Monday, December 31, 2012

PUCL demands probe into Mavelikkara arrests

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties have asked Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan to order an inquiry into the illegal arrest of seven persons at Mavelikkara.

The following is the text of the letter:

My Dear Home Minister,

Sub: Request to order an enquiry into the illegal arrest of seven individuals by the Mavelikkara police: regarding
An element of compulsion and dire necessity directs me write you the following.

We are very much disturbed and perturbed to hear the news that seven individuals including two minor girls were illegally taken into custody by the Mavelikkara police on 29-12-2012 from Cherumadom Lodge where they had assembled to discuss some political issues. They include Mr Gopal, a Scientist from Tamil Nadu.

Immediately on receipt of the information that these seven individuals were detained at the police station, as a human right activist, I had made three frantic calls to Ph no 0479-2344342 (Mavelikkara police station). Curiously, on all the three occasions, the personnel at the other end attended the phone but deliberately refused to supply any information in a matter where the human rights of seven individuals were involved. The unwarranted act on the part of the Mavelikkara police is not at all conducive to a police system in a democratic country like ours. I was constrained to take up the matter with the police headquarters and also with Sri V.S. Achuthanandan, the opposition leader.
Now, it is reliably learnt that the five individuals are in judicial custody while the two minor girls are confined at the nearby Balabhavan. They have been booked under different sections of ULPA and Section 120-A of IPC, which is very easy for the police to clamp on them.  It is reported in today’s Hindu: ‘Apart from seizing six mobile phones and a laptop from the detained persons, the police could not come across any documents or other incriminating evidence that could establish any Maoist connection’.

It is quite evident that the Kerala police want to create a bogey that some extremist groups are operating here and under its shade the police can wield more powers, put down all the democratic forms of protest against the anti-people policies of both the Central government and that of the State government. I am reminded of the statement made by former Central Home Secretary Sri Padmanabhaya, that the police force in India which is not professionally equipped is demanding more and more powers under the garb of maintaining law and order.

If individuals who assemble to discuss political issues affecting them and their dear country in a democratic way are taken into custody and harassed, the political leaders who are also the powerful executives of the state discuss and decide to sell out the country to the American Imperialism and the corporate bodies, are also to be booked under the ULPA and Section 120-A of IPC

It is requested that you personally look into the matter, direct a police officer of proven character and integrity to inquire into all that is transacted at the Mavelikkara police station on 29-12-2012, restore democratic way of administration in the state, release all the seven individuals forthwith, book the police officials for their high handedness, show them their ways.

With regards and thanking you,
Sincerely yours,

Thursday, July 19, 2012

കേരള സമരഭൂപടം

കേരള സമരഭൂപടത്തിൽ ഒപ്പിട്ടുകൊണ്ടാണ് മേധാ പട്കർ കഴിഞ്ഞ ഞായറാഴ്ച തിരുവനന്തപുരം വി.ജെ.ടി. ഹാളിൽ ചേർന്ന ജനകീയ അസംബ്ലി ഉദ്ഘാടനം ചെയ്തത്. തുടർന്ന് സുഗതകുമാരി, കെ. അജിത, സി.ആർ. നീലകണ്ഠൻ തുടങ്ങിയവരോടൊപ്പം ഞാനും അതിൽ ഒപ്പു വെച്ചു.

സമരഭൂപടത്തിൽ ജനകീയ സമരങ്ങൾ നടക്കുന്ന എഴുപതിൽ പരം സ്ഥലങ്ങൾ  അടയാളപ്പെടുത്തിയിട്ടുണ്ട്.

സമരങ്ങൾ നടക്കുന്ന എല്ലാ പ്രദേശങ്ങളും അടയാളപ്പെടുത്താൻ കഴിഞ്ഞിട്ടില്ലെന്നും അവ കൂടി പിന്നീട് ചേർക്കുമെന്നും ജനകീയ അസംബ്ലി സംഘടിപ്പിച്ച നാഷനൽ അലയൻസ് ഓഫ് പീപ്പിൾസ് മൂവ്‌മെന്റ് വക്താവ് പറഞ്ഞു. 

