L Thankamma, mother of KM Shajahan, social worker and former private secretary of veteran CPI(M) leader VS Achuthanandan, began a hunger strike at her residence in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday, demanding the release of her son.
Shajahan was arrested last Wednesday after he extended support to the protest carried out by the parents of Jishnu, the Nehru College Engineering student, who was found dead in his hostel room under mysterious circumstances.
“There was no conspiracy behind Shajahan visiting the protest area. Since childhood, he has been participating in people’s protests. He has no criminal offences against him until now. He is a social activist. They are taking revenge against him as he interfered in the Lavalin case. He went to the protests to express his solidarity,” 80-year-old Thankamma said.
The Lavalin case dates back to 1996 when Pinarayi Vijiayan was then the Power Minister. Charged with corruption, the CBI accused him of awarding a contract to a Canadian company SNC-Lavalin in return for securing funds for a cancer hospital in North