Jishnu Pranoy's family calls off hunger strike, but case against Kerala govt will continue

Kerala’s Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front government has heaved a sigh of relief with the family of engineering college student, Jishnu Pranoy — who died in suspicious circumstances in his college hostel three months ago — calling off its five-day fast for justice, but the sensational case will continue to haunt the government and the party for a long time to come.

Mahija Asokan, mother of the deceased Jishnu, a BTech student of Nehru College of Engineering and Research at Pampady in Thrissur district, her daughter Avishna and other family members ended their stir after extracting a written agreement from the state government that it will take positive action on their 10 demands. While Mahija and her brother Sreejith staged fasts at Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, where they were admitted after they were allegedly roughed up by the police during their attempt to meet Director-General of Police Loknath Behera on Wednesday, Avishna, a Class X student, fasted at her home at Valayam in Kozhikode district.

The arrest of college vice-principal N Sakthivel, the third accused in the case, earlier in the day also made them soften their stand. However, the family agreed to end its stir only after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who had earlier refused to meet the family, called Mahija on the phone and gave an assurance on the arrest of the remaining accused in the case.

File image of police personnel attacking Jishnu Prannoy's mother. PTI

File image of police personnel attacking Jishnu Prannoy's mother. PTI

The case hit the headlines in the wake of repeated lapses in the investigation by the police that had had initially maintained that the 18-year-old student had committed suicide after he was caught copying in the examination. However, the family alleged that Jishnu, who was a member of the student wing of the ruling CPM, was murdered by the college authorities for mobilising opinion against the excesses in the college. Although a committee appointed by the university also found the allegations to be incorrect, the police did not even register a case of abetment of suicide against college authorities. They acted only after the family produced evidence to support its allegations. And even though cases were registered against five college officials, the police dragged the arrests on.

This helped group chairman Krishna Das to secure bail and the other four accused to go into hiding. This also helped college authorities to destroy many vital bits of evidence in the case, which included Jishnu’s bloodstains in the college room. The family believed that Das had secured bail from the high court by twisting facts. The director-general of prosecutions, who appeared for the government, overlooked the misrepresentation of facts. Mahija and her family members had brought these to the notice of the chief minister and secured an assurance that the government will bring the guilty to the book.

The family members had arrived at police headquarters last Wednesday to remind the police chief about the assurance given to them by the chief minister. Trouble erupted when officials at the DGP’s office refused to let in no more than six family members. When Mahija insisted on taking all the 14 family members, who came all the way from Kozhikode, and three social activists inside the police station, the cops removed Mahija and her family members by force and arrested the three social activists as well as another social activist and a swami present there.

Although the family stated that the three social activists Shajir Khan, Mini and Sreekumar, who belong to Social Unity Centre of India (SUCI) had joined them on their invitation, they were lodged in jail along with AN Shajahan (private secretary to VS Achuthanandan, when he was chief minister of the state in 2006) and Swami Himaval Bhadrananda under non-bailable offences.

The chief minister justified the action saying that the five had sneaked into the group of Jishnu’s family under a conspiracy to foment trouble. Southern Range Inspector General of Police Manoj Abraham, who was asked investigate the police action, reported that the five had hatched a conspiracy to stage a strike in the office of the Director-General of Police. He also denied Mahija’s allegation that she and her brother were roughed up by the police.

The agreement brokered by Communist Party of India (CPI) state secretary Kanam Rajendran, special prosecutor in the case CP Udhayabhanu and State Attorney KV Sohan negates most of the claims that the government made in connection with the case through an advertisement in all leading dailies in the state on Saturday. The advertisement had given a clean chit to the police. But the agreement provides for a fresh look into Mahija’s allegations and action if the police had committed any excess. Similarly, the agreement bares the conspiracy theory that the advertisement espoused to justify the arrest of the social activists.

The arrest of the social activists had created resentment even within the ruling front with many finding it hard to justify the action. CPI leader P Prasad said that the stand taken by the CPM that the outsiders had no role in the struggle of the Jishnu family was not in tune with the Left policies. He said that the Left parties had always joined struggles against injustice and atrocities. Prasad said that the Left will lose its relevance if the CPM stand is accepted as a general rule. The Left parties have gained ground in states like Kerala and West Bengal through long struggles.

Joseph C Mathew, a Left fellow traveler who had served as IT advisor of Achuthanandan when he was chief minister of the state, said that he was happy that the government had agreed to drop the conspiracy charges against the three social activists. He hoped that the government may also drop the charges against Shajahan and free him from jail. Shajahan’s mother L Thankamma, who has launched an indefinite fast at her home in the state capital on Sunday, is determined to continue her stir until her son is released from jail.

Meanwhile, the Congress which heads the Opposition United Democratic Front, has described the agreement signed with Jishnu’s family as a big letdown for the government. Senior party leader Rajmohan Unnithan said that the insistence of a written agreement for ending the stir by the family was a loud declaration that they had no faith in this government. "This is perhaps the first time that a government had to sign an agreement for ending an agitation related to a criminal case. The Vijayan government should bow its head in shame," said Unnithan.

However, the Congress leader said that his party was happy that the government had shed its false pride and cooperated with the initiative to end the agitation. He hoped that the government would not force the family to return to the path of agitation again.

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Updated Date: Apr 10, 2017 12:16:39 IST

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