Bengaluru: The Congress on Tuesday called for a 12-hour hartal in Kannur, following the murder of 30-year-old Youth Congress worker S.V. Shuhaib in North Kerala’s Kannur district on Monday night, allegedly by workers of the state’s ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM.

Congress’s leader of opposition in the Kerala assembly, Ramesh Chennithala, came out strongly against the CPM with accusations of “red terror", a phrase typically used by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ideological arm Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The region has witnessed a series of violent clashes between BJP-RSS workers and CPM workers over the last few years.

Shuhaib, a local office-bearer of Youth Congress, was heavily injured when a gang of men attacked him with sharp weapons on Monday night. He succumbed to his injuries on his way to the hospital. The police said that two weeks ago, there had been clashes in the region between CPM’s Student Federation of India and Congress’s Kerala Students’ Union, and Shuhaib was arrested for his involvement in the same.

The incident does not bode well for the ruling communist government as it comes at a time when the CPM’s attempts to improve its image following violent clashes with the BJP-RSS activists were arguably reaching some success. After it took a beating for the political killings in Kannur, the government had initiated peace talks to stop the killings in the region. Notably, in the last few months, Kannur has been largely peaceful.

Speaking to television reporters in Kerala, P. Jayarajan, the district secretary of CPM, denied any involvement of his party in the killing of Shuhaib. He said Chennithala’s accusations of “red terror" are unsubstantiated.

“The peace of the land has been killing with the murder of Shuhaib, a block secretary of Youth Congress in (Kannur’s) Mattanur," posted Chennithala on his Facebook page on Tuesday, in Malayalam. “Criminal gangs are having a field day (in Kannur) using the political muscle of their bosses. Shuhaib was the sole hope of his father, mother and three sisters, it is also this hope that the CPM murderers (are) destroyed," he said.

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