“Why did they kill my son over a destroyed flag in a school? What crime did my son commit to die with 37 wounds on his legs? Any number of flags can be replaced, but who will give back my son?” asks S P Muhammed, father S P Shuhaib, a Youth Congress block secretary who was killed on Monday, a month after CPI(M) workers raised slogans warning him that his “days were numbered”.
Shuhaib, 29, was hacked to death late Monday night apparently as a sequel to clashes between CPI(M) and Congress over a dispute in a school.
“Shuhaib had faced threats from CPI(M) after he was involved in a petty dispute between SFI and KSU (student wings of CPI(M) and Congress, respectively) over a destroyed SFI flag at a nearby school. When I asked him about the threats, my son told me he would take care of it. If he had made a mistake, they could have beaten him up. He did not commit any crime that deserves such a heinous killing,” says Muhammed.
Flanked by relatives at his incomplete house at Edayannur village in Kannur district, the 55-year-old gets choked up as he speaks about his son, the sole breadwinner of the family. Muhammed stays home due to health reasons.
Shuhaib worked in a supermarket in Dubai. He flew back home eight months ago on a two-week leave to settle a case lodged during the civic body elections in 2015. However, the case, which has CPI(M) on the other side, was not amicably settled. So he stayed back and got involved active politics.
A popular leader in the local Muslim community, Shuhaib was made the Youth Congress block president in Mattannur. His mentor in the party was former Congress MP K Sudhakaran, who had challenged the CPI(M) in its stronghold.
Shuhaib also became actively involved in religious and charitable activities of Sunni Students Federation (SSF), a youth wing of the powerful Sunni Muslims in Kerala.
A former CPI(M) sympathiser, Shuhaib moved to the Congress before the 2015 civic polls. “Then, CPI(M) had looked into why Shuhaib had left the party. But he didn’t even open up to me,” says his uncle K T Ismail, a CPI(M) sympathiser.
Shuhaib led the Congress’s civic poll campaign at Therur and Edayannur wards in CPI(M)-dominated Keezhallur village panchayat. With his clout through SSF, the Congress won both wards. In both seats, the Congress did not have the backing of its ally Indian Union Muslim League over local political differences.
Local residents said that Shuhaib never scaled down his political activities due to threats from CPI(M). “If there was an issue, he would rush to the spot and was ready to dare the CPI(M). Maybe that was why he was targeted in this manner,” says K P Mujeeb, an Edayannur resident.
Kannur district KSU vice-president Farzan Majeed said the CPI(M) targeted Shuhaib due to his clout in the local Muslim community. “In 2012, the CPI(M) murdered young IUML leader Ariyil Shukoor. He was targeted due to his influence in the local community at Taliparamba in Kannur. Now, CPI(M) has killed another young Muslim leader,” he says.
Majeed, a student of Bachelor of Education, was remanded in judicial custody along with Shuhaib after a clash with CPI(M) last month, says, “On January 13, the magistrate court ordered that we be lodged in Kannur sub-jail. Without any reason, we were soon shifted to the special sub-jail. Shuhaib faced physical threat from CPI(M)-backed men lodged in the special sub-jail. Due to intervention of K Sudhakaran, we were shifted back to the sub-jail,” says Majeed, claiming that he is facing CPI(M) threat now.
In the series of political killings in Kannur, most of the victims have been Hindus — whether they belonged to CPI(M), BJP or Congress. Muslim men have rarely been among the victims.
Sources said Shuhaib’s murder has upset the Muslim community as he had been an active worker of a Sunni organisation. A protest march in Edayannur on Tuesday was attended by even CPI(M) sympathisers from the community.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, who visited the victim’s family, said police had been made ineffective in the CPI(M) regime. “Police could not arrest anyone for the murder. I heard that the prisoners on parole executed the murder. This shows the terrifying face of CPI(M) cruelty,” he said.