In Tuesday’s press meet, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan lashed out at the Sangh Parviar for turning Sabarimala into a battle zone and accused them of attempting to communalise the state's police force.
“The Sangh Parivar has tried to paint the police in a communal way. BJP State President announced that the believers in the police department should act accordingly. It is evident that he is trying to create unrest in the top ranks of the police,” the CM stated.
The Chief Minister's outburst came as it wasn't just Sabarimala that had been turned into a ‘battle zone’, but social media and WhatsApp groups were too, filled with messages about two Inspector Generals of Police- Sreejith and Manoj Abraham.
On Monday, a photograph of Inspector General Sreejith shedding tears while offering prayers at the Sabarimala temple went viral and many news stories appeared on it. Even before the picture hit the internet, several WhatsApp messages sympathising with the top cop poured in, calling him a ‘Hindu believer’.
The messages identified Sreejith as a devout Hindu and alleged that he was forced to take the two ‘non-believer’ women – Rehana Fathima and journalist Kavitha Jakkala – to the temple, upon the communist government’s instructions.
“Sreejith is a very devout person...He was forced to take these two women in police costume in to Sabarimala by CM Pinarayi Vijayan who called from abroad and insisted that the IG do this. Immediately after this MV Jayarajan (CM’s private secretary) and DGP Loknath Behera called the IG and forced him to take these non-believers to the temple…,” read a WhatsApp forward on the issue.
Another forward compared IG Sreejith to the ‘Bheeshma’ from Mahabharatha as he was forced to ‘wage a war from the wrong side.’ The forward read “Although forced to fight the war of Dharma from the wrong side, he (IG Sreejith) prays for Dharma just like Bheeshma.” The message accompanied a video of IG Sreejith greeting devotees outside the temple while an Ayyappa song played in the backdrop.
"The instance of a top police officer praying at the temple to has been misused. Everyone has the personal right to protect their beliefs. But to portray this in a heinous way, and to insult in such a way is Sangh politics. When people of all religions and beliefs pray to their gods, the police providing security because it is their duty and not because they are communal. We need to highlight, isolate and defeat the attempts to communalise our police force," the Chief Minister said in an obvious reference to Sreejith's pictures and videos.
While Sreejith received praise, other messages slung mud on Thiruvanthapuram Range IG and officer in-charge of Sabarimala security, Manoj Abraham, accusing him of ‘unprovoked’ action and lathi charge against protesting groups near Pamba. Many BJP and Sangh Parivar outfit leaders kept reminding crowds at Sabarimala that Manoj's surname was Abraham. (that he was a Christian).
Referring to this indirectly, the CM said, "We can't be sending police forces to a religious place depending on their religious beliefs".
While each individual, including police officers, has the right to protect their personal beliefs, these beliefs must be separated from their official duties. This is what IG Sreejith even told the protesting groups who were blocking two women from entering the temple. As an officer who led a team of 100 police personnel providing security to the two women, the IG set aside his personal beliefs from his duty. “We too are devotees. But we are here to do our job. To enact and actualise the SC’s judgement,” IG Sreejith told the protestors.