The tragic death of T.P. Chandrasekharan and the stand of CPI (M)

The English translation of the article by Com. Pinarayi Vijayan - the state secretary of CPI(M), clarifying the stance of the party in the unfortunate T.P. Chandrasekharan muder.1

In May 2012, the UDF government not only celebrated its first anniversary, but also stared at a severe crisis. The issue of the 5th Minister (from IUML) had brought out differences within the Congress into the open. Many leaders of that party came out openly against the stand of the leadership. Congressmen themselves declared that this stand would affect communal harmony in the state. Other parties in the UDF were ranged against the Congress on this issue even though they too were riven with dissensions. The government was also increasingly isolated due to its anti-people measures. It was in this context that the Neyyattinkara bye-election was declared. To add to their (Congress) woes, there was a very powerful anti-Selvaraj sentiment in Neyyattinkara constituency owing to his desertion.

Incidentally, the murder of T.P. Chandrasekharan happened at this juncture when the UDF was experiencing these anti-incumbent responses from the people. It is evident that the UDF wanted to evade these opposing voices - and hence reap a political mileage - by marketing the unfortunate death of R.M.P. leader T.P. Chandrasekharan.

At the same time, the CPI (M) has condemned the murder of T. P. Chandrasekharan and has also requested to find the culprits, so as to bring them to the law. The party has also denied any sort of responsibility in the aforementioned incident. However, the UDF leadership had accused the CPI (M) and tried to make them responsible for the murder. By doing this, they were trying to come out of the maze in which they were trapped. Sri. Mullappally Ramachandran, the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs had immediately stated that the CPI (M) is the one who is responsible and P. P. Thankachan (UDF Convener) and Ramesh Chennithala have called for a statewide hartal on the 5th of May.

The fact that the Congress had no interest or intention of protecting T. P. Chandrasekharan became evident in the light of some statements made on the same day itself. According to what Sri. Mullappally Ramachandran had told the media; T. P. Chandrasekharan had informed him earlier that his life was under threat. The criminal negligence on the part of the UDF has been revealed as it came to light that T. P. had been denied of police protection even though he had requested for it. Later Chief Minister Mr. Oommen Chandy had stated that T. P. himself had denied the police protection. As per law, if the government decides to give protection to a certain individual, an order will be issued and will be given to her or him in person. And if the person chooses not to accept the protection he or she has to give a letter to the government stating his or her refusal. If things are as Mr. Oommen Chandy has stated, he should produce both the order and the letter given by T. P. to prove his statement. Nothing has been done in this regard and so it becomes clear that the brutal murder of T. P. Chandrasekharan could have been avoided if the UDF government had taken the necessary steps. This fact has been concealed by the UDF who are now shedding crocodile tears with political aims.

Later the state witnessed how the UDF tried to accuse the CPI (M) with the help of the media in order to overcome their setbacks. The media came up with news which they claimed they have come across through either their independent investigation or were given by the police as official information. In the meantime, several news pieces had popped up which were nonsensical,self deceptive and self-contradictory in nature. Right from the beginning the media has taken care to spread the misinformation that a gang from Kannur had committed the murder, with no evidence at all. To prove these initial rumours they later came up with several other stories. The Innova car, in which it is believed that the culprits supposedly travelled, had been found abandoned, by the CPI (M) members near Chokli. It is they who informed the police but the fact that the media has refused to take note of this reveals the predetermined and biased stand of the media.

The media had claimed that the owner of the car, Naveendas, was a CPI (M) supporter. Many TV channels started showing this as breaking news and from there on this this was picked up by several newspapers. However, it soon became clear that Naveendas was an Indian National Congress person, rather than a CPI (M) supporter. However, none of these media outlets formally corrected their reports or expressed any regret for attempting to tarnish CPI (M)’s reputation with such baseless allegations. Mathrubhumi claims that they are burning midnight oil to identify T.P. Chandrasekharan’s killers. On May 6, Mathrubhumi carried a news item on the front page with a title: “Whose phone call was that?”