(Photo: courtesy Anas Basheer Kaniyapuram

Thursday, May 31, 2012

T.P.Chandrasekharan murder case: AHRC review of developments

The political debate that followed the murder of Mr. T. P. Chandrashekharan in Kerala provided a unique opportunity for reformation of the policing system in the state. However, none in the state, not even the police, is willing to take up the chance and garner the support needed to end the despicable misuse of the police institution to political appetites and ambitions. It is both appalling and disheartening to witness the loss of honour and morale in such an important state institution, loss which smothers the institution's capacity to respond to everyday crime and demand change.

What made this particular murder so important? T. P. Chandrashekharan was a politician who had left the Communist Party of India (Marxist) because of intra-party divisions. He did however continued his political work with the Revolutionary Marxist Party, a decision which apparently irked the CPI(M). It was reported that the CPI(M) reacted to this perceived betrayal by hiring assassins to murder Chandrashekharan. On 4 May 2012, a gang of criminals, most of them arrested since, waylaid the victim and slashed him in the face 51 times using machetes, leaving him for dead. Chandrashekharan died later that same day on his way to the hospital.

The ruling coalition in the state responded immediately by issuing statements accusing the CPI(M) as the organisation responsible for ordering the murder. The CPI(M) countered those allegations with claims that the ruling party is engaged in a witch-hunt to corner the CPI(M), the leading opposition party. The allegations, denials and ripostes between the two parties continue today, the furore throwing new light onto the state of affairs of policing in Kerala.

None other than the Inspector General of Police in Kerala issued the first statement that seemed to suggest the partiality of the police. Within 72 hours of the murder, the IGP had stated that the murder had been carried out for private gains; this statement naturally implied that the CPI (M) had nothing to do with the murder. It is suspicious that the IGP could have issued such a statement before the formal investigation had even been concluded. A Special Investigation Team constituted by the state government then pieced together statements from suspects in custody that revealed the assassins had been in constant communication with CPI(M) leaders immediately before and after the murder. A local party leader who had been arrested confessed to arranging a safe house for the assassins and to paying them a "fee" before and after the murder. The overwhelming volume of evidence that surfaced within five days of the murder collectively pointed to the complicity of CPI(M) in the murder. This soon forced the IGP to correct his earlier position. The IGP subsequently denied having made such a statement at all.

Leaders from the upper echelons of the CPI(M) began issuing statements for which they would have been charged with organised crime – in any other context. Statements include, "…if the CPI(M) wanted, it could undertake the murder beyond detection… had we been behind the murder we would also have the honesty to own up to it as we have in the past…" That a political party is responsible at all for murder and proudly proclaims it demonstrates callousness, impunity and disregard for the law. This is a moral affront to the people of Kerala and for India. But there is a further truth to be told from such observations.

The police in Kerala and throughout India are first and foremost servants of the people of India, and instruments of greater goods – justice and peace. The reality is, however, that the police are not the impartial and independent body they should be. Neither do the police seem to desire that independence. A leader of the CPI (M), Mr. Sitaram Yechury, issued another noticeably more conciliatory statement that the party would "cooperate" with the investigation. Such an attitude betrays the corollary of deciding to cooperate – that an option to not cooperate with the police is also available to the party. Can the police even discharge their duties and properly investigate a crime when a dismissive and criminal political party is perpetually challenging their authority? Does justice itself not deserve to be prioritised over the inter-party mud-slinging and political intrigue? What about the duty the police owe to justice and to the Indian people?

