Following strong protests from various quarters, including the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), the Kerala police have let off a 27-year-old social activist taken into custody for his alleged links with Maoists and dropped sedition charges foisted against a writer and theatre activist in a case related to alleged disrespect shown to the National Anthem.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who controls the home portfolio, ordered the U turn after the action against social activist KP Nadir and writer Kamal C Chavara came under severe criticism from senior leaders of the party, including party veteran VS Achuthanandan and state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.
Nadir was detained and charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) citing an old case related to distribution of Maoist pamphlets among Adivasi families at Aralam in the state’s northern district of Kannur.
The sedition case under Section 124A of Indian Penal Code (IPC) was slapped against the writer on the basis of a complaint lodged by a Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha worker citing a Facebook post on National Anthem.
The post was an excerpt from his recent Malayalam novel entitled Smamashanangalude Notepusthakam (A book on Graveyards) talking about the relief felt by students, who are not allowed by their teachers to go to toilet during the class, when time comes for reciting the National Anthem at the end of the class.
Chavara was arrested from Kozhikode on the basis of an FIR registered at Karunagappally police station in his home district of Kollam. He was given bail after eight hours under the police detention. Chavara, who complained of nausea and breathlessness, was rushed to the Kozhikode Medical College Hospital.
Nadir was taken into custody when he went to the Medical College Hospital to see Chavara, who subsequently launched a hunger strike at the hospital demanding withdrawal of the cases registered against him and his friend.
State Director General of Police Loknath Behra said that he had directed the police to review the sedition charge under Section 124 of IPC levelled against the writer as it may not stand in a court of law. He said that Nadir was let off as the police did not have sufficient evidence to charge him with UAPA.
Kannur district superintendent of police Kori Sanjaykumar Gurudin said that they had freed Nadir after taking an undertaking that he will appear before the police whenever required. He said that the police may resume the case when they get the required evidence.
Human rights campaigners and civil rights activists had earlier rallied against the arrests after the writer-cum-theatre activist began a hunger strike at the hospital demanding withdrawal of the cases registered against him and his friend.
The activists viewed the action against the two at the behest of supporters of Sangh Parivar as an extension of their politics of intolerance in the state, which is known for its progressive stand on various issues. Many wondered how the Sangh Parivar is allowed to do moral policing in a Left-ruled state.
Achuthanandan expressed concern over the actions of the police. Citing the police action in a series of cases, including the ‘encounter deaths of two Maoists at Nilambur and the arrest of several delegates of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) for not standing while reciting national anthem, the CPM veteran said these actions could strengthen people’s belief that the state was moving towards fascism.
“Kerala is a state where the dalits, tribals, writers and artists live without fear. It is the duty of the police to ensure that the writers in Kerala will not have to face the same fate of Govind Pansare or Kalburgi,” the senior CPM leader said.
Party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan also came down heavily on the police. He termed the cases registered against the social activist and the writer under the controversial sections of UAPA and Section 124A of IPC unnecessary.
“It is not the policy of the LDF to silence dissent. The LDF government is against charging UAPA against individuals who raise political issues. There are some police officers who act against the government’s policy. The government will take stern action against such officers,” Balakrishnan said.
He did not see any ground for taking a case against Chavara. He felt it was sheer atrocity on the part of the police to register a case against him. However, the CPM leader claimed that he could get bail on sedition charges because the LDF government was in power.
CPM Politburo member and former minister MA Baby said the arrest and sedition charge look like a knee-jerk reaction from police. He said that the police had acted in a hasty manner without applying its mind and proper examination of the details.
The chief minister asserted that his government will not charge any writer with sedition in connection with the cases related to the National Anthem. A Facebook post by the CPI (M) quoted him as saying that currently there was no case against anybody in the state under sedition charge.
Human rights activists and political observers take the assertions of the chief minister and his party leaders with a pinch of salt. PA Pouran, secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), thinks that the chief minister was allowing the state police to implement the Sangh Parivar agenda in Kerala.
“Pinarayi has appointed a Modi man as police chief in Kerala because he wants the Prime Minister’s favour in the SNC Lavalin case that hangs over his head. If the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which has investigated the case, presses its review petition strongly in the Kerala high court, Pinarayi may lose power,” says Pouran.
The human rights activist said that the chief minister had given a free hand to Loknath Behra to curry favour with the Central government. He pointed out that Pinarayi had refused to order a judicial inquiry into the encounter killing of the two Maoists despite strong protests from a section of his own party and its allies in the LDF because of this.
Biju Govind, a senior journalist based at Kozhikode, however, feels that the chief minister himself was using the police to implement his own agenda in the state. He said that it was becoming increasingly clear from Pinarayi’s speeches that he was trying for a Chinese model development in Kerala.
“He has appointed pro-liberal Harvard University professor Gita Gopinath as his economic advisor to woo capitalists. He is pushing several mega projects that need huge investments. Pinarayi does not want anybody to obstruct these projects. Therefore, he will not allow any dissent against his agenda,” says Biju.
The journalist said that Pinarayi was getting into the mould of Modi. “There are lot of similarities between the two. Both keep the media at a safe distance. They distrust their ministerial colleagues. I am not surprised if some heavy weights in the ministry find their way out in the next cabinet reshuffle,” says Biju.
Left-leaning political analyst NN Pearson says that the chief minister was able to have his writ in the state as he has a strong grip over the party. He said that Pinarayi will not allow anybody to assert themselves as long as he is at the helm.
First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 20:29 IST