Saturday, August 15, 2020

How going into quarantine, 44 years ago, saved former Naxalite Kunnel Krishnan's life

By Amiya Meethal| Express News Service | Published: 24th July 2020 12:21 PM
Kunnel Krishnan

KOZHIKODE: Kunnel Krishnan of Wayanad is an indelible name in the history of the Naxalite movement in Kerala. He was the first accused in the Madathil Mathai murder case and the second accused in the Kayanna police station attack case, besides being a key accused in the case relating to the attack and extortion of valuables of the erstwhile feudal lord, Chundappan Nair, of Mananthavady.

Now, when quarantine, and isolation are common words due to COVID-19 pandemic, 80-year-old Krishnan reminisces his 'quarantine' period -- which saved his life -- 44 years ago under police custody.

He was the Wayanad district secretary of the Central Reorganisation Committee CPI-ML then. The police took Krishnan into custody a month after the Kayanna police station attack took place on February 28, 1976. He was taken to the Kakkayam police camp, which gained notoriety due to the torturous methods of Crime Branch DIG Jayaram Padikkal.

"I was brought into the Kakkayam camp two days after the death of Kozhikode Regional Engineering College (REC) student P Rajan. Jayaram Padikkal was not there. He came on the second day and asked why I was being allowed to stand, which indirectly meant I should be subjected to brutality so that I am unable to stand," he told TNIE.

M M Somasekharan, Murali Kannampally, C H Achuthan, Sugathan, Bhargavan and medical student Vasu were among the others taken to the camp during the same period. For three days, Krishnan was brutalised.

"The cruel method called 'uruttal' was the most dreaded one. We can withstand it on the first day. On the second day, it is like tearing off flesh from thighs and legs. On the third day, the skin gets imprinted on the rolling instrument (long wooden rod) used for 'uruttal'," he said.

Yet, Krishnan said, he did not utter a single word about his party activities to the police. Before further torture, blessing came in the form of measles and the police put him in an isolated room -- into quarantine. The quarantine room

"I was like a rotten sack then. Unable to stand on two feet. Even in that condition, we were chained," Krishnan recalled. No policeman came near him out of fear of disease transmission.

"A doctor from Vadakara, Dr Kunjabdulla, came and gave me some medicine. Policemen put neem leaves on the floor of my cell and asked me to sleep on them," he reminisced.

Krishnan escaped from police torture for about 15 days, thanks to measles. "If not for measles, I would have died. There was no proper food either. Only a cup of tea and snacks were provided in a day. When a newly-posted cop felt sympathy, some additional food and drinking water was provided. I also had fever," he said.

After a month in the Kakkayam camp, he was shifted to the Malurkunnu camp and was subsequently let off by the court citing lack of evidence in the case.

'Achuthan developed measles first'

M M Somasekharan, the first accused in the Kayanna case and lodged in the Kakkayam camp almost at the same time as Kunnel Krishnan, said that measles first infected Achuthan. "It might have transmitted to Krishnan," Somasekharan said.

Currently living with his family at Valad near Mananthavady, Krishnan said the after-effects of police torture continues to bother him.

"When my grandson sits on my thighs, it still pains," he said

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