The CPI(M) pre-emptively pointed fingers at the ruling coalition, slamming it for abusing its authority and misappropriating police apparatus to wreak vengeance against a powerful opposition. What is easily overlooked in such political manoeuvring is the fact that the CPI(M) has only recently become part of the opposition. Until 2011, the CPI(M) had been the ruling party and was itself in a position to exploit state machinery. Contributing greatly to the building thesis that the police is critically influenced by political actors is the observation that during the five years of CPI(M) led state government, the police institution had drafted the Kerala Police Act 2010. This Act was drafted by the police, not the legislative assembly which has actual legal mandate to do so. The lack of clarity, loose and incoherent use of legal language and successful attempts to replace the 1861 Indian Police Act with the Kerala Police Act awarded much unprecedented powers to the police. This circumvention of institutional safeguards and constitutional guarantees provided otherwise in the 1974 Criminal Procedure Code bodes ill for the protection of any individual's constitutional, legal and human rights.

While undertaking such an important task (of drafting an operational framework for the state police), the government not only did not actively encourage input by impartial experts but even ignored a draft prepared by a committee led by world-renowned jurist, Justice V. R. Krishna Iyyer. The submissions and suggestions by other organisations such as the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) obviously held even less weight in the eyes of the government and state police. The product of such undirected and little informed work was a particularly good example of how legislations should not be. The CPI(M) that led the process had no moral or legal right to subjugate the police. For the police to gain true independence, the Kerala Police Act of 2010 will have to be rewritten.

In another unabashed demonstration of the criminality the CPI(M) was capable of, another senior member of the party, Mr Mani, made a public speech extolling the many atrocities his parties committed. Mr Mani even listed the names of persons his party had ordered to be murdered over a period of time. Such horrific acts and shameless confessions instigate fear among the people, not love and respect. Mr Mani also publicly abused widely acclaimed social activist and writer, Ms Mahasweta Devi, for visiting Chandrashekharan's family following his murder. The words Mani used against Devi, a writer so honoured by the Indian nation for bringing it glory and honour, proved rather ironically to be of a nature too base for even tabloids to reproduce in their magazines.

Yet apart from Mani's glaring moral illiteracy, Mani did also divulge telling information about how the CPI(M) were able to manipulate police investigations in each of the murders Mani claimed to possess personal knowledge of. Upon such scornful exposure of their lack of integrity and ability to investigate crime, the police were forced to respond by registering a criminal case against Mani. Yet they could do little more than that as many 'suspects' had already been convicted in court trials and the IGP had also already ordered the reopening of the murder cases. Furthermore, the police discovered many case diaries that had contained vital information concerning the corruption of the investigative process had been destroyed. The reason provided, and proven true, was that there had been a simple lack of space for the archival of all the records. This necessarily implies also that the police officers who had "tailored" the investigation to fit the purposes of their political masters could never be identified and punished.

Another incident that reflects this noose-tight and highly unequal nexus between police and politician was when a former state cabinet minister met a CPI(M) comrade in jail. After the meeting, the minister allegedly telephoned one of the investigating officers in the Chandrashekharan murder and demanded to know why his comrade had been tortured during questioning. The former minister expressed anger because he had been expressly assured by the IGP himself that his comrade would not be tortured since the "case is politically sensitive". The former minister threatened that once he regained his office as cabinet minister he would see to it that the officer is "dealt with". The officer, fearing for his life, reported the matter to his superior and police headquarters, who responded by providing additional security to the investigating team. Yet no arrest was made, obviously because the former minister's threat did indeed carry every possibility of being realised.

Another troubling revelation was the need for the IGP to reassure the former minister in the first place that torture will not be conducted against his CPI(M) comrade. This clearly means that torture is otherwise "routine procedure" – a clear violation of human and constitutional rights. The "favour" and special treatment given to the former minister and his comrade now in remand cannot be justified. Individuals stand equally before the law and should be treated and punished equally according to their crime. In this aspect, the police should demonstrate their honour and impartiality as well as a conviction that they owe allegiance to justice above all else. This bullying behaviour by politicians against state police who are legally and morally outside their ambit is contemptible, yet the police feel unable to free themselves from this unhealthy relationship.

