In a ‘rarest of the rarest’ verdict, Kerala court sentenced 15 PFI workers for murdering BJP leader Ranjith Sreenivasan

He was murdered by the convicts on 19 December 2021 in Alappuzha, which was seen as a retaliation over the alleged murder of an SDPI worker.

ByK A Shaji

Published Jan 30, 2024 | 2:52 PMUpdatedJan 30, 2024 | 2:52 PM

Ranjith Sreenivasan. (Creative Commons)

The Additional District Sessions Court in Mavelikkara, on Tuesday, 30 January, sentenced to death 15 persons associated with the now-banned Popular Front of India (PFI) in connection with the murder of BJP OBC wing leader Ranjith Sreenivasan in Vellakinar in the Alappuzha district.

He was murdered by the convicts on 19 December 2021 in Alappuzha, which was seen as a retaliation over the alleged murder of an SDPI worker.

The sentence was pronounced by Mavelikkara Additional District Judge VG Sreedevi. 14 of the 15 convicts were present at the court. One convicted person is undergoing treatment at a hospital.

The convicts are Nizam, Ajmal, Anoop, Mohammad Aslam, Abdul Kalam alias Salam, Abdul Kalam, Safaruddin, Munshad, Jazeeb Raja, Navas, Shemir, Nazeer, Zakir Hussain, Shaji, and Sharnas.

Also Read: Kerala Governor Khan is missing from Raj Bhavan once every three days

Rare judgement

This is the first time in Kerala that such a large number of people are getting death sentences in a single case.

The prosecution had sought the maximum sentence for the convicts, saying that they were a “trained killer squad” and the cruel and diabolical manner in which the victim was killed in front of his mother, infant, and wife brings it within the ambit of the “rarest of the rarest” of crimes.

The court had cross-examined 156 witnesses and verified over 1,000 pieces of evidence.

The trial was conducted at the Mavelikkara court as the lawyers of the Alappuzha Bar Association decided in unison not to appear for the accused as Ranjith was a practising lawyer with them.

“This was an exceptionally rare case and our loss is immense. We express our gratitude to the prosecution and investigating officers for conducting a thorough and honest investigation into the incident, ultimately resulting in the imposition of the maximum punishment,” Sreenivasan’s wife told reporters.

Meanwhile, BJP state president K Surendran thanked the investigating officers for ensuring justice for “Swargeeya” Ranjith, who was brutally murdered by “Islamic fanatics”. He said the family of Ranjith got justice as the investigation was foolproof.

Also Read: Kerala CM urges people to safeguard secular values in tribute to Mahatma Gandhi

The incident

The coastal district of Alappuzha in Kerala witnessed a tense situation in 2021 following the brutal murder of two political rivals at a gap of twelve hours since the night of 18 December that year.

The violent incidents began at 7 pm on 18 December, 2021, when a group of alleged BJP activists attacked the SDPI state secretary KS Shan (38) in Mannanchery with lethal weapons when he was on his way back home after meeting some friends.

The attackers, who came in a car, knocked Shan down from his motorbike and hacked him 40 times. The gang comprised four people.

Shan breathed his last at around 1 am on 19 December 2021, at a private hospital in Kochi, where he was brought to after the attack.

In retaliation, BJP OBC morcha state secretary Ranjith Sreenivasan (40) was killed by the now-convicted SDPI activists who barged into his residence at Vellakinar in Alappuzha and hacked him in front of his wife and aged mother. He died on the spot.

Ranjith was a BJP candidate in the Alappuzha constituency in the Assembly election held in April 2021 in Kerala. The incident occurred at around 7 am on 19 December 2021. Both Shan and Ranjith were practising advocates in the Alappuzha court.

Also Read: WHO praises Kerala, Telangana for their approach to caring for the terminally ill

Multiple murders in Alappuzha

SDPI is the political front of the Islamic hardliner outfit PFI, and workers of both the SDPI and the BJP clashed at many spots in the district following the news of the murders spread.

Following that, the police clamped Section 144 across Alappuzha and warned political activists against rallying together and organising protest marches and meetings.

BJP Kerala unit president K Surendran has accused SDPI of unleashing religious terrorism by brutally murdering Ranjith, a promising leader of the party.

He said SDPI activists had killed three BJP-RSS leaders in the two preceding months in Kerala, and Ranjith’s was a sequel to them. He said the BJP would not remain spectators if the police failed to capture the real culprits and take necessary action against them.

However, the then SDPI state president MK Faizi had alleged that party secretary KS Shan was brutally killed by members of the RSS, the parent organisation of BJP.

“There is a huge conspiracy behind the murder of Shan, and it was executed with the blessings of the state leadership of RSS. They are using this tactic to scare the minorities in the state. They are trying to destroy SDPI,” he had said then.

The case related to the murder of Shan is still under trial.