Friends And Foes Fume As Pinarayi Converts Kerala Into A Police State
Thiruvananthapuram: Just a few months ago, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who also holds the Home portfolio, had to walk through political fire following a series of custodial deaths. Even before the fire has been put out, the Chief Minister is once again caught between his party and the police in a strange case where the Left ideology is battling another Left, rather an extreme Left, movement.
Two incidents have put Pinarayi and his police in a spot. First came an ‘encounter’ killing of Maoists in Attapadi forests. Evidence showed that the Maoists were killed in cold blood. In fact, the ruling CPM’s coalition partner, the CPI, led a fact-finding delegation to Attapadi to unearth the truth and found that the Maoists were killed point-blank.
Then came the arrest of two college students — Allan Shuhaib and Taha Fazal – in Kozhikode for possessing Maoist literature. While the Kerala High Court has ruled that mere possession of literature is not a crime, over-enthusiastic police slapped the tough Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) on them.
Ironically, it was Pinarayi who had staunchly opposed the UAPA when he was in the Opposition and now, he has turned a big supporter and justified the move of the police while defending stinging criticism from the Opposition Congress and his fellow ally, the CPI.
Pinarayi told the Assembly today that he will not disown the actions taken by the police against the two college students. In this issue, Pinarayi has no support of the party or his colleagues.
But with criticism mounting from within the CPM, Vijayan said the government was against misusing UAPA and police were examining the case again. “The police, during night patrolling, found three youths under mysterious circumstances. Two of them were detained and the other one fled the scene. Police recovered pro-Maoists pamphlets and books from the shoulder bag of one youth,” he said.
But in an embarrassing climbdown, Pinarayi said the government has already sought an explanation from the police on the circumstances that led to the arrest and also for framing charges under UAPA. The UAPA authority headed by Justice P S Gopinathan would also review the police action, said the chief minister.
As if all this was not enough, Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose penned a stinging article in a local newspaper telling the Maoists that they deserved to be killed. This created another uproar in the Assembly today with the CPI wanting to know if it was the Chief Minister or Chief Secretary who was ruling Kerala. Pinarayi tried to escape when cornered by saying he had not read the article.
Pinarayi’s fresh bravado comes after the CPM won three crucial seats in the recent byelections. While pundits had written him off following his brash attitude, the election wins pumped in fresh adrenaline in his blood. But then, he seems to be squandering a chance as he is caught between the friends and foes on the one hand and the party and the police on the other.