The Kerala police is targeting social workers, human rights activists and ultra Left sympathizers for their role in suspected Maoist attacks in last few days.
On Last Friday, Kochi police arrested civil rights activists Advocate Thushar Nirmal Sarathy and Jaison Cooper, an employee with state insurance department, allegedly in connection with the Maoist attack on NHAI project office in Kochi.
Sarathy was taken into police custody from Kozhikode, where he addressed a press conference to announce a meeting to be held in protest against the “Maoist hunt of police.”
On the same day, Cooper was taken into custody from his office in Kochi. Both were charged under section 13 B of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
On Sunday, police in Kannur took into custody Students Islamic Organisation leader Shahid M Shameem and his friend Uday Balakrishnan over their suspected Maoist links. (SIO is the student outfit of Jamaat-e-Islami). After protests over their arrest, police on Monday noon let the youths go.
Besides, there have been several incidents of raids at the houses of human rights activists and leaders of ultra Left sympathizers in Kochi and Wayanad.
Kochi City Police Assistant Commissioner Bijo Alexander said the arrested Sarathi and Cooper were not involved in the Maoist attacks. But, they were active in frontal organizations of the Maoist movement under the guise of human rights activists. They are all known to be supporting the Maoist actions.
Asked whether there is clear evidence against them in the case which necessitates slapping of UAPA, the police officer said “of course, there is something.”
“How can the police arrest me on the reason that I had possessed notices, issued by a registered human rights organistion. I have no role in the attack on NHAI office,” said Cooper. Police had recovered pro-Maoist pamphlets from the house of Cooper.
A group of writers and intellectuals led by Arundhati Roy have written to the Kerala Chief Minister seeking release of Cooper and Sarathi.
“We believe that this police action is a well concerted political act to silence all voices raising critical questions about the political, economical and social issues in the country. The act of the police should be condemned by all people believing in the freedom of expression and the right to dissent. The incident also shows that the police in Kerala under a Congress Regime are no different from the Hindu Fascist regimes in other parts of the country,’’ they urged the chief minister.
Although there had been nearly a dozen suspected Maoist attacks on government offices and private properties in North Kerala and Kochi, police could not make any breakthrough in investigations.
The case pertaining to the attack on KFC and McDonald outlets in Palakkad on December 22 is an example for Kerala police failure in unearthing the suspected Maoist involvement, if any, behind such attacks.
The attacks were carried out by a nine-member gang, but police managed to arrest two youths Sreekanth Prabhakaran, a B.ed student, and Arun Balan, a journalism student. Police raided their houses in Kasargode and recovered pro-Maoist notices and Left literature. They were charged under UAPA.
Although various police agencies had questioned the youths for several weeks, police could not identify a third member of the nine-member gang which vandalized the food outlets. Recently, a court in Palakkad had made a verbal observation that the charges under the UAPA would not stand if the police could not bring in necessary evidence. The court had then observed that if there is no evidence to frame charges under UAPA, the case would be only an offence under IPC 427 (causing damage to public property).
As per the court directive, the police had produced the case diary, in which the evidence for Maoist link was only the books and notices seized from their houses on the day of their arrest.
Sources said police probe into the youths for suspected Maoist network was hamstrung mainly because they were not found using mobile phone. Police could not identify their leader called as comrade, who did not take part in the operation, but controlled it.
After several days of questioning the youths were remanded in judicial custody as they were facing the same charge in the attack on Nitta Gelatin office in Kochi.
For Kerala police, pro-Maoist notices recovered from the houses of the arrested are the only evidence police had furnished against them. It may be recalled that in 2011, while granting bail to human rights activist Dr Binayak Sen, a Supreme Court division bench had observed that the only material against Sen was his meeting with Naxal leade Narayan Sanyal and certain Maoist literature with him.
The bench then said, “We are a democratic country. He may be a sympathiser (of Naxalites) but it did not make him guilty of sedition.”