The story said that T.P. Chandrashekharan had received a call on his mobile right before his death asking him to come to the site of a vehicle accident near Vallikad League House. The story claimed supposedly on good authority that the Police have received clear information regarding who had made that phone call. However, that claim was rejected by Mathrubhumi the very next day. In next day’s reporting, it claimed that it has come to light that the phone call was not what had led Chandrasekharan to Vallikad on that evening. The report now claimed that the phone call had been made by an RMP supporter Babu, and that Babu had revealed to the police that he had called Chandrasekharan to discuss matters regarding vacating his store. This story reveals the true nature of Mathrubhumi’s investigation, right from the beginning. The police are merely following in their footsteps. On the same day, on May 6, Madhyamam carried a news item that claimed that the conspiracy behind the murder was hatched in Valayam and that two area committees had taken part in it. In form of evidence, the news story claimed that Police have ascertained that Onchiyam Area Committee Secretary and his family have moved out from their home. However, that pack of lies soon came tumbling down when it became clear that the Area Committee Secretary, C.H. Ashokan had gone out of station to attend the NGO Union Conference. Alongside the claim that the conspiracy had taken place behind closed doors in a home in Valayam on a wedding day, it was announced in screaming headlines that three individuals had been apprehended near Nadapuram. However, none of the media outlets even bothered to mention in passing that the Police had themselves given the three a clean chit. In the midst of all of this, several TV channels started announcing that the Police had taken some people into custody in Valayam. It turned out that this news was also a purely fabricated one - the three names mentioned in this regard turned out to be busy at work in Valayam, blissfully ignorant of the fact that they had been the latest victims of the surreal media trial. The fact that none of these media outlets extended an apology to these victims of their slander and fraud reveals a truly sinister face of the freedoms they enjoy. Right on the heels of this development, news stories started surfacing that someone with links to RSS has been taken into custody.

Naturally, this mean a different tune had to be improvised. Their new propaganda line claimed that CPI (M) is using people with a diverse set of political affiliations. Earlier there were news items that pointed to the conspiracy being directed from Kannur Central Jail because supposedly phone calls were placed from Vallikad to a mobile tower near Kannur Central Jail right after the murder. However nothing came out of that in subsequent days. Soon afterwards, in the media imagination, it was the turn of a bar in Mahi to play host to the party leaders and others supposedly involved in the conspiracy. At every stage, mainstream media outlets have by and large adopted this strategy where, such stories are fabricated out of thin air and spread with a stamp of legitimacy. The only common thread behind all these flights of fancy in the media, all undertaken without a shred of critical thinking, has been that CPI (M) has been consistently framed as the villain. The news report published by Madhyamam daily on May 10th expressed concerns over whether it was the vengeance against T.P. Chandrasekharan for opposing the Azhiyur Aqua Marine project, bottling plant, export-import businesses that led to his murder. This was exactly the issue which C.H. Asokan had raised in the Hon. High Court while filing his bail application. In other words, this issue is an already existing one and was not an instantly framed excuse. Rafiq was named as one of the accused, during the initial stages of investigation. Several labels were heaped on Rafiq - the key one being the claim that he was involved in several murders that have hitherto been foisted on CPI (M). On June 7 itself Malayala Manorama had claimed that he was a CPI (M) supporter. There was also another report that his fingerprints were found on the Innova car. However, as soon as it became clear that Rafiq had no connections with CPI (M), there was an attempt to quickly undo the ‘damage’ already done. As Rafiq was deemed unnecessary to don the mask of the cruel villain, suddenly it began to be reported that others had procured the vehicle from him under the guise of going on a pleasure trip. Other reports claimed that he had fled from the state. However, one fine day Rafiq turns up inside the Vadakara court and the Police force him out. Many news stories were written up on the basis of sworn statements supposed to have been made by those in custody - however several of the accused have told people who visited them in custody that these statements making the rounds in the media have no resemblance to the ones they have provided to the Police. The strategy has been to simply distort facts and propagate fanciful lies in the name of media coverage. Once again we see the age-old Goebbelsian tactics in action- that of repeating a lie a hundred times to turn it into truth.

Rejecting news stories that do not serve to advance their narrow interest has been a hallmark of these media outlets. After breaking a story on how a section of the investigation team did not want to comply with a diktat to implicate certain individuals, a television channel decided to embargo its own story. In order to retain some sense of brevity, I do not intend to provide an exhaustive list of all the nonsense that has transpired in the name of media coverage in this case. One thing is clear - if one truthfully examines the news stories related to this case, the “impartial and authoritative” facade assumed by news journalism in Kerala stands exposed. Every day, stories are being fabricated to put CPI (M) in the dock and the very next day, they are redefined and reinterpreted to implicate CPI (M) in some other way. This shameful chapter in journalism will be immensely valuable to understand the nature of mass media in Kerala for students and researchers in this area.

  • Read the second and final parts of the article series here.

Translators: Adwaith Prabhakar, Arun Ramachandran, Darsana Vijay, Deepak R, Nandu Gopan, Pratheesh Prakash, Prasanth Radhakrishnan, Prathibha Ganesan, Suraj Rajan