VIOLENCE IN KERALA
From Keerikkadan Jose to ‘Quotation Teams’
Mathew A. Varghese
It is not the first time that violence as a means ‘to get things done’ becomes prominent in the South Western Indian state of Kerala. 'Goondas' (hired thugs), rowdies and KDs (Known Depredator - a term used by the Indian Police to classify criminals), were used by the powerful to control local market places, and political groups in order to hold their turf. This type of figure (s) is best represented by Keerikkadan Jose, the villain from the widely popular movie Kireedam that came out in 1989.
But following some of the high profile murders, among whom were prominent industrialists and those amongst the wealthy league, the violence associated with ‘quotation gangs’ have gained unprecedented prominence. The Quotation Teams are called so because, the crucial aspect that makes such gangs distinct from other forms of ‘goonda’ violence, are the personalised services that they offer on specified price.
The neoliberal growth with ‘urgency’ post nineties, in varying degrees blessed by political formations, has brought in significant transformations in the morphologies of violence. Despite their points of origin and actual acts of violence, the acts and the actors also gain a new life in the ways they are portrayed and received in public life through the media. News and Cinema become extremely important here. Quotation violence with all its graphical details and revelations of networks are presented every day. Such news is disjunctive from others on economic growth, festival galas, or advertisements. They are isolate events that become separate stories, each reinforcing needs of security.
At the same time these become normalized, unlike the goonda-violence of yester-year. There are often several ‘good’ quotation members who seem to have a ‘point’ against bad ones- ethical debates abound. Hagiographies of individuals from such media events circulate in everyday talk and attain a hyperreal life. But the hyperreal structures the real in the sense that violence in itself attains a state of normalcy and at the same time drives people towards new orders of living, put forth by the state.