None of these concerns haunt the state administration, the state or the informed people of Kerala. The political verbosity concerning Chandrashekharan's murder is perceived to be 'business as usual'. It is only some selected actors in the state's media industry who have courageously taken up the task of exposing the moral, intellectual and administrative wilting of the state police. The police themselves have not expressed concern about the painfully demoralized police constrained by the machinations of perpetually slimy politicians and their "politically sensitive", politically motivated crimes.

The police institution lacks an operational infrastructure congenial to the discharge of the most basic duties. It lacks moral and legal integrity, a culture of transparency and accountability, consistency, training and skills needed for upholding rule of law in a democratic state. And such disempowerment goes far beyond the physical manoeuvring; politicians have also mentally disarmed and co-opted the populace and the police. No one has come forward to criticise a police leadership that has grovelled, sluggish and servile, before politicians, helping obscure their criminal deeds and moral bankruptcy. After years of such servitude, perhaps it is little wonder an enslaved system does not and cannot dream of its freedom.

Kerala's police institution's powerlessness, frustration and corruption are an embarrassment and a tragedy. This lack of courage, honour and conviction has pushed the police institution into a moral and intellectual abyss, where it lies reeking of corruption and ineptitude not entirely its own. Its Machiavellian masters manipulate marionette officers to jail, not jail, torture, not torture, destroy or create evidence, smile, wave and bow as they see fit. Until these cords from which the police dangle are severed, first and foremost through the review of the Kerala Police Act of 2010, there remains little hope in Kerala for reform and true justice.

The Asian Human Rights Commission is a Hong Kong-based human rights organization.
For information and comments contact:
In Hong Kong: Bijo Francis, Telephone: +852 - 26986339, Email:

Opposition to move to erect statue of Prem Nazir


Kerala Muslim Jamaat Council President P.M.S. Attakoya Thangal and Secretary A. Pookunju have called upon the community to come together and oppose the move to erect a statue of Prem Nazir, the Evergreen Hero of Malayalam cinema.

According to them, Islam does not permit the erection of statues.

The Kerala government had recently sanctioned Rs 1 million each for erection of statues of Sathyan and Prem Nazir, stars of early Malayalam cinema.

The view that Islam does not permit erection of statues does not appear to have universal approval. 
The picture above shows bronze statues of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistan's Father of the Nation, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, founder of the Aligarh Movement, and Mohammed Iqbal, Urdu poet who wrote the lines Sare jehan se acchha Hindostan Hamara, which were on display at a science and technology exhibition held in Islamabad in 2007.

Two years ago the Pakistan government announced plans to erect a statue of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto at a cost of $11 million.
                                                                                                                                                                                     The picture below is that of a statue of Bangabandhu Shekh Mujibur Rahman, Bangaldesh's Father of the Nation, which stands outside a government college in that country which bears his name.

Visitors flying into Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, are greeted by a sculpture (see picture below) with statues of Ahmed Sukarno and Mohammed Hatta, who were the country's first President and Vice-president respectively. The Jakarta airport is named after them.

The Turkish city of Istanbul boasts of a statue of Mustafa Kamal Pasha, who led the reform movement in the country after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. (Picture below)
Until recently a statue of former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who, along with Jawaharlal Nehru and Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia, had founded the Non-Alignment Movement, stood in the Libyan town of Benghazi. It was erected by the Libyan regime to commemorate Nasser's visit to the city. For reasons which are not clear, after the fall of the Gaddafi regime, the statue was pulled down. The picture below shows the demolition operation in progress.
In India, one of the many statues adorning the precincts of Parliament is that of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a great scholar who had served as Congress President before Independence and as Free India's first Education Minister. (Picture below)

I do not think all this will persuade the Jamaat Council leadership to reconsider its stand on the planned Prem Nazir statue. And I do not expect the Kerala government, which shied away from presenting the Raja Ravi Varma Award to the late M.F.Hussain because of the opposition from Hindu fringe elements, will go against the wishes of a body like the Jamaat Council. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Communal politics goes viral in Kerala


Indo Asian News Service

The communal genii whose support the Congress invoked to oust Kerala's first Communist government more than 50 years ago are still around and turning the state's politics viral.

