It can’t get worse for the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala. On a day when the state went to an all important bypoll in Chengannur which is hyped as a referendum on the two-year rule of the Pinarayi Vijayan government, it has been served a mighty blow.
The 23-year-old Kevin P Joseph, a Dalit boy was allegedly killed in the name of ‘family honour’ on Sunday for marrying a girl from an affluent Christian family.
What embarrasses the ruling front is that the gang that abducted and later murdered Kevin was led by one Niyas who is the Thenmala unit secretary of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), the youth wing of the CPM, a fact confirmed by the state police.
Another member Ishan who is already in police custody is also believed to be a DYFI worker.
The gruesome crime is believed to have been done on behalf of the brother of the girl with whom Kevin is said to have eloped and later married.
Kevin’s body was recovered from the Chaliakkara canal in Thenmala estate, close to the state capital on early Monday morning in a dilapidated condition. According to initial reports his eyes have been gouged out and there were deep cuts on his neck.
While the horrific honour crime, often seen in many rural parts of northern India, has not only shocked the literate society of Kerala on Monday but has also become a serious blot on the face of the ruling CPM which often prides itself as the champion of downtrodden.
"This is a very serious case of caste killing. We have enough evidence to prove that the girl’s family wanted to take her back at all costs and sought the help of the local DYFI workers to use force. Hence this killing has a political side to it which is caste based politics. Kevin is a schedule caste boy and the reality we have to gulp is that even progressive organisations such as the Left in Kerala are now against such marriage. This is the sad reality," noted dalit activist Dhanya Raman told Firstpost.
Dhanya’s words are further strengthened by other non-Dalit activists too how feel the erosion of the basic policies of the Left in Kerala is the reason why such a trend has crept in a highly progressive state like Kerala.
"This is such a tremendous blot on literate Kerala. But this was expected because when you have the Left which had been the watchdog against such evils for long deviates from its core policies to become the bootlickers of the corporate world, the society in Kerala will also degenerate. There is no surprise in this at all," well-known social activists Poran told Firstpost.
Police inaction leads to death
Making matters worse for the ruling disposition in Kerala is the stand taken by the local police in the matter right from the outset.
It was on Sunday morning that Neenu Chacko, Kevin’s wife approached the Gandhi Nagar police station in Kottayam after she heard about the news of the abduction of Kevin and his cousin Anish from a relative’s house.
Neenu had been shifted to a hostel by Kevin himself on the previous day after her family had continuously threatened the couple with dire consequences following their marriage three days go.
On Saturday night, a ten member gang led by Neenu’s brother Shanu Chacko, DYFI leader Niyas and a few others organised by Niyas vandalised the house where Kevin was staying and abducted the boy.
"I had waited at the police station from Sunday morning but the policemen there were just not serious about my complaint. They were initially not ready to even record my complaint. They said that since the chief minister was in town with a function, they are busy with giving him security and will take up the complaint later," Neenu had told media persons outside the station on Sunday.
It was only after some Dalit organisations reached the station and media too got their act together, the sub-inspector of Gandhi Nagar police station decided to do his duty. But by then crucial time had been lost and Kevin could not be saved.
That the abductors could travel with Kevin through three districts of the state and even go unnoticed through the town of Chengannur where security was tight owing to it being eve of bypolls only raises doubt that the cops were perhaps aware of the kidnappers movements, but were lying low.
Kevin’s family has one more reason to believe that the cops were hand-in-glove with killers. Kevin’s father claims that the local police was aware of the threat the couple faced, since after their marriage both the families were summoned to the station following a complaint from the girl’s family.
There was even an attempt to forcibly take Neenu away by her family at the station itself and later at Kevin’s house. That inspite of all this the police did nothing at all only indicates that some back door deal was worked out between the girl’s family and the cops, claims Kevin’s family.
Also following the abduction, Kevin’s father had passed to the policemen the registration number of the vehicle in which he was abducted and the phone number of Neenu’s brother. But the police hardly moved a finger to save Kevin.
There is even an allegation that the inspector at Gandhi Nagar station had talked over phone to Neenu’s brother who demanded that the girl return home if Kevin was to be released. The police instead of locating the abductors continued playing the role of a negotiator which finally culminated in the loss of the young man’s life.
