37-year-old CK Deepu, a Dalit activist and member of the Twenty20 party succumbed to injuries on Friday, February 18 near Kizhakkambalam in Ernakulam district. Police arrested Abdul Rahman (36), PA Zainuddin (27), Abdul Aziz (45), and NA Muhammed Basheer (36).
Twenty20 is led by local industrialist Sabu M Jacob who owns the Kitex group of companies. All the accused are Deepu’s neighbors and Twenty20 alleged that the murderers were CPM activists. Kizhakkambalam is part of the Kunnathunad constituency and is headquartered in Perumbavoor, one of the centers of radical Islam in Kerala.
Last year, Sabu had announced that he was cancelling his proposed investments worth Rs 3500 crore in Kerala and moving to Telangana instead. “While our neighbouring states give a red carpet welcome to investors, the Kerala government treats them as traitors. They are branded as bourgeoisie, exploiters, encroachers, capitalists and criminals and humiliated in public. Whoever invests in Kerala will lose peace of mind and will be driven to suicide,” Sabu had said at the time. Twenty20 was started in 2015 as a non-profit charity of the Kitex group, but managed to win a panchayat election the very next year.
What allegedly started off as a protest against the lack of streetlights near the Parappuram Harijan Colony in Kizhakkambalam where Deepu lived, ended in his murder. In Kerala, hitmen ‘quotation’ gangs are now lynching highly vulnerable scheduled caste Hindus who oppose dominant political ideologies like communism. Even the Congress is now trying to milk the unfortunate death of the poor Dalit youth.
Twenty20 announced a ‘Lights off protest’ campaign claiming that there are no street lights in many wards. They themselves are in power in as many as 19 panchayats including in the Kizhakkambalam block panchayat where the murder happened. The Twenty20 received flak from the ruling communist regime for setting up street lights in Kizhakkambalam by raising private funds.
As is common across Kerala, when locals revolt against a lack of basic amenities or complain online to competent central authorities, the very ones who are entrusted with bringing them relief turn into their oppressors. Electricity board officials and CPM MLA P. V. Sreenijin from Kunnathunad constituency, opposed the Twenty20 protests since May 2021.
Twenty20 went ahead and on the 5th of this month called on their supporters to observe the protest by switching off their lights from 7 pm to 7.15 pm on February 12. On that day, Deepu went around the colony exhorting residents to participate in the ‘Lights off protest’.
Deepu had to shoulder the responsibility of his family at a young age since both his father C C Kunjaru and mother Karthu are suffering from various ailments. The victim worked as a painter and is known to help everyone selflessly. He married off his sister Deepa but never bothered to marry and was a caring son who would not leave his parents alone. He was also an active social worker who did his part by working with the Twenty 20.
The brutal attacks
By 7 PM on that fateful day, he returned home to switch off the lights. His killers who were hiding behind an old structure near his house attacked him. The first investigation report (FIR) mentioned that the prime accused Sainudheen lifted Deepu while strangling him and threw him against a wall. When the victim fell down, he and the others mercilessly kicked him, aiming for his head and liver.
Even as terrified neighbors watched in horror, Deepu’s ailing father who is recovering from an angioplasty, came running pleading to leave him alone. The assailants hurled abuses and said “You should have kept him home if you wanted him alive.” The message was clear, they wanted him dead and assaulted him for 15 minutes all the while verbally abusing and threatening the entire neighborhood.
Deepu staggered home somehow and fell into bed. Twenty20 ward member Nisha Aliyar said that the victim called her on Saturday night and told her about the assault. She said that sensing danger she rushed to his house. Incredibly, the elected representative said that the assailants threatened her and she did not file a police complaint.
Deepu was suffering from severe headaches and stomach pain after the attack. The family could not shift him to hospital as the criminals were still lurking around. The victim’s father confirmed that the assailants prevented the colony residents from taking Deepu to the hospital. It is not known when the attackers left.
By Sunday, Deepu’s condition worsened and he vomited blood. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, from where he was referred to the neurology department of a private hospital for better treatment. Aluva Rajagiri hospital conducted a CT scan that revealed severe cerebral hemorrhage.
Deepu underwent surgery after doctors found blood clots in his brain, the result of the beatings that he received. He never recovered and by Tuesday his condition deteriorated further following which doctors put him on ventilator support. On Friday, Deepu succumbed to his injuries, days after he was assaulted by the alleged CPM goons. Had he been admitted immediately after the attack, he might still be alive.
Sabu M Jacob alleged that Rajagiri hospital authorities started acting strange around Wednesday and began avoiding both him and the victim’s relatives. Doctors claimed that Deepu had tested positive for the coronavirus and that his liver no longer functioned. They opined that there is no use keeping him on the ventilator.
Meanwhile, based on the complaint filed by the Twenty20, Kunnathunad police registered a case against the four assailants under sections related to an attempt to murder and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Both these sections are non-bailable and Sabu alleged that police failed to arrest the accused. They were later arrested and charged with murder on Friday.
Sabu alleged that local MLA Sreenijin was behind Deepu’s death and his councilor Aliyar claimed that she saw him in the vicinity on Saturday when the incident happened. Sabu claimed that during the last 10 months, ever since PV Sreenijan was elected as MLA, around 50 Twenty20 workers have been assaulted by CPI(M) party members.
Sreenijin rejected the allegations that Deepu was a victim of a CPI(M) attack. He had earlier claimed that Deepu was suffering from liver cirrhosis and that was the cause of his death. Such statements even before the final post mortem report are made public, seem fishy to say the least.
Rajagiri hospital never bothered to inform Deepu’s relatives who were waiting outside the hospital about his death. The unfortunate ones came to know that Deepu was no more after media reports started to break the news.
Sabu alleged that police who remained passive till then jumped into action and arranged an ambulance to take the dead body to Ernakulam medical college. He added that a left-leaning doctor worked hard to get the postmortem done at Ernakulam so that it could be manipulated. Twenty20 cadre created a ruckus and the body was taken to Kottayam medical college where the autopsy was conducted.
The preliminary post-mortem report revealed a major skull fracture as the primary reason for his death. It is also reported that his liver failure drastically reduced his chances of survival. As per the report, he suffered fractures in two parts of the skull and blood clotted due to this. The FIR stated that the intention of the assailants was to kill Madhu.
Sabu, in a press meet on Saturday, charged that Deepu was brutally beaten up for 15 minutes and yet the police failed to act. He added that the accused were in constant touch with the communist MLA before and after the incident. The industrialist asked the investigators to examine the legislator’s mobile phone to ascertain his links with the culprits.
Police brought the body with an escort and arranged a public viewing and yet charged many Twenty20 workers who came for Deepu’s last rites for violating covid protocols. The names of opposition leaders do not appear in the FIR, alleged Sabu.
The preplanned and professional way in which the killers lynched Deepu and damaged his liver without leaving any external injuries is a calling card of such professional kill squads. The allegations of administration complicity in shielding the accused do not come as a surprise for Kerala’s political observers.
Police are expected to seek the custody of the accused from the court for a detailed interrogation but Sabu said that he has lost faith in Kerala police and wants the CBI to probe the premeditated brutal murder. The communist track record of dealing with atrocities against Dalits especially when the accused are Islamists is pretty dismal.