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Is Kerala Heading Towards A Totalitarian State Under Pinarayi Vijayan?

Vijayan is under fire from the party and the public for not reining in the encounter specialist top-cop for arresting people based on the flimsiest of charges

Is Kerala Heading Towards A Totalitarian State Under Pinarayi Vijayan?
| File Photo-PTI
Is Kerala Heading Towards A Totalitarian State Under Pinarayi Vijayan?
outlookindia.com
2016-12-23T14:58:36+05:30

There has been a spate of arrests on the flimsiest of reasons in Kerala, spotlighting the state’s descent towards a totalitarian state with no space for dissent under the Left rule.

The Kerala police under chief Loknath Behera, an encounter specialist and, formerly with NIA and CBI, has been arresting people left, right and centre, and strangely many of the arrests are based on the BJP’s youth wing Bharatiya Yuva Morcha’s complaints.

The latest was the arrest of Kozhikode-based writer and theatre activist Kamal C. Chavara, who was charged with sedition under Section 124 (a) of the IPC for his Facebook post based on a complaint by BJP Yuva Morcha activists.

His FB post was an excerpt from his booklet Smashanangalude Nottupustakam. (Notebook of cemeteries), which the Morcha activists alleged was against the national anthem.

The CPI (M)’s major ally the CPI has strongly spoken against the free run of the police. Though the CPI (M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has stuck his neck out to say that the Kerala police was violating the police act, the response from the Kerala Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, who holds the home portfolio, has been muted.

Congress leader PC Vishnunadh says there is something deeply wrong with the way the government has lost total control of the police.

“The ruling party is speaking in different voices. On one hand a Facebook post by the CPM says there is no UAPA slapped on Nadir (who was arrested while visiting writer Kamal C Chavara), while Kodyeri Balakrishnan, CPI (M) state secretary, says there was a case but the police have withdrawn the case”.

“In another case, people who did not stand during the national anthem during the IFFK (film fest) were arrested but when BJP Yuva Morcha activists sat outside director Kamal’s house singing the anthem and a complaint was filed in Thalikulam in Thrissur, against the Yuva Morcha activists for insulting the national anthem the police were unwilling to arrest them. Why is that so?”

Kamal had criticised the apex court ruling which said national anthem should be played back to back before every show in a film festival.

Sources say the inaction on the part of Vijayan and his failure to rein in the police arises because Behera was appointed as DGP due to political pressure from the Centre. And Vijayan seems to be toeing the centre’s line rather than that of his own party.

Sources say the Centre could be exploiting Vijayan’s Achilles heel, the SNC Lavlin corruption case that is up for hearing in the Kerala High Court from January 4, 2017.

The CBI has filed a revision petition challenging the discharge of Pinarayi Vijayan and six others in 2013 by the CBI special court at Thiruvanthapuram from the corruption case. The fact that the CBI is represented by the Additional Solicitor General of India K.M. Nataraj shows how important the case is to the centre.

The case against Vijayan is that while he was the electricity minister from 1996 to 1998, he and the officials of the Kerala State Electricity Board favoured the Canadian company SNC Lavlin and awarded them the contract to modernize the Pallivasal, Sengulam and Panniar hydro-electric projects at inflated rates without calling for a global tender. The CBI alleges that this is a clear violation of rules and it had caused a loss of Rs 374.50 crore to the exchequer.

Though the BJP is not the ruling party in Kerala, their writ runs across the state. Sources say it is a way of expanding its base in Kerala where the BJP has little hold. Writer K. Satchidanandan wrote on his FB wall : "Is Kerala Police under Kerala's home ministry or under Yuva Morcha?” The BJP had issued a veiled threat that director Kamal needs to be careful if he wants to live here peacefully.

Former CPI (M) MP Sebastian Paul thinks that what is happening in Kerala is worrisome.

He said, “It is the duty of the reigning government to control the police. For the silliest of reasons draconian laws have been used to arrest people. The Left which has firsthand experience of police atrocities should be all the more sensitive to the people’s freedoms”.

“There has been a perception that the police are not being controlled by the Kerala government effectively. It is time that government changes that.”

On November 24, two Maoists, Kuppu Devaraj (60), a central committee member and Ajitha (45) were shot dead in what is increasingly referred to as a fake encounter, where sources say the police fired 1500 rounds on the Maoists in the jungles of Nilambur forests, around six kilometres from Edakkara police station.

This is the first killing of a Maoist in Kerala since the seventies.

Advocate P A Pouran, the general secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, (PUCL) Kerala, said: “In the post mortem report Kuppu Devaraj had 9 bullet wounds and Ajitha had 19 wounds spread all over the body. All preparations were made to make the public believe it was an encounter killing but it was a fake encounter. There was only one pistol found in their possession and we do not know if a shot was fired from it. There were no other arms found.”

“In Kerala, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act  (India's foremost anti-terrorism legislation) and IPC section 124 (a) are being used indiscriminately by the police. Rajeesh Kollkandy, an office clerk at Government Polytechnic College, Kozhikode, has been slapped with UAPA for booking a hotel room for D Sreedharan, younger brother of Kuppu Devaraj, for assisting human rights activists Gro Vasu, and for harbouring M N Ravunni when he came to Kozhikode to attend the funeral of Devaraj.”

Interestingly, CPI leader Binoy Viswam attended the burial of the Kuppu Devaraj with the permission of his party.

CPI state secretary Kannam Rajendran said they are stressing that Kerala should be dealing with this differently.

“Though we are part of the political leadership we are not for people being charged with cases under UAPA for political dissent or for striking,” says Rajendran.

“Social unrest should not be dealt with criminal laws is our communist thinking. For that reason we have always been against draconian laws like MISA, TADA, Goonda Act, KAPA and now UAPA.”

“We do not agree with the acts of Maoists and though we don’t think their ways are suitable for Indian democratic ways we are not for eliminating them.”

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