Kannur in Kerala has been the hotbed of merciless, vengeance driven, competitive politics since the early 1960s. The baton of violence has mostly been tossed back and forth between the RSS and the CPI(M), with the Congress pitching in occasionally.
Earlier this week, Mahe, which is in Puducherry but adjacent to Kannur, witnessed two political murders – a CPI(M) cadre and an RSS worker. The same day; within hours of each other. Still earlier in the year, Youth Congress activist S.P. Shuhaib was murdered in Mattanur, Kannur, allegedly by CPI(M) goons. Shuhaib was reportedly a Left sympathiser who switched to the Congress. He played a key role in the Congress wins in the 2015 panchayat polls.
A month after Shuhaib’s killing, 24-year-old Asna K. got her MBBS degree.
Asna herself had been collateral damage in Kannur’s bloody politics. In 2000, when the panchayat elections were on in full swing, a hand-made bomb was lobbed at a polling booth in the Congress dominant locality. It landed in the courtyard of Asna’s house in Poovathur. Six-year-old Asna, her younger brother and their mother were all injured. Asna lost her right leg.
There have been news reports that Asna recently visited Shuhaib’s family. Is it true? Asna seems alarmed, denies the news. “What happened to the family is beyond consolation, but I have never been there. Not yet.” She does not omit to mention, however, how the Congress helped her and her family. She says, “We know those people. In fact, all the political parties came forward to help. But my family has always tried to keep away from politics.”
That day when we meet her, the freshly minted MBBS has just completed a 12-hour intern duty at the labour ward. Despite the tight schedules at the Government Medical College Hospital, Calicut, and an aching right leg, Asna sounds cheerful. She says, “I try not to walk around too much. Once the internship is over, I will choose a stream that is less strenuous.”
She starts to talk about her childhood, the hospital visits to dress up the bleeding ulcers and being carried to school by her father. She is not sure when she stopped thinking of herself as a victim and started dreaming of being a saviour, but it happened.
Does it mean she has managed to forget what happened with her? “No,” clarifies Asna, “Every family, every person affected by such tragedies goes through immense trauma. What we’ve lost is irreversible. No one lives past it, they just live through it.”
In the wake of the Shuhaib murder, Congress MP K.C. Venugopal has reportedly said that the party will not retaliate in keeping with the Gandhian policy of non-violence. Sumayya, Shuhaib’s younger sister, has in a letter to CM Pinarayi Vijayan written, “Let my brother be the last name in that account book of killing.”
Ever since the Vijayan-led Left government came to power in 2016, there have been 20-plus political murders.
As she starts to walk away, Asna asks, “It is natural to differ and disagree, have conflicting ideologies but why does the disagreement have to be written in blood.” That prosthetic leg hurts, by her own admission; but from her confident gait, there is no telling.