It is now official. The killing of 28-year-old youth Congress leader SV Shuhaib in Kannur was well planned and executed by the local leadership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
On Monday the investigation team recorded the arrest of one Akash MV or better known as Akash Thillankeri (Thillankeri is the place where he hails from) and Rajin Raj. Both in their early twenties, they are active members of the local area committee of the CPM.
The Director General of Police (DGP) North Zone, Rajesh Dewan met the media to give away the credentials of the attackers. “Both the accused are active members of the CPM and there is no doubt in that. But anyone can have party affiliations. Whether it led to the killing is something that can be said only after investigations are over. We have to nab more culprits and get to the larger conspiracy if any,’’ Dewan told the media.
Confirmed to The Lede by highly placed sources in the state police, both Thillankeri and Raj have spilled the beans on the involvement of the local leadership. According to their statements the local leadership was well aware that Shubaib would be attacked. They have also added that the intention was not to kill Shuhaib but to chop off his legs, an argument which the police however are not ready to buy into.
By saying local leadership, the duo may have meant the Mattanur area committee or even the Kannur district leadership but what puts the ruling CPM under tremendous stress, especially the top brass of the state, are the pictures that emerged from Thillankeri’s Facebook profile.
While one picture shows him standing close to P Jayarajan, the powerful Kannur district secretary and who is alleged to be the brain behind a number of political killings in the area, what puts the party in an unprecedented crisis is the picture of Thillankeri with the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, presumably taken at some official party function.
“This is a crisis of huge proportions for the CPM no doubt. Kannur might think differently when it comes to such political killings because the political psyche of the areas is like that. But the rest of Kerala is not Kannur and such instances will only distance the party further from the people who are completely fed up with such meaningless violence,’’ noted political analyst NM Pearson told The Lede.
CPM Imprints All Over
Kerala police have also confirmed that both Thillankeri and Raj are habitual offenders. The DGP while addressing the media called them “hardened criminals and not just normal people”.
The reason – in September 2016, the duo were also accused of hacking to death an RSS worker Bineesh at Thillankeri, a small village around 20 kilometres from Mattanur where Shuhaib was murdered.
That both, while on bail in the Bineesh murder case, had been actively involved with the activities of the CPM only goes on to show the deep seated criminalisation of the party in Kannur.
Although refusing to come on record, senior leaders who are having a tough time defending the party are saying that the CPM is a very large cadre-based party and hence it is impossible to screen everyone who is part of it, an argument it is now using to distance itself from the murders.
But Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) leader KK Rema who had formerly spent her time with the CPM before her husband and CPM rebel TP Chandrasekharan was killed for forming the RMP in 2012 says that those who know the party structure of the CPM will not buy this argument.
“Everybody in CPM knows that if any such grievous act has to take place it needs the sanction of the higher bodies in the party and their leadership. That is how the CPM works. Just like TP, this also had all the blessings of the top brass of the party. Even during TP’s murder also initially they washed their hands off. But finally when the local leadership was implicated, they gave all legal aid to bail them out. This is how it always works,’’ Rema told The Lede.
Although the police claim that both the accused are seasoned criminals owing to their track record, many believe that unlike many other cases in the past which was carried out by “quotation gangs”, both Thillankeri and Raj look more like the boys next door than part of a quotation gang. So where does the inspiration to kill then come from?
One peep into Thillankeri’s social media life would answer this. He has two profiles on Facebook. One is as Akash MV, the average young man who loves to have fun with his friends.
But the other is ‘Akash Thillankeri’, the devout communist who depicts ‘a do or die’ spirit splashing pictures of all his party activities all over his wall.
It is this profile with which he had been actively engaged over the social media space as part of the much hyper ‘Cyber Warriors’ group that verbally takes on the Sangh Parivar’s ‘Kavi Pada’ (Saffron Brigade) over the virtual world. Even the media is hardly spared the abuse.
But a closer look also reveals that Thillankeri had been worshipping the wrong people. CPM’s hired goons like Kodi Suni and Muhammed Shafi who have been sentenced in the TP Chandrasekharan murder case have been Thillankeri’s super heroes.
“This is what is most terrible. A young boy at the age of 24 hero-worships one of the most seasoned criminals in Kerala. How will he not himself go and kill because he knows that even if he goes to jail tomorrow the party will protect him, the way it has taken care of TP’s killers. It becomes an added incentive. Only if this support stops, it will deter these youngsters,’’ Joseph CM Mathew, advisor to former Chief Minister VS Achuthananthan told The Lede.
Thillankeri’s radical thoughts have more evidence over the social media. At least three videos have now come out where he is seen openly making highly provocative slogans.
In one of these, he says – “If the leadership decides we will chop your hands, chop your legs and if needed chop your head too’’. This has now become a big headache for the party especially when there is evidence that such sloganeering surrounded Shuhaib a month before he was hacked.
“Such sloganeering has a lot of significance in CPM. The party cannot get away saying that it is just a ‘spur of the moment’ thing. This is a party where people have been disciplined for shouting pro-Achuthananthan slogans during the height of internal dissent. So every slogan here is monitored when you do that as an official party representative,’’ added Mathew.
Police Failed To See It Coming
While the enmity against Shuhaib had been building over the last few months, it is only startling that the state police who are so accustomed to the political heat in Kannur failed to see the attack coming.
“There had been such messages circulating on social media for many months saying that my son is enemy number one of CPM and that he should be finished. I had shown it to my daughters and we were really scared. We had even told a few authorities,’’ says Muhammed, Shuhaib’s father showing the screen shot of the WhatsApp message that was being circulated baying for his son’s blood.
But perhaps it also reflects the pitiable state of affairs that the police in the district finds itself in. Apart from a section of the top rung, the force is notorious for taking political sides.
Most of them time, it also buckles to the political pressure that parties put on it, especially the CPM and then the Congress who have been in power in Kerala one after the other. And that has led to suspicion from the opposition.
“Even though the DGP has given his commitment we are still not fully convinced. We have enough evidence that the police is fixing the case to suit the ruling party,’’ says former MP and Kannur’s Congress strongman K Sudhakaran.
Claims Of Dummy Accused
While DGP Dewan claims that the duo under arrest are the real culprits who were part of the five member gang that hacked Shuhaib, the Congress party and Shuhaib’s father are taking the claim with a pinch of salt.
The Congress’ belief stems from the past history of Kannur where CPM had been producing dummy accused before the police after such murder cases, while the real culprits remain at large.
Finally when the case reaches the court, the prosecution usually fails to prove the case and the accused get acquitted for lack of evidence.
Shuhaib’s father meanwhile says he does not see any reason why Thillankeri and Raj would kill his son since both hailed from outside Mattannur and had no direct political enmity with Shuhaib. For Muhammed, this becomes one of the reasons to press for a CBI inquiry into the case.
The Congress which is on the offensive is gearing up to even bring down Rahul Gandhi to Shuhaib’s house to ensure the political mileage is maximised. The Chief Minister has meanwhile lamented the killing of Shuhaib after six days and has even called for an all party peace meeting in Kannur.
But in a district that has seen innumerable such truce talks, for peace to make a lasting return the CPM needs to do a lot of introspection.