Kerala police chief Loknath Behra has ordered a probe into the alleged open display of political affiliation by Kerala Police Officers Association, one of the three associations representing the police force from constables to the officers, except those in the IPS cadre.
The bitter experience of a senior officer, who refused to budge to political bosses, may perhaps explain why police men are keen to align with ruling parties. K Radhakrishnan, whose life was ruined by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) after he was asked to head a special team to investigate a political murder, recounted his experience to Firstpost in the context of the raging debate over the politicisation of the police force.
Trouble started for Radhakrishnan due to his investigation into the murder of Mohammed Fazal, a member of the National Development Front (NDF), in the politically sensitive Kannur district on 22 October 2006. The probe had led to senior leaders of the then ruling CPM.
His finding came at a time when the party tried to lay the blame at the doorstep of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Curiously, the party’s version was believed by the NDF leaders and even Fazal’s own brother then. An annoyed then home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, who is now the state secretary of the CPM, asked him to backtrack. When Radhakrishnan refused, his team was disbanded and the investigation handed over to the Crime Branch.
However, Fazal’s wife disagreed with the party’s version and moved the High Court for a CBI probe. The CBI that took over the investigation on the High Court order, found Radhakrishnan’s findings correct and arrested two senior Kannur CPM party leaders, Karayi Chandrashekharan and Karayi Rajan in connection with the murder. The two are currently out on bail.
The agency found that the duo had masterminded the murder as Fazal had switched over from the CPM to the NDF and weaned away many active party workers. The prime accused in the case is MK Sunil Kumar, alias ‘Kodi’ Suni, who had been convicted in the case of the murder of CPM renegade TP Chandrashekharan.
Though the CBI has cracked the Fazal case, the death of two key witnesses in the case still remains a mystery. Radhakrishnan suspects the role of Fazal's killers behind the death of BJP leader and advocate Valsaraja Kurup and Panchara Shinil, a former member of the CPM’s ‘action team’, who had passed information regarding the suspected involvement of the CPM leaders in the Fazal murder.
Though Radhakrishnan, a former activist of the CPM’s students wing (SFI) kept off the probe, the party members were not ready to spare him. A group of 60 party activists led by a leader from Taliparamba swooped on a house in Taliparamaba in December 2006 alleging that he had gone there for immoral activities and brutally attacked him.
While his friend, who also sustained injuries in the attack, died a month after the incident, the police officer had to undergo treatment for more than one-and-a-half-years to regain his health. Radhakrishnan, who was suspended following the attack, was reinstated in service after the High Court acquitted him in the immoral activity case.
However, the government raked up an old case and placed him under suspension again. Though the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) quashed the suspension order on 31 August 2017, the government has challenged it in the high court.
Radhakrishnan, who was conferred IPS on 9 November, 2016, has four more years of service left. He does not believe that he will get his police cap back as long as this government is in office. Radhakrishnan had met Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in September 2017 and expressed his difficulties in pulling on with his life without a job. However, according to him the latter has not shown any compassion.
Radhakirshnan, who has two children to educate and a huge housing loan to repay, is now living at the mercy of his relatives. This is not the plight of Radhakrishnan alone. Many police officers who have defied the party diktat have faced similar harassment.
In fact, one of the first decisions of this government after assuming office in May 2016 was the removal of TP Senkumar from the position of state police chief. He had to wage a long legal battle to get back the post, which was taken away from him in violation of the Supreme Court guidelines.
Most officers, who held key positions during the previous Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government’s term, were pushed into oblivion and those loyal to the CPM were brought in their place. The message sent out by the action produced results, with the police associations changing colours within six months.
The pro-UDF faction of the Kerala Police Association was replaced with LDF loyalists in the election held in October 2016. The election saw the pro-LDF faction registering victory in all the 27 police districts and all prominent members of the pro-UDF faction, including the then KPA general secretary GR Ajith Kumar, losing the election.
The association changing colours with the change of governments ever since the cops were allowed to organise themselves in 1979 for their welfare is a common phenomenon in the state. However, what has surprised the top brass is the open display of their political affiliation by the current crop of the association's leaders.
Though the association has been functioning on political lines, the leaders sought to openly show their kinship with the ruling party at its annual conference this year. Accordingly, the association changed the blue colour of their flag and official emblem to red. Slogans too were altered to please the political bosses at the beginning of some district conferences.
The original colour of the emblem, flags and the martyr’s column was restored and the slogans changed at the annual meet that began on 13 May following the inquiry ordered by the police chief and widespread criticism from various quarters.
However, whether this change will reflect in their functioning is the million-dollar question every peace loving Keralite asks. Kannur District Congress Committee president Satheeshan Pacheni is not optimistic. He told Firstpost that CPM had well-entrenched fractions in every police station to safeguard the party’s interests and they will not change their loyalty unless strong action is taken against them.
The Congress leader does not expect this as long as Pinarayi Vijayan continues at the helm of the government. In fact, he has appointed a senior party leader from Kannur in the home department to take care of the party’s interests. MV Jayarajan, who was appointed as his private secretary, is coordinating the party factions in the police stations, with the help of former DGP Raman Srivastava, who is advisor to the chief minister.
“Jayarajan, who is involved in several criminal cases and even convicted in a contempt of court case, is exercising his control over the police machinery through middle-level officers. He has a firm grip on the police in Kannur where the party is waging a bloody battle with the RSS for political supremacy. It is virtual cell rule in Kannur,” he added.
Satheeshan said that the CPM was sustaining the atmosphere of violence in Kannur with the help of the police. This is one of the major reasons for the continuation of political violence in the district. Political clashes in the district have claimed more than 250 lives in the past three decades.
The Congress leader said that the CPM was continuing its killing spree in Kannur with the help of the police. The Congress leader said that the CPM had tried to torpedo the recent Suhaib murder case by producing such dummy culprits.
Though Kannur SP Shiv Vikram had brought the attempt to the limelight, no action was taken either against him or his subordinates who tried to derail the investigation by leaking the probe details to the culprits. Also, no attempt was made to apprehend the remaining suspects in the case.
“Shiv Vikaram is a relatively junior IPS officer. Though he is neutral, he has not been able to assert himself. In fact, the party has tied his hands. He has been reduced to a mere spectator,” Satheeshan said.
The Congress leader is not ready to blame the police for the politicisation. He said that the CPM has been dragging them into politics for its vested interests. It is difficult for police officers to survive under the LDF regime without surrendering to the party diktats, according to him.
Leaders of the Opposition parties have viewed this with concern and warned that the state may have to pay a big price if the trend is allowed to continue. They pointed out that the politicisation was also leading to criminalization of the force.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said that politicisation of the police was the prime reason for the rise in police atrocities and custodial deaths that the state is witnessing now. “The chief minister should understand this and take immediate corrective measures before the state plunges into total chaos,” he added.
“Police should be governed by the spirit of IPC and CrPC not by the diktat of political bosses. Politicising the police and ignoring its effect on law and order situation is like playing with fire,” the Opposition leader said.
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Updated Date: May 13, 2018 15:38 PM