Comrade TP Chandrashekharan: Embodiment of the Undying Spirit of the Communist Movement

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“… The fate of Chandrasekharan illustrates the plight of political leaders who do not want to be part of the LDF or the UDF. As someone from Kannur told me, ‘The CPI-M people would tell us that if you oppose us, we will thrash you (thachum) and the Congress people tell us that if you oppose us, we’ll get you thrashed by the police….’ (Gilbert Sebastian, The martyrdom of Com. T P Chandrasekharan and the future of transformative politics in Keralam, Sanhati, 7 July, 2012)

“…I see Communism in India today as being threatened in two ways: either being hegemonised by bourgeois liberalism, or as falling prey to a feudal-Stalinism. What is common to both these trends is an implicit lack of conviction about socialism, an implicit subscription to the neo-liberal “development” agenda, and an implicit denial of scope for people’s empowerment. Succumbing to either or both these threats would be disastrous and totally against the interests of the people…” – Prabhat Patnaik (in his  clarificatory public e-mail,  to noted social scientist KT Rammohan who  questioned Patnaik’s participation in ‘the Chintha Ravi Memorial Seminar’ in Kozhikode in 2012,immediately after Com. TPC’s assassination. since Patnaik continued to belong to the “killer-party”.

Com.TP Chandrasekharan was a leader of CPI(M) for a long time and based his activism around Vadakara, in the district of Kozhikode, Kerala. He hailed from the Martyr’s Village of Onchiyam, where ten comrades sacrificed their life fighting the feudal landlords and mighty state machinery on 30 April 1948. He started his political career as an SFI activist and then he continued with DYFI and CPI(M). He was very much disturbed by the steady right-wing, pro-corporate trend in the Party. His differences with the right-wing degeneration of CPI(M), like many others in different parts of the state, took a decisive shape following the Party State Conference held at Kottayam in 2008. This led to the creation of independent left alternatives (parties) in various parts of Kerala by erstwhile CPI(M) cadres such as Thalikulam Communist Party (TCP) of Thalikulam, Thrissur; Janakeeya Vikasana Samithi (JVS) of Shornur, Palakkad; Adhinivesha Prathirodha Samiti and Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) of Onchiyam. Later TPC took the historical task of co-ordinate these various left breakaway groups/parties along with independent activists in to the single platform called ‘Kerala Left Co-ordination Committee’. Then he went further by linking this to the similar movements going on in the rest of the country by making KLCC as a part of All India Left Co-ordination (AILC). TPC was aware that left politics requires as well as ensures an active and vibrant public space for detailed and in-depth debates and dialogues of all issues of struggle for the common masses. But the arrogance and violence unleashed by the official ‘left’ itself will eliminate these public spaces. CPI(M), however, maintained that TPC had displayed “a naked desire for position, parliamentary greed and absence of communist values”.

One of the crucial issues which he took up after he left the CPI-M was the issue of land acquisition for road development during the period of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government at the Onchiyam area in Kozhikode district where he lived. He was known to be a sincere leader and had garnered considerable popular support in the area. On 4 May 2012, he was brutally hacked to death. The brutality of this murder with 51 slashes by swords, mostly on the head, was striking. All the available evidence pointed fingers at the CPI-M for this murder although the United Democratic Front (UDF) government led by the Congress party also cannot be absolved of its responsibility of not heeding his request to provide him security after previous attempts on his life.

In the wake of massive popular outrage against Com. TPC’s assassination, the divide within the faction-ridden Kerala CPI(M), ‘ became clear: while, the CPI(M) State Secretary of CPI(M) Pinarayi Vijayan called TPC a ‘kulamkuthi’ (‘traitor’) just after a couple of days of the murder, Com V S Achuthanandan called TPC a “martyr!” Comrade TPC’s murder has exposed the CPI(M)’s intolerance, arrogance, and degeneration dramatically.

Indeed, TPC’s assassination was one more evidence of CPI(M)’s grisly politics of eliminating dissent by eliminating the dissenter. It was also a message for all those who questioned the mighty power of CPI(M). Let us remember that TPC left a party which enjoys great power, money, and scope for parliamentary positions. Unlike many others in Kerala, he did not leave the CPI(M) to join the UDF and seek power there. Instead, he took the hard, arduous road of building a revolutionary party from scratch, without any backing of the moneyed or powerful. Was this a sign of ‘naked desire for position’ and ‘parliamentary greed’? Or was it, in fact, the sign of true communist spirit and dedication? 

