The habeas corpus petition was the first writ against the state after Emergency was lifted

Remembering P Rajan - the victim of state atrocity- in a leap yearFacebook/Joy Mathew
news Leap Year Monday, February 29, 2016 - 20:50

When someone sent me a picture of P Rajan with the caption “RIP: 29 February 1976 - 29 February 2016”, I suddenly remembered a conversation I had about the sensational case which had rocked Kerala just after the Emergency was lifted in 1977.

And the reason why he chose to share the poignant story of a grieving father’s relentless fight for justice was because just that morning we had read about the death of the son of the former DGP Jayaram Padikkal who had been accused and convicted of Rajan’s death due to police brutality.

That the conviction was later overturned owing to his reported proximity to the then Kerala CM K Karunakaran is an apt case-study for examples of mutilated justice in the name of Indian law.

Since Rakesh Menon had lived pretty close to where I stay, naturally I was intrigued when most of my elderly neighbours trudged across the street to get a glimpse of the body.

As one of them chose to phrase it: “It seems justice which our law could not deliver, Nature did.” This was in November 2014.

The death of a child is a grief unbearable to any parent irrespective of whether the parent is labelled good or bad by society.

But coming across the black and white photograph of Rajan on the day which makes a year leap, I couldn’t but help thinking how such an otherwise interesting day in the solar year was possibly a nightmare for Rajan’s father for years to come.

It was on February 29 in 1976 that P Rajan then a final year engineering student at the Chathamangalam Regional Engineering College in Kozhikode (now known as the National Institute of Technology Calicut) was arrested from the college campus for his alleged involvement on a reported Naxal attack on the Kayanna Police station.

That the police arrested him when he had just alighted from the college bus after taking part in the district youth festival at Farooke College which was held at the same time the police station was attacked seemed to have escaped the attention of the police.

Maybe they were just looking for scapegoats to vent their frustration over the Naxalite movement in the state and Rajan happened to land in front of them at the wrong time.

Rajan was known to all as a lover of arts and was considered as someone who could hold a tune remarkably well. He was the Arts Club Secretary in his college at the time of his arrest.

He may have been sympathetic to the cause of the Naxals -no one knows- but his abrupt detention and subsequent brutal death at the hands of a callous state machinery eerily reminds one of the vigilantism now prevailing in the country over who exactly is a nationalist?

His father TV Eachara Warrier was a reputed professor in the Hindi Department of the Government Arts and Science College in Kozhikode at that time.

From the day of Rajan’s arrest, the father’s initial quest for his missing son to the gradual realization of his son’s brutal end to sparing an already ill mother the news of her irrevocable loss…and then the sustained fight for justice to bring the culprits to book makes for a heart-rending saga of undiluted parental grief at the untimely loss of a child plucked in his prime not by Fate, but due to sheer lack of humanity.

'Oru Achanteh Ormakuruppukal' (A Memoir by a Father) which incidentally won the state award in 2004 was a father’s attempt to capture floating bits of a horribly fractured life in a bid to keep his dead son’s memory alive.

Even though Eachara Warrier passed away in 2006, his poignant note at the end of his book of leaving the door unshut for his son –wherever he was in eternity- to know that his father cared till his last breath should serve as a gentle reminder to us too to leave a little gap in us for humaneness to flow in.

The online English translation of the book can be downloaded here:

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