Imagine being one of the protesters involved in violence against women on Sabarimala hill between October 17th and 22nd. Even more embarrassingly, imagine being one of those protestors whose visuals have been captured on CCTV, and who are now searching for legal assistance to help them face the consequences of their violent and illegal actions. Now worst (or funniest) of all, imagine receiving a WhatsApp forward listing numbers that could provide you with the legal aid you’re searching for, but upon calling the number, you only find a cop at the other end!
A WhatsApp forward offering free legal aid that's making the rounds in Kerala set the scene for exactly this sequence of events. The forwarded image claimed to list phone numbers for legal aid that people could call if they participated in the protests at Sabarimala between October 17th and 22nd. However, in a hilarious or enraging twist, depending on your religious and political sensibilities, many of the numbers listed did not belong to lawyers or legal aid groups at all, but to policemen and inspectors in and around the Sabarimala area instead.
This neatly-packaged prank, which police officers and the Kerala Police Public Relations Officer claim they knew nothing about, would have resulted in protesters voluntarily calling policemen and revealing their role in the protests at Sabarimala.
TNM called the 12 numbers listed in the forward, and of the six that responded to calls, only one of the numbers actually belonged to a lawyer involved in providing legal aid. The others who responded were all police officers in areas on or around Sabarimala hill, including numbers belonging to officers stationed at Ranni, Pandalam and Pamba. All police officers who responded sounded surprised and a little amused to hear of this development.
The police officers all assured TNM that they were not aware of this forward. Unfortunately, they also told us that none of them received any phone calls so far from protesters requesting legal aid. The one legal aid group that received TNM's call did not sound at all amused on hearing about the prank.
Kerala police are currently attempting to identify over 210 men caught on CCTV cameras who were involved in the violence on Sabarimala hill, which ensued due to right-wing groups and individuals taking objection to the controversial Supreme Court ruling allowing women between 10 and 50 to enter the shrine.