Another related question is: “Why is it that the CPI-M does not feel the need to eliminate those who leave its fold and join the Congress or the broader political formation, the UDF? In fact, the CPI-M is quite at ease in competing with the Congress-led UDF with its right-wing credentials. They feel quite superior and self-righteous in doing this. The UDF does not threaten the system of which CPI-M is a co-beneficiary.(– Gilbert Sebastian, The martyrdom of Com. T P Chandrasekharan and the future of transformative politics in Keralam, Sanhati, 7 July, 2012)

Most common people in Kerala have no hesitation in believing the CPI(M) to be behind the gruesome murder. Not just because a series of CPI(M) local leaders have been arrested for their links with the hired killers. But because they know that the CPI(M) had, for the past four years, a history of attacks and threats against RMP comrades. What makes their belief even stronger is CPI(M)’s behaviour towards those who are speaking in support of Comrade TPC.  When a leading Malayalam writer, C.V. Balakrishnan, spoke at a cultural gathering at Payyanur against the murder, a poster appeared on the walls of his home, warning that he should “not forget” that he was “leading a peaceful life in the red village due to the courtesy of the Marxists.” All Kerala heard CPI(M)’s Idukki Secretary MM Mani boasting of how his party “hacked, stabbed, and shot dead’ political rivals in the past,” and warning that the party would continue to thus eliminate those who ‘rebel’ against the party.

On 28th January 2014, the Special Additional Sessions Judge in Kozhikode delivered the verdict in the case which held CPI(M) members and leaders K.C. Ramachandran, Manoj and Kunhanandan guilty of the murder which exposed the involvement of CPI(M) leadership in the murder of TPC. The party in all these times maintained that it was not involved in the murder of TPC. Now, a CBI enquiry has been ordered into the political conspiracy behind Com.TPC’s murder after the hunger strike by the wife of slain communist K.K. Rama.

It is clear that the communist movement in Kerala is at a crossroads. Leftists are experiencing deep anguish over Comrade TPC’s murder. In Kerala, it is apparent that for most genuine Left sympathisers, there is no doubt that Chandrashekharan was a true comrade. And they are unconvinced by CPI(M)’s denials, and outraged by the abuse heaped on TPC by the CPI(M) and the CPI(M) leaders’ violent language. At many places, CPI(M) activists and members joined RMP following this gruesome assassination. In an editorial, the English daily, The Hindu, had commented that “Political murders are non-events in Kerala, and, in any case, the course of the CPI (M) will not turn on whether Chandrasekharan is seen as a traitor or martyr.” Well, the CPI(M) had once believed that its fate would not rest on whether the peasants of Singur and Nandigram were seen as ‘martyrs’ or ‘traitors.’‘Kulamkuthi-Onchiyam Rakthasakshi’ (which can be translated as ‘Traitor-Onchiyam Martyr’) is a book edited by Geetha, a renowned writer associated with the literature of resistance and liberation of the oppressed. The book is nothing new in the sense that it is the detailed collection of various pieces of writings in various newspapers and magazines regarding TPC. In the first section of the book some of the very important speeches delivered by TPC as the RMP leader is given. The book also contains various pieces of writings regarding the relevance of alternative left politics. The articles of Prabath Patnaik, Appukuttan Vallikkunnu etc are included. Interviews with K.K. Rama and the veteran CPIM leader V.S.Achuthanandhan are also included. Various poems, cartoons, paintings, news paper cuttings are also given. The book, in general, presents a detailed account of the political struggles led by TPC when he was alive as well as a martyr.

AISA activists visited TPC’s home and met the family members of him immediately after his murder. AIPWA leader Kavita Krishnan, AISA leaders and then JNUSU President Sucheta De and SSS Councillor Shivani Nag and AISA-JNU activists Sarath and Lal Vijayan were very much part of the political movements which followed the TPC murder in Kerala. AISA also a co-organiser  of the memorial meeting at Kerala House, New Delhi, which was participated among others by Sumit Chakravarty, Mangath Ram Pasla and Kumaran Kutty.

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AIPWA leader Kavita Krishnan, AISA leaders Sucheta and Shivani with Comrade TPC’s Family Members

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