The demand made ba few Kerala BJP leaders to enforce the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the northern district of Kannur has raised eyebrows in the state. The AFSPA is usually linked to Irom Sharmila and her battle in Manipur or other states which are considered to be conflict zones. The clamour by the BJP state leaders to evoke the AFSPA in Kannur is viewed by many as not just undemocratic but downright absurd.
C P Narayanan, a senior leader of the CPI (M) and a member of the Rajya Sabha, said that it was ignorance about the law that made BJP leaders come up with such a demand. Speaking to The News Minute, Narayanan said that if the AFSPA was to be enforced, it should be done in consultation with the state government.
“The BJP leaders' act of ridiculing the governor for not initiating procedures for AFSPA is ignorance about law. In such a situation, the governor or the president’s role comes in the final stage. If BJP leader Shobha Surendran or anyone else cries for such things, the governor is constitutionally not equipped to give in to their demands," he said. Narayanan put down the demand to political inexperience on the Kerala BJP's side.
"Political leaders who have ample experience are aware of it - very few Kerala BJP leaders can claim that they are experienced. We can’t say even the state BJP president Kummanam Rajasekharan is a political leader. He emerged just a year ago. Before that, he was the leader of a religious organisation. That is why the BJP’s sole legislator O Rajagopal said that all this was ‘silliness of the youth’,” he commented.
Narayanan further noted that political murders have a long history in Kannur. “In the case of Kannur, what was happening over the years was killing on both sides," he alleged. "The RSS and the BJP have also murdered their political rivals in the region and the number is double that of executions carried out by their opponents. The BJP has killed its own party workers in Thrissur, Cherthala and Alappuzha. The BJP leaders' attempt, which is not befitting democracy, is to appease the rank and file of the party or to mislead them. A certain BJP leader’s speech that the peaceful atmosphere in the state was because of the RSS' patience, reminded me of dictator Taimur’s reign in Central Asia in the Middle Ages."
Social activist and veteran journalist BRP Bhaskar said that the BJP has been concentrating on making political in-roads in some states where their influence was weak, like Kerala and West Bengal.
“Highlighting violence in Kannur is part of their attempt to create a national campaign against Kerala. The state leaders believe that the centre can be persuaded to intervene and dismiss the state government in the name of law and order as it happened in 1959. In 1959, the first communist government was dismissed by the centre through a campaign instigated by religious and casteist elements, at a time when the government still enjoyed a majority in the Assembly. However, an attempt to repeat it will go wrong. A lot of changes have taken place since 1959. The SC has redefined the scope of the law under which a government can be dismissed,” Bhaskar said.
Bhaskar pointed out that the SC had even restored the Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh in July 2016. "The demand for the AFSPA is absurd. What is going on in Kannur is tit-for-tit killings by RSS- CPI (M) cadres. The scope of AFSPA is limited to areas where there is disturbance. The demand is a part of BJP national leadership’s game, but it won’t succeed,” he asserted.
CP John, leader of Communist Marxist Party (CMP), also termed the demand as 'absurd'. “Don’t they remember that the women of Manipur ran naked to the Raj Bhavan asking that the AFSPA be repealed? What is the basis of asking for such an Act, which was misused by army men, in Kannur? The first step to restore calm in a tension hit area is to bring in the army, not the AFSPA. It was done in Kannur in 1994 during the infamous Kuthuparamb shooting,” John reasoned. The CMP is an ally of the United Democratic Front (UDF) which is in the opposition in Kerala.
“The AFSPA is a double edged sword. If replacing politicians with armed forces can save a region, why can't calm be restored in Kashmir? Why do the people there view the forces and the government with suspicion? If the AFSPA is a democratic tool, why is the union government not opting for it to sort out tensions in other states? By raising such demands, the BJP is trying to make India a Pakistan, forcing into place army rule which is anti-democratic and anti-constitutional. The Indian constitution does not have room for such demands. In Kerala, the governor shouldn't have passed on the representation given by the BJP demanding AFSPA to the Chief Minister. A precedent of giving in to anti-democratic pressure can be misused in the future too,” John noted.