When the Kerala police picked up the two youngsters, Alan Shuhaib and Thwaha Fazal, from Pantheerankavu on the outskirts of Kozhikode city on the evening of November 1, 2019, they justified the arrest on the grounds that the duo had Maoist connections. The arrests were made utilizing the draconian provisions in the UAPA and, as a result, both the students have been lodged in high security prisons as undertials for the past four months with no prospects for a bail in the immediate future.
The arrests did evoke some public outcry at the time, especially since both were actively associated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist)—which controls the home portfolio in the State—and their families known to be long-time CPI (M) sympathisers. The CPI (M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechuri, former general secretary Prakash Karat and politburo member M A Baby were among those who demanded their release arguing that it was illegal to charge them under UAPA, that there was no cognizable offences against them, and that their alleged Maoist sympathies cannot be valid ground for an arrest. But the Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, defended his police force, openly declaring that these two youths were indeed Maoists. The chief minister asserted that the police had acted based on very strong grounds and there was no way the government could intervene until the matters came before the UAPA review committee, which, however, could not consider the matter as the case was already taken over by the central agency, National Investigation Agency (NIA), for its own probe. The CPI (M) state secretariat sought to wriggle out of the situation arguing that since the NIA had taken over the case, the ball was in the Centre’s court, and the State government had nothing more to do.
Four months later, things look a lot more complicated: both students are still in jail, now lodged in the high security prison in Thrissur. Both the CPI (M) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government are finding themselves trapped in a deep political quagmire. The most telling evidence of the brewing crisis within the LDF and the CPI (M) came when the Chief Minister made a somersault on the matter within 24 hours of the Opposition bringing an urgent motion in the State Assembly, forcefully highlighting the serious violations of human rights involved in the case. The Chief Minister, who had flatly refused to take any action as demanded by the Opposition in the Assembly, had to take up the matter with the Union Home Minister Amit Shah, as the Opposition had demanded in the house. The State Government has now requested the Centre to commit the case back to its own agencies, as it felt the charges against the youngsters were not serious enough to warrant an NIA probe.
Less than a week ago, the Kerala Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, wrote an op-ed in The Hindu lashing out at the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) terming it as a clear violation of India’s Constitution. He had also gone to the extent of accusing the BJP-RSS of trying to impose the politics and philosophy of Hindutva, with its vision of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’, on the people of the country. “Our constitutional values are in peril, and no person who has faith in our democracy can afford to be silent and uninvolved in what is happening around us,” he wrote.
In a Facebook post, he had referred to the police excesses on people who directly challenged CAA on the streets outside Kerala. He also warned the BJP leadership that it would be foolish to think public ire can be snuffed out using brute force. Ever since the CAA was enacted in Parliament, Pinarayi Vijayan has been projecting himself as a champion of human rights who steadfastly defends the right to dissent. Even when Kerala journalists had faced the wrath of Karnataka police while attempting to cover the police brutality on anti-CAA activists in Mangalore, Pinarayi came out all guns blazing defending the freedom of the individual to react to happenings around.
But it was in the same period, that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) under the direct control of Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, took over the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) case filed by Kerala police against two student activists of Communist Party of India (Marxist), accusing them of active Maoist links. Contrary to his strong stand in support of the rights of agitators against CAA, Pinarayi Vijayan now remains tight-lipped about the NIA move against Alan Shuhaib and Thwaha Fasal. The Communist party, which had expected the government to intervene when the case came up for review for prosecution sanction before the Gopinathan committee, has also gone silent in the face of the NIA involvement.
Despite more than one shocking incident of bomb blasts in the State, the security measures required to ensure the safety of the Secretariat, the administrative headquarters of the State, are still not being looked into by the police force. The flaws in the security system of the Secretariat have come to light after the recent bomb blasts that took place on the premises of the Collectorate in Kollam and in the vicinity of Malappuram court complex. Though the police suspects the involvement of terror organisations in the attacks, speculations on the reason and the culprits still exist.
The security systems that have been installed at the Secretariat are worth crores of rupees and have not been working for more than two years. These have not been fixed till date. The most important disregard shown is towards the vehicle scanner near the Cantonment Gate, which is meant to check the presence of any sort of bomb threat in the vehicle.
It has been reported that the scanner stopped working as it had been constructed in an unscientific manner because of which rainwater from the road surface sweeps into the cavity in the ground that houses the scanner, thereby, damaging it by clogging the pit. The scanner worth Rs. 50 lakh was established as a part of security measures in 2011 under the supervision of the then DGP.
Explaining her take on the issue, Bhagyalakshmi says, “As a social being, I am proud of what I did. She is only one among thousands of women who have been raped and are forced to keep their mouths shut. I wanted to bring this brutal crime out in front of the public and the mental truma the woman going through, in which Ithink I am successful.”
“I just acted as a voice for a woman who does not have the guts to raise her voice in public and tell what she is going through and plead for justice. I have done my job and police has taken over the case. Now it is their duty to do the rest,” she added.
Speaking to The Kochi Post, she said,”I am not convinced with the way things have surface and any person who has at least a minute amount of legal knowledge would have handled this matter in a much more serious manner. First of all I don’t understand why it occured to the woman after two years that Bhagyalakshmi is the appropriate person to talk to in this matter as there are many private and government organisations in our State that would have taken up this issue and done the needful. And if she was afraid of doing that then filing a private complaint to the Magistrate was also a definite solution. Without doing all this she has approached the dubbing artist and she has in turn conducted a press conference and made frenzy out of the issue. The artist is not a leading social worker or a person who has any experience in dealing with such social issues. Therefore, the foremost thing that she could have done was to discuss the matter with an experienced lawyer and provide the assurance to the woman about what all can be done legally. Instead, conducting a press conference and speaking about the situation of women in our country and them being denied justice is nothing but exhibition of the useless ego and feminism that is filled in their minds. Above all, I also heard the woman saying at the press conference that she does not want any complaint to be registered. In that case, I don’t understand why all this unnecessary hype is being created.”
“The police department functions to ensure security to the public and we will never get to a level where we ask such absurd and insulting questions to a woman who is already going through a mental trauma,” he says.
TP Senkumar, was removed from the post of Director General of Police (Law and Order) and State Police Chief on June 1st, 2016 and was replaced by, DGP Loknath Behera who was serving as Commandant General Fire & Rescue Services, Civil Defence & Home Guards. ADGP N. Shankar Reddy, who was in charge of the Director, Vigilance & Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) was replaced with DGP Dr. Jacob Thomas, who was serving as Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) at Kerala Police Housing & Construction Corporation (KPHCC). Senkumar was further directed to take charge as CMD at the KPHCC office.
Senkumar was very much upset with his displacement as the State Police Chief and was very emotional when he talked to the media about his removal. He further noted on Facebook, “During the last 35 years I have always kept honesty, integrity and justice and a special care for the downtrodden. I still have all my vertebras intact. I have never appeased anybody for any posting. I have always tried to be impartial and fair. I can leave this place with full satisfaction that in my entire service career I have never asked any subordinate officer to do anything illegal. I have never allowed in my knowledge to arrest an innocent and pad up evidences. I hope this is the greatest satisfaction that a police officer can get. I have always resisted illegitimate interferences.”
Senkumar has now approached the Central Administrative Tribunal’s, Ernakulam Bench against his removal (a copy of the petition is with The Kochi Post) and is seeking a reinstatement as the State Police Chief. He further contests that the removal is illegal, arbitrary and without authority. One of his key arguments is that as per the directive of the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh’s case, a DGP once appointed to the post should have a minimum tenure of at least two years irrespective of his date of superannuation.