After six months into power, Kerala’s CPI (M)-led left government’s police policy is creating heartburn for people including left sympathisers. The way in which police is acting against political dissidents, novelists, civil society activists has created an impression that the force is being led by Sangh Parivar logic. The CPI(M), which has severely criticised using of sedition laws indiscriminately in other parts of the country, is now using it in Kerala in an aggressive manner. The way in which authorities justify the killing of two Maoist leaders and the rampant use of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act against rights activists have invited wrath against the Pinarayi government. The criticism is that the police is acting at the behest of state BJP and the ‘all powerful’ chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan is giving the force a free hand for reasons best known to him.
Novelist Kamal C Chavara was detained by the police and has been booked under anti sedition laws for making ‘light hearted comments’ on national anthem in his novel. The police stepped into the scene after BJP youth wing filed a complaint against him. Police’s high-handedness was at its worst when a local CPI(M) leader and his pregnant wife was brutally attacked by the police. These two instances have forced the veteran leader V S Achutanadan to come down heavily against the police policy of the Pinarayi government. So far, Pinarayi Vijayan, however, has not uttered anything against the police policy.
During the recently concluded International Film Festival of Kerala held in Thiruvanathapuram, twelve people were arrested by the Kerala police for refusing to stand up when the national anthem. This is perhaps the first time that such a massive arrest was made in a state after the Supreme Court ordered to play the national anthem in every cinema halls before the film is screened.
Notably, the Kerala government and the ruling party CPI(M) is defending the action saying that the government has no option but to observe Supreme Court ruling.
But, is the police under Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan merely executing the orders of the Supreme Court? There are a lot of reasons to think it is not. For some reason or other, the government has been selectively following the court orders to suit their political ends.
Or is it that the CPI(M) leaders in Kerala have also fallen to the ideological subjugation of the Sangh Parivar? On Tuesday, CPI(M) central committee member and minister for culture A K Balan even suggested that the national anthem should be recited wherever people assemble. State secretary of the CPI(M) Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, who is also a politburo member of the party, also said those who are not ready to stand up while it is being played, need not go to the theatres.
This is not about court ruling or direction. If CPI(M) in Kerala is hell bent on executing the court order by arresting and detaining erring movie watchers, it does not have any qualm in ignoring the direction of the High Court and Supreme Court, when it comes to Maoists' issue.
After Pinaryai Vijayan became the chief minister, several people have been arrested in Kerala alleging Maoist links so far. But the Kerala High Court had held in 2015 that ‘‘being a Maoist is not a crime, though the political ideology of the Maoist will not synchronise with our constitutional polity.”
The police cannot detain a person merely because he is a Maoist unless the police form a reasonable opinion that his activities are unlawfulKerala High Court
The court also directed the state government to give compensation of Rs one lakh to Shyam Balakrishnan who was arrested by the Kerala police, after he was named a Maoist. Earlier Supreme Court had also said the same in Binayak Sen case. But all this has not deterred the Pinarayi Government from arresting people alleging Maoist links and slapping UAPA against them. Recently several people were also arrested by the Kerala police terming them Maoist sympathisers.
Two weeks back two Maoist leaders were killed in an alleged encounter in Nilambur. Though the government ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident the stand taken by the CPI(M) was almost similar to BJP.
All the major political parties expressed anguish over the incident and demanded judicial inquiry but CPI(M), glossing over the encounter death, tried to target Maoism as leftist infantile disorder. Pinarayi Vijayan, in a chief ministers' meeting, stressed the need to allot more funds to combat left extremism even though no major Maoist attack was reported in Kerala in recent times.
CPI(M), while trying desperately to protect its remaining bastion, seems to play it safe by shedding its known positions on national security and jingoistic nationalism. But would that politically help the party is the question posed by many.