At around 7.30 pm on 20 August 2016, the sound of an explosion broke through the din of the evening at Koothuparamba in Kannur district, Kerala. An explosive stored in the house of P Dikshith, a 23-year-old Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker, had been set off accidentally. Residents from the area rushed Dikshith, who was reportedly alone at home then and had been making bombs, to the Indira Gandhi Cooperative Hospital at Thalassery. It was too late. The doctors who attended to him declared him dead. In and around the district of Kannur, Dikshith is one of the many political party workers who have lost their lives because of explosives that are stored, often in residential buildings, to make country bombs. In the district, accidental bomb blasts have resulted in the deaths of and injured not just party workers, but also children who happened to pick up the curious-looking objects. Such accidents are symptomatic of the larger culture of violence that has become an integral part of the political landscape in Kerala.
In January 2015, Shibin Bhaskaran—a nineteen-year-old worker from the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI)—was murdered by an armed gang that allegedly belong to the Indian Union Muslim League. Muhammad Aslam, a 20-year-old IUML worker, was one of the 18 IUML workers who was accused of killing Bhaskaran. In June 2016, a Special Additions sessions court acquitted 17 of the 18 people who were accused of murdering Bhaskaran . On 12 August, Aslam was hacked to death at the town of Nadapuram in Kozhikode district. He was travelling on his motorcycle when he was chased down by a gang of people that followed him in a car. The assailants attacked him with swords and chopped his hands off. Aslam was stabbed 67 times.
Aslam’s death is similar to that of TP Chandrasekharan, the founder of the Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP). In May 2012, Chandrashekharan was allegedly killed by a gang that had been hired by leaders from the Communist Party of India-Marxist(CPI-M). He was reportedly stabbed 51 times. Chandrasekharan’s death sparked widespread criticism against the party and its workers. In both Aslam and Chandrasekharan’s murders, the deaths of their political rivals alone did not appease the attackers; they seemed to relish, in particular, the violence of these killings.
Late at night, on 11 July 2016, CV Dhanaraj, a CPI-M worker was hacked to death before his family’s eyes at his house in Payyanur in Kannur district. A few hours later, CK Ramachandran, a worker from the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh—the labour wing of the Sangh Parivar—was stabbed to death in his house at Annoor, near Payyanur. Less than two months later, on 3 September 2016, Bineesh, a 26-year-old Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh worker, succumbed to the injuries he had sustained on his head and leg after being attacked with sharp weapons at Thillankery in Kannur district. Bineesh was killed a little more than an hour after Jijesh, a CPI-M worker, was injured when country-made bombs were hurled at him while he was travelling in his car. The BJP protested Bineesh’s death by organising a district-wide strike on 4 September. At the Thillenkari panchayat, the CPI-M announced a strike of its own. By 15 September, as many as six CPI (M) workers had been arrested for Bineesh’s murder.
Such retaliatory attacks are not uncommon in the region. They follow a pattern in which the murder of a worker from a political party is avenged with the killing of another—regardless of their proximity to the organisation—from the rival party.