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The Marad Massacre

The Marad massacre proves that minority Islamic communalism is as militantly blood-thirsty as majority communalism... The voice of secularism cannot be soft towards either.

The Marad Massacre
The Marad Massacre

The Marad beach, a fisherfolk's colony a few miles off Calicut, has lovely sands and salubrious breeze, the Arabian Sea making the ambience of the place so soothing that people are tempted at sunset to sit and gossip until yawning hours of night. Two communities, Hindus and Muslims, live in proximity and seeming amity and their hefty oarsmen's occupation is coastal fishing. There is a temple near by and so too a mosque. Speaking generally, no overt communal rivalry marred the peace of the locality nor was there provocative pugnacity between the Arayas (Hindu fishing community) and their Muslim counterpart. 

But there did break out in January 2002 a sudden breach of the peace which had no communal tension on the surface; but five persons died — three Muslims and two Hindus — and it was a Hindu-Muslim scrimmage too violently planned to be dismissed as a spontaneous eruption. The methodology suggested the presence of outside elements in the perpetration of the crime. There was a terrible outcry about this communal carnage. Many, including me, visited the scene and measures to mollify, grant relief and restore peaceful coexistence were undertaken. Apparent calm came to prevail although only a small police outpost and some relief measures in separate centres made symbolic State presence. The indolent investigation where a clash and carnage with grave portents gored the locality did not result in a charge sheet till May next year. 

For well over a year, the fishermen's boats were busy occupationally and the people of Kerala slumbered assuming that life was normal. Terrorism dies hard and eternal vigilance is the desideratum of communal pacifism. The embers burn beneath, the surface quietude deceives. When external forces have access, ad hoc exercises are self-delusive. Deeper probes, more fundamental therapies, more perennial fraternisation alone can counter Hindu-Muslim alienation, which may look local, but the groups hardly bury the hatchet. 

It was Friday, May 2. A group of simple Araya fishermen slipped and sat in the cushioned sand dunes, enjoying idle conversation. The temple on the other side, at lamp-lighting time, found a few devotees around and otherwise Nature was calm. And then swooped on the innocents a savage brood of Islamic extremists with sharp weapons like swords or long-curved knives with blood-thirsty blitz to unloose murder most foul, most treacherous, most barbaric. From more than one direction rushed this rabid rascal gang, with lethal arms and killer plan, stabbed the defenceless Araya gossip group, a devotee returning from the temple and a neighbouring petty tea shop dealer and spread terror by throwing bombs which did not explode. Had they burst, the number of the dead would have multiplied. Eight lost their lives and many more were wounded. One Muslim from the attacking raiders was hit by accident and died in the melee. The glorious Marad sunset scene, in a few horrendous minutes, was drenched in blood and rent in cries and tears, with the police arriving after the savage carnage was committed and the terrorist felons had fled. Mobile phones were in action, the murders were perfectly organised, the villains made good their escape in vehicles waiting to operate the quick exit. 

A large cache of swords and knives were stored in the neighbouring masjid and the unholy heap of dastardly weapons were later seized by the police. Beneath the heavy sands was hidden a large sabre stock ready as a reserve for a mass massacre. And the holy mosque betrayed an organised plot for a macro-scale gory modus operandi. The armed aggressors were not necessarily local Islamic hostiles retaliating the earlier year-old brutal battle — referred to as Marad I. Maybe that too was a malignant motivation. 

Extraneous extremist infiltration and preparation, if true, make Marad II a darkly dangerous portent, not a mere coastal clash of Arayas and Mohallah fishing rivals. There is deeper ideological militancy, graver fundamentalist extremism, terribly more astute strategy and monetary investment; and Project Extermination outwitted police intelligence, political information and people's suspicion. Marad, with a little police outpost and no professional criminal intelligence mechanism, reveals the disastrous flop and tragic inefficiency of the State and society in the preservation of secularity and security. 

Recently, in the company of leading social activists, I visited this coastal suburb. As we entered the tiny homesteads where the Hindu victims had lived, cries of the bereaved moved us. What solace can you offer when the bread-winner of the family is brutally stabbed dead while sitting in the sunny sands relaxing and guilelessly gossiping? In helpless silence we listened and each widow added a new dimension to the dastardly deaths. Then we heard the Araya Samaj president and secretary who were tense and yet sombrely sober as they demanded from us not sympathy but justice. Sympathy is easy sentiment but justice is made of sterner stuff. Secular progressives merely condemn, in general neutrality, communal chauvinism. Hindu communalists, as majority communalists, are trenchantly stigmatised. But, the Araya leaders challengingly urged us why Islamic communalists who shoot and hate are not denounced harshly. They argued with agony that the mosque was the sanctuary of Islamic terrorists. Then why should it not be taken over by the District Magistrate for the sake of law and order? Was not the Golden Temple, where Bhindranwale sought refuge, the subject of Operation Blue Star? Was not Sivagiri, sacred shrine of Narayana Guru glory, taken over by the District Magistrate? 

True, mosques or other shrines cannot be operational shelters of religious extremists for violent incitement or surprise siege. These issues are of national relevance, especially since sacerdotal bigotry, all religions included, has no territorial barrier. Blandly describing communal disturbances as obnoxious is different from zeroing in on communal terrorism which is diabolic treachery. Deadly divisiveness is assuming apartheid dimensions. In Marad, the Araya Samaj told us, with burning rage, that the Muslim gameplan is to drive out the Arayas from the entire Malabar seacoast to monopolise sea fishing for their community. This territorial terrorism is dangerous, if true, because this would lead to massive battles all along the West Coast and may spread to the East Coast. 

The Marad massacre, as the victim families reminded us, proves that minority Islamic communalism is as militantly blood-thirsty as majority communalism, `red in tooth and claw' as Hindutva extremism is — a la Gujarat. The voice of secularism cannot be soft towards either. State action in countering communal explosion, tension and underground operation has been an exercise in futility all over the country, with political "sound and fury signifying nothing". There are Marads in every State — with a background of communal slaughter, and yet a mere police outpost! After the event, khaki uniforms and guns everywhere! A new police road map is an urgent desideratum. Location of fully equipped police stations where simmering violence may burst aflame any moment, more technology and mobility, more special training and intelligence wings, more vigilance personnel and nocturnal rounds with focus sod attention on shrines, festivals and secret hideouts, more scrutiny over religious classes and drills — these are `more honoured in the breach than the observance'. 

True, Marad II produced a better account of alert police operation. They rushed in numbers, searched and seized from the sands and the Masjid huge quantities of arms and incriminatory articles, took into custody many suspects and got on to the trail of the culprits, although some of the key planners and cunning perpetrators are still to be tracked down. The Crime Branch has done a good job despite the political-communal imbroglio and the complete discovery is yet distances away. 

Divided Marad is divided Bharat. Homogenise or perish! Therefore, the two communities in dynamic comity, with distinct identity but neighbourhood fraternity, must come together in moral and spiritual fellowship and material camaraderie. A tearing and raging campaign to extirpate violent extremism and terrorist godism is the only means of promoting civil society solidarity and preserving pluralist democracy. Rehabilitation of refugees, regardless of religion, by a process of communal symbiosis, is the beginning of a dynamic modus vivendi. That is the message and mandate of Marad.

What can one say about Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, 88, but youthful as ever, that would do justice to him? We leave it to you to find out more -- here's a mere link to one site.

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