"This is a clear case of dereliction of duty. When a cognizable offence as serious as abduction is reported you have clear set of protocols to follow. You have to act quickly and initiate immediate action to alert the force across the state. Perhaps the boy could have been saved had they done it. Gandhi Nagar policemen will have to pay a heavy price," said retired Superintendent of Police Subash Babu.
Both the sub-inspector and the assistant sub-inspector of Gandhi Nagar police station have been placed under suspension and the Kottayam superintendent has been transferred out. But this is hardly enough to douse the huge protest that is simmering across the state.
Both the Congress led UDF and the BJP have called for a dawn to dusk hartal in Kottayam district on Tuesday. Both fronts sat that the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who holds the home portfolio should immediately relinquish his post.
"Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has time and again proved that he is a complete misfit in the home portfolio. He should resign from that give it to someone who is capable of running the show. Otherwise Kerala’s law and order will go to the dogs," Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala told media persons outside Gaandhi Nagar police station where the Congress led UDF undertook protests throughout Monday.
Politicisation of the force
Many say that the force’s failure to prevent an imminent tragedy by what seems like purposeful inaction from their side only goes on to show the deep rooted politicisation inside the force. There are concrete reasons too to believe so.
This is not the first case of where the political hand had become so clear. Even in the custodial death of Sreejith in Varapuzha a month ago the political imprints had become evident when the role of the Ernakulam DYSP came into light. That a senior district leader of the ruling party had ordered Sreejith’s arrest was at that time talk of the town.
"Many of you might not have faced it directly. But we encounter it on a daily basis across police stations in Kerala where cases are filed against dalits and other by policemen on one phone call from party workers. The men in uniform are so hand-in-glove with local CPM leaders that you know that unless you have their backing you cant get anything done," reiterated Dhanya Raman.
Her words are again substantiated by an intelligence report that got leaked in the media last month. A report send by the state’s police intelligence head to the DGP clearly talked about the deep rooted politicisation that is taking place in the rank and file of the Kerala police since this Left government took over in 2016.
The report talked about the increasing tendency in the force to raise political slogans during police association meetings and also an attempt to paint the martyr’s column red in colour.
These fears got further strengthened by the actions of a few during the Police association’s state conference. Close to 50 officers most of them hailing from north Kerala, the bastion of the CPM came to the conference wearing red and sat en-block, looking more like red volunteers of the ruling party than officers of the state police.
"This is no secret. At least a major part of the state police have become party sympathisers such that in situations where the party men need the cops to take a definite line that favours them, they will do it. That’s why there was delay in searching for Kevin because policemen knew who are behind it. Otherwise even after talking on phone with the girl’s brother who is one among the perpetrators, why did the cops not take action to nab them? There is a clear cut nexus," CR Neelakandan, rights activist and state convenor of Aam Aadmi party told Firstpost.
Meanwhile senior police officers who are worried about the turn of events say that the average police officer sitting at the various stations across the state are under tremendous stress, on one side from the ruling political class who keep breathing down their neck, and the other to follow the book.
"Kevin’s case is simply where the sub-inspector took the wrong choice and he will in all probability pay it with his job. But this is the kind of pressure that these young officers are facing since the Left came to power. This is taking the force down a very dangerous route," a senior officer added in anonymity.
Meanwhile the CPM has completely rubbished the claims of the involvement of any of its cadre or that of the DYFI.
"This is a very unfortunate honour killing which should not have happened in a state like Kerala. As far as we know those involved in the killing belonged to the family of the girl and their political allegiance has little meaning in all this. The party will take action against anyone found guilty," CPM’s legislator AN Shamsheer told media persons.
Meanwhile the National Commission for Schedule Castes have demanded a report from the state police on Kevin’s killing and the chairman of the Commission would be visiting the state soon to take stock of the situation.
Even as Kevin’s killing remained in news space throughout Monday, brisk polling was reported from Chengannur where the by-poll was on. Only the counting on 31 May will reveal if Kevin’s killing had an impact on the bypolls.
Updated Date: May 28, 2018 22:35 PM