Peerumedu custody death turns catalyst for widening CPI-CPM rift

Peerumedu custody death turns catalyst for widening CPI-CPM rift


It has not been a happy relationship between the two ruling front constituents, CPM and CPI. The recent custodial death of a financier at Peerumedu in Idukki district has added to widen this wedge.

Defying the official party stand and putting its Government to further embarrassment by voicing the concern of the people, the district unit of the CPI led a march demanding suspension of Idukki Superintendent of Police KB Venugopal. It has also demanded his interrogation.

Financier Rajkumar was picked by the police and as per the autopsy report was mercilessly tortured for three days and brought to the Idukki magistrate who ordered his remand on June 15. It is reported that Rajkumar's condition was so pathetic that the magistrate had to come to the vehicle before ordering his remand. There is the view that she should have ordered that he be taken to a hospital. The accused finally died in custody.

The autopsy report says that besides fracture of four ribs, Rajkumar's body had 14 cuts and seven contusions. He was said to have been subjected to 'uruttal', reminiscent of Emergency days when police rolled a wooden log on the thighs of the victim.

The issue here is simple, says CPI Idukki district secretary KK Sivaraman. He told Pennews that the SP is the main culprit. It goes beyond logic that he was not aware of Rajkumar being taken by the police.

The arrest of two lower rung policemen is a ploy to protect the SP as this torture could not have been without his knowledge and approval.

Sivaraman sees a game plan in shifting the SP from Idukki and being sent to the anti-terrorist wing only because of growing public protest He is being protected and it is for the probe authorities to interrogate him which would certainly bring out a lot of connections and financial deals of many. If one has done no wrong, there is no reason to let him be quizzed, says Sivaraman.

But this is not acceptable to the local CPM leadership, especially Electricity Minister MM Mani, known for his foot-in-the-mouth attitude. He publicly admonished CPI and Sivaraman saying they should be with the Opposition to lead the march. About this, Sivaraman said he preferred to remain silent and not go down to abysmal standard levels.

Sivaraman also had a word of caution. This is not the first custodial death during the present LDF regime and the Government needs to be more vigilant, he says.

Things do not augur well for the Government in this case as the CPM-CPI tug-of-war does not appear to be heading for a solution.

This is not the first time that the two parties have been at loggerheads. There have been instances where the party's state leadership led by Kanam Rajendran has taken a tough stance. He was first to condemn the shooting of Maoists in Kerala. He, like the CPM veteran VS Achuthanandan, has been voicing concern over the Government's deviation.

Even when the tea estate women workers came together to lead a struggle, CPI and VS stood with the workers, though the Government tried to crush the movement.

Idukki has been notorious for large-scale encroachments. A senior CPI leader on condition of anonymity said the CPM with the support of Mani was backing these encroachers. "The old guard of the CPI district leadership has become defunct. The new crop stands for principles which the CPM leadership cannot digest," he pointed out.

The CPM claim is that the CPI, which has lost a good part of its cadre to the former, is trying hard to gain strength and is literally playing into the hands of the Opposition in Idukki.

But CPI insiders feel that it is time to correct the party and the Government. The custodial death is one example to expose the 'dirty politics of money' in the district. Also, the stand of the state leadership, of late (Kanam not supporting the agitation of the district unit for the SP's arrest) is a drift towards the CPM, more by coercion. This needs to be arrested immediately as there will be more struggles to save the district from encroachers very soon and also bring the CPI leadership to understand the pulse of the people.

Alongside, the CPI has to take on Mani who, CPI insiders allege, was only to ensure that his partymen got back amounts deposited with Rajkumar's firm.

His arrogant behaviour and attack on the CPM had to be reined in, said an old-timer.

But there is a move on to bring together various groups within political parties unhappy with the way things are going. The CPI has been a votary of merger with the CPM for the emergence of a united Left party.

Recently, historian and writer Ramachandra Guha suggested that it was high time the two communist parties merged and roped in different socialist groups to form a socialist bloc that had Indian 'roots' and do away with a 'communist tag'.