leaders is now leading the charge against CPI(M).
Moyyarath Sankaran, an erstwhile member of the Congress party and historian of the Indian National Congress movement, was among the many comrades murdered by the Congress party workers after they left the Congress to work with the Communist Party. Those who now preach democratic politics to CPI(M) are the ones who have murdered the likes of Moyyarath Sankaran. Several of our comrades like the SFI leader KV Sudheesh were butchered by Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) brutes. The Communist Party has come a long way overcoming such difficult times. TP.Chandrasekharan is not the first to leave the Communist Party and form a new political outfit. There are many who did the same over the course of time. Aided by the right-wing media, they have attacked the party in many ways. But the Party has always countered them ideologically. That has always been the Party's stance. And that is the reason why the Party declared that it would take exemplary action against any of its members who is found to have a role in this heinous murder. That doesn't mean that we would take action against the individuals who were arrested according to some pre-written script. Instead, our stance is that we would conduct an internal investigation as to whether any party member, including the ones arrested now, has a role in this case and we would take action accordingly.
The practice of branding CPI(M) as a violent organisation and initiating police cases on spurious charges against them is continuing relentlessly. This is what happened in the case of MM Mani. They have charged a police case on the issue based on a political blunder in Mani's speech and in the process, thrown all legal precedence out of the window. CPI(M) will oppose and expose the vested political interests behind such moves. The party is totally in support of bringing the murderers of TP Chandrasekharan to justice. And what is needed at the moment is an impartial and scientific investigation from the police.
Translators: Adwaith Prabhakar, Arun Ramachandran, Darsana Vijay, Deepak R, Nandu Gopan, Pratheesh Prakash, Prasanth Radhakrishnan, Prathibha Ganesan, Rajeev, Sindhu Jose, Suraj Rajan