Across the fractured polity there is animated discussion on how the decision of the Indian Union Muslim League, the second largest constituent of the Congress-led United Democratic Front, to press its year-old demand for an additional ministerial berth will affect the communal balance.

The third largest UDF constituent, the Kerala Congress (Mani), a camouflaged Christian formation with a Nair sprinkle, supports the League demand. However, several prominent Congressmen as well as leaders of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Nair Service Society of the forward Nair community and Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam of the backward Ezhava community have said raising League representation in the government will upset the communal balance.

While forming the government after the UDF scraped through with a 72-68 majority in the 140-member assembly in last year's elections, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy offered the League four ministerial berths, as in his previous government. However, League president Hyderali Shihab Thangal named Manjalamkuzhi Ali as the party's fifth minister. Last week he demanded that Ali must be sworn in along with Anoop Jacob of the Kerala Congress (Jacob), who won the Piravam by-election and is waiting to take his late father's place in the council of ministers.

Unable to resist the League's pressure, the chief minister has tossed the problem into the high command's lap. He has also reportedly proposed that the League be offered assembly speakership, now held by a Congressman, in lieu of fifth ministership.

The League's stubbornness and the Kerala Congress's support to it are manifestations of growing communal assertiveness, origins of which can be traced to the 'liberation struggle' of 1959 which gave the Centre the pretext to dismiss the Communist ministry.

The prime movers behind the agitation were the Church, which was infuriated by the government's attempt to curb exploitation of teachers by private managements, a majority of which are under different Christian denominations, and the NSS, which resented dismantling of the feudal system of land ownership dominated by Hindu forward castes.

The Praja Socialist Party and the Indian Union Muslim League, which had influence among Muslims of the Malabar region, made common cause with the Congress. In the elections that followed the government's ouster the three parties together worsted the Communists. Averse to accommodating the successor of the pre-Partition Muslim League in the Cabinet, the Congress placated it with the Speakership.

After the Congress ended its ties with the League, the CPI-M stepped in. As its ally, the League got two Cabinet berths. That helped it earn political respectability. Playing his cards well in the days of political uncertainty, C.H. Mohammed Koya, leader of the 13-member League legislature party, became chief minister in 1979. However, the government lasted only 50 days.

The Kerala Congress was formed by a group of Christian and Nair legislators who revolted against backward class chief minister R. Sankar and walked out of the Congress in 1964. It has undergone many splits and mergers, but its caste/religious composition remains unchanged.

The League is now a part of the state's political establishment. For the past several decades it has been with the Congress. Since 2009 it is also represented in the Congress-led government at the Centre.

The cry of communal imbalance is a response to the perceived over-representation of the minority communities in the present government. Of the 21 ministers sworn in last year, six, including the chief minister, were Christians and five Muslims. That made the minorities, which together account for 44 per cent of the population, a majority in the government. A fifth League minister will distort the picture further.

However, this is not the first skewed government in the state's history. In the last Left Democratic Front government the minorities were heavily under-represented. Of the 21 ministers, only two were Muslims, although the community accounts for nearly a quarter of the population. Christians who constitute 19 per cent were better off with four ministers.

Gross imbalance between the forward and backward castes has also been a feature of successive governments. In the present Cabinet there are only two ministers from the backward Ezhava community, which is said to account for 22 per cent of the population. In the last LDF government, it had six members, including the chief minister. All four ministers of the CPI were from that community.

The cause of the persistent communal imbalance is the narrow social base of the political parties. While Hindus constitute only 56 percent of the population they form 80 percent of the CPI-M membership. The caste/religious breakup of Congress membership is not known, but its leadership is widely perceived as a combine of Savarna elements of the Christian and Hindu religions. The formula the state leadership has placed before the Congress high command reinforces this perception. It envisages increased Cabinet representation to the Hindu forward caste to contain fallout resulting from gift of Speakership to the Muslim League.

The narrow religious base of the League and the Kerala Congress is just one of the problems. Their geographical base and gender base too are narrow. More representation for them in the Cabinet means more men from the same religions and same regions.

This commerntary was distributed by IANS on April 11, 2012

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Plea for professionalism

Malayalam cinema, which scaled heights of glory ahead of its South Indian cousins, has been down in the dumps for some time, leading to animated discussions on ways to overcome the crisis that has gripped it. Against this background, the appearance of C.S. Venkiteswaran's writings, which appeared in various periodicals in the recent past, in book form, is timely.

Malayalam films made an early impact with realistic handling of social issues and popular resistance. Venkiteswaran, a perspective observer and critic, attributes the change in the character of cinema, which began in the 1970s, to factors such as breakup of the joint family and introduction of land reforms. The problems of the individual, especially conflicts within, now came to the fore. Commercial aspects of the cinema also gained prominence at this stage.

Later television arrived and cinema retreated to sex and comedy. Now, he says, instead of facing the challenge squarely and moving to a new phase, it is seeking shelter behind fading stars and trotting out excuses like lack of good scripts.
He warns the industry that if it does not address the problem of lack of professionalism, it will be relegated to a ghetto in this age of globalisation.

Besides informative articles on subjects like parallel cinema, Third World cinema, the film society movement and the state of film criticism, the volume includes assessments of noted film makers John Abraham and P. N. Menon and landmark films ‘Neelakkuyil' and ‘Nirmalyam.'

The book is profusely illustrated but the pictures are poorly reproduced.

MALAYALA CINEMA PADANANGAL: By C. S. Venkiteswaran, DC Books, Kottayam 686001, Rs. 125.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A centenary passing unnoticed

Year 2012 marks the centenary of the abolition of Marumakkathayam (matrilinear system) which prevailed in Kerala for centuries.

The event appears to have escaped the attention of the media and other institutions which celebrate with gusto the 90th and 100th birthdays of the successors of feudal rulers and take solemn note of the anniversaries of boat tragedies and tsunamis.

It was in 1912 that the Travancore Marumakkathayam Act was passed by which half of the intestate male’s self acquired property could be gifted to wife and children. This, in conjunction with the Travancore Will Act of 1899, tolled the death knell of Marumakkathayam.

The Travancore Nair Regulation of 1912, passed by the Maharajah of Travancore, legalized Sambhandham (conjugal union). It set the context for the 1925 Nair Act, the 1925 Ezhava Act, the 1926 Nanjanad Vellala Act and the 1932 Kshatriya Act – all of Travancore. It inspired the 1920 Nair Regulation of Cochin and the 1933 Marumakkathayam Act of Madras including Malabar.

Source: Directorate of State Archives, Government of Kerala

Friday, March 23, 2012

Kerala activists plan march from Nagercoil to Kudankulam

Anti-nuclear groups in Kerala have planned a march from Nagercoil to Kudankulam, beginning on Monday, March 26, to express solidarity with the people protesting against the nuclear power plant there.

The following is a statement issued by them in this connection:

The situation in Kudankulam has precipitated to an unthinkable repression.  More than 6,000 police personnel and paramilitary forces have been deployed around Idinthakarai village, where about 20,000 people from surrounding villages have gathered to protest. While 16 people have started a fast unto death at Idinthakarai, the police have cut down all essential supplies including food, water and electricity. They are demanding surrender of leading activists like S P Udayakumar, Pushparayan and others. Section 144 CrPC has been imposed on the majority of coastal villages in Radhapuram block. Media entry has also been denied in Idinthakarai.

A major intervention from the democratic sections of Indian society is required at this juncture. We have planned a joint march from Nagercoil to Kudankulam on March 26th (Monday). Different activists groups and organizations in Kerala are supporting this initiative and we hope to ensure participation of around 500 people.