If the paranoia against black flags and masks was only police madness, it could well have been the characteristic police way of playing more royal to please their masters | ANI
The allegations may be too wild, unsubstantiated and downright silly. The investigating agencies may not have unearthed anything substantive even after raising much smoke and dust for months together. The media must have gone overboard miring in masala and sensationalism. The Chief Minister’s and even his family’s personal reputation have been dragged through the mud not just by shady characters but central agencies and even responsible Opposition leaders. Highly opinionated and morally outraged anchors may sit in judgment on evening shows. The Opposition may have resorted to violence or intimidation including aboard flying aircrafts. And finally, the latest charges and counter charges too may end up like before as tales full of sound and fury, signifying nothing and wasting all our time.
Yet, none of the above is good enough to justify the bizarre ways the Kerala Police resorted to quell protests. Even more unpardonable is the ruling CPI(M)’s vigilantes going berserk, attacking protestors and opposition’s offices or even openly threatening with murder and mayhem. Some big-mouthed Opposition bosses too may have spoken in the same violent vein. But more reprehensible is when they come from the ruling party that has all the force under them and under oath to protect the rule of law and safeguard the Constitution. It is not just undemocratic but disturbingly fascist in character. Recall Nazi Germany when Adolf Hitler let loose the party “Brown Shirts’ (Sturmabteilung) on Jews and Communists or the Saffron vigilantes wreaking havoc in contemporary India.
If the paranoia against black flags and even masks was only police madness, it could well have been the characteristic police way of playing more royal to please their masters. But the chilling query posed by Left Democratic Front (LDF) Convenor E P Jayarajan shows it's beyond that. “Why insist on black masks?” was his question which could well enter history like some similar “immortals”. “Why insist to eat beef?”, asked by the Sangh Parivar leaders during their lynching days. “Why can’t they eat cakes?”, ascribed to Queen Marie Antoinette when she was told that peasants had no bread to eat. The 72-year-old Jayarajan, a self-proclaimed Kalari exponent, followed up his words later with a matching deed when he single handedly floored two able-bodied Congress youths when they approached the Chief Minister shouting slogans aboard a flight. Even a usually balanced M V Govindan, Excise Minister, was heard justifying the melanophobia. To be fair to Pinarayi Vijayan, his voice was relatively saner than that of his two Kannur comrades. He desisted from any endorsement though he denied any role for him or his government in the mask hunt.
Though much larger in scale, one other Indian state where the authorities are clamping down on protests with so much ferocity is Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh. A group of former judges of the Supreme Court and High court has urged the apex court to step in against the violence and repression by the UP state police against citizens protesting over BJP leaders remarks on the Prophet. But what makes one shudder is that prior to deploying bulldozers, the Yogi police’s target was black flags. In June 2018, ten persons were arrested at Etawa when they waved black flags against Adityanath. But even Yogi’s police could not match Kerala Police’s brilliance in detecting a devil in a black mask! Even the COVID virus wasn't scared as much as our policemen of the mask.
In fact, not just in Yogi’s UP or Pinarayi’s Kerala, but intolerance by the ruling party and the governments of dissent is growing even in other non-BJP states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and West Bengal. Its collateral damage is the erosion of non-BJP parties’ moral strength to talk and fight against the extreme intolerance of BJP that is leading the country to a precipice. Pity the poor Congress workers’ plight as they happen to be at the receiving end simultaneously in both Kerala and Delhi.
The Kerala Police has been showing total brainlessness and hubris of the worst kind since a few years now. Its most ridiculous attempt was the Kerala Police (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 which gave unlimited powers to act against alleged defamation or cyber crimes. The Ordinance kicked up flak from across the country against the government as an attempt to throttle freedom of speech. An embarrassed government was forced to withdraw the harebrained move as it was an affront against even a 2015 Supreme Court order that scrapped the 66-A of the IT Act and also Section 118(D) of Kerala Police Act in the landmark Shreya Singhal case as violative of freedom of expression. The spate of police excesses while dealing with protests against the SilverLine project when even women and children were not spared was shocking. Janayugom, the mouthpiece of CPI, the second largest party in the ruling LDF, even wrote a scathing editorial on the police atrocities. Police’s abuse of power while enforcing Covid protocols too invited much flak. The shooting down of Maoists (8 since 2016) and the shocking detention and other steps against two youngsters in Kozhikode for their alleged Maoist links would shame even the most repressive states. The latest is the frisking away of Sarith, a gold smuggling case accused the day after the prime accused Swapna made big allegations against the Chief Minister. The cake of course goes to the brilliant ADGP who allegedly spoke on the phone 7 times (or 17?) to a duplicitous character for striking a compromise with Swapna!
All these sank the Home Ministry and also Chief Minister Vijayan who has been handling it since 2016 in deep shit. And rightly too. For in a democratic system, it is the political leadership’s duty to see the institutions under it do not cross the line. Much more so, when the government is run by a Communist party which grew up through extreme forms of repression and taught the poor and the exploited to stand up and fight against injustice.
Even at the risk of repetition, it needs to be said. Every step initiated in today’s Kerala starkly reminds of what happened in Buddhadheb Bhattacharya’s Bengal during the first decade of the century when the red sun set over the Bay of Bengal.
Even as this article was being finished, I received a message from a scholarly friend not known for any sympathy for the Left but is often suspected as pro-Modi. “Why Government of India has not made any request until now to the UAE to offer the former Consul General (the prime suspect and consignee) for questioning by the Customs? There is no diplomatic immunity for such officials as shown in relevant Vienna Accords. Why nobody is asking about this ? Everybody including the media has a stake in UAE and therefore we discuss our citizens rather than go after the person in whose name the consignment came”.
Quite right. But that doesn’t absolve Lord Ram or Caesar from his obligation to prove not just himself but his wife too as above suspicion. For, we have elected not the UAE Sheikh but one of our own to rule us rightly. And most significantly, it was more in the interests of Caesar and Ram themselves that they wanted to prove their innocence than their detractors.
PS: The Chief Minister appears to have gone a bit slow on the SilverLine. Better late than never, even in dawning of wisdom, though it took a by-election for the dawn.