Responding to a YouTube video on the atrocities committed against Dalits in Varkala in the wake of a murder, a young Facebook friend asked, “but, why did they kill him?”
Sivaprasad, a senior citizen with no known political affiliation, was killed while on a stroll on the morning of September 23, 2009. The local police quickly pinned the crime on Dalit Human Rights Movement, an organization which was working among Dalits in the state for a few years but had attracted little public attention. It said DHRM had committed the murder to proclaim its strength.
The Facebook friend’s question did not surprise me. It is a question decent human beings have been asking one another since the media reported the police theory and embellished it with insinuations of Dalit extremism. After I visited Varkala as a member of a fact-finding team and wrote in my Malayalam blog about facts suppressed by the police and the media, a veteran journalist and good friend asked me the same question, “but, why did they kill him?”
Another senior journalist and friend, commenting on the collusion between the police and Shiv Sena, to which I had referred in the blog post, said it was difficult to believe that all media would knowingly spread the same lie. In response, I reminded him that all media had joined hands to spread the same lie in the ISRO espeionage case. The primary source for that lie, too, was the police, which was ably assisted by two Central intelligence agencies.
Another friend put his finger right on the middle class mind. “We may have differences about the perpetrators of the crime, the plotters, abettors, police, politicians and media. But what about the victim -- that middle class malayali, guilty of enjoying the leisure of a morning walk? All the inquiries should start from him --because he is you and me.”
The real question, indeed, is how safe are you and me amidst plotters, abettors, police, politicians and pliant media persons.
One FB friend found my reference to collusion between police and Shiv Sena not very convincing. He asked, “Do you mean there was not one single cop available to reveal the foul-play or the nexus? Do you mean all the cops in this state are hopeless? I am sorry sir, … I have seen enough number of cops with strong spine, regardless of innumerable punishment transfers.”
I presume this good friend believes Varghese was not killed in the Wayanad forest, Rajan was not tortured to death in the Kakkayam camp and Udayakumar did not die in the Fort police station, because no cop with strong spine revealed the foul play.
I am not overlooking Ramachandran Nair, the cop who spilled the beans about the fake encounter in Wayanad. He did confess to having pulled the trigger on Varghese. That was years after the event. He is no more. A case registered on the basis of his confession is still pending, with the prosecutors apparently waiting for the surviving accused also to die so that they can close the case and live happily ever after.
This FB friend voiced two other criticisms about the video, which was taken by a member of the fact-finding team. One is that there are no men in sight. The other is that the women refer to RSS, not Shiv Sena. The answer is simple. No men are in the video because they are all in police custody or hiding to avoid arrest and torture. The women mention RSS because they lack the sophistication needed to distinguish between different elements of Hindutva.
One month after the murder, political interests which were not visible until now have started surfacing. What has prompted them to come out is the intervention of the State Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, a body which has a mandate to look into the problems of Dalits and Adivasis.
On Wednesday, October 21, the Commission’s Chairman, Dr. P. K. Sivanandan, went to Varkala with some other members to study the situation in the Dalit colonies. They visited the Thoduve colony and the Ambedkar colony at Vadasserikonam and took evidence from a number of Dalits.
The next day, the Chairman of the Varkala Municipality, K. R. Biju, in a statement, accused Dr. Sivanandan of adopting a stance helpful to murderers. He said Dr. Sivanandan had visited the house of the accused and taken evidence in a partisan manner which was not consistent with the Chairman’s status. The other members of the Commission did not act in the same manner, he added.
Biju, who is an advocate, has either a poor understanding of the law and the mandate of the SC/ST Commission or his partisanship overruns his legal knowledge. The Commission is charged with the task of bettering the lot of Dalits and Adivasis. It visited Varkala not to investigate the murder but to look into complaints of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis. Registration of a murder case against Dalits does not cut out the Commission’s jurisdiction over Dalit affairs.
Biju’s attempt to put the Chairman and members of the Commission on different planes is significant. The Chairman is a former IAS officer. The members' posts are political sinecures.
The State Committee of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Aikyavedi (united front), in a statement issued in Thiruvananthapuram, demanded the Dr. Sivanandan's removal from the chairmanship of the Commission. It alleged that he had visited the houses of murder case accused. It further accused him of scolding police officers in the presence of criminals.
The major media institutions did not cover the Commission’s visit to Varkala, although they had prior knowledge about it. That, however, did not inhibit them from playing up the statements critical of the Commission’s visit. There was nothing to indicate that they had sought the Commission’s response to the allegations.
Incidentally, Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhumi which have consistently ignored the police’s month-long Dalit hunt, found time to pursue the appearance of mysterious white drawings at the site of Sivaprasad’s cremation. The latest police theory is that it is the work of a person of unsound mind.
The statements against the Commission’s visit and the personal attack on the Chairman reveal the convergence of various vested interests in Varkala. The Municipal Chairman belongs to the CPI-M. The SC ST Aikyavedi is an outfit of the Hindutva camp. Their statements bear out their common interest in protecting the police which has let loose a reign of terror in the Dalit colonies.
Dr. P. K.Sivanandan, who is a trained engineer, holds a Master’s degree from the University of Sussex, M. Phil from the Jawaharlal Nehru University and Ph.D. from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. Political riff-raff may be forgiven for not being able to appreciate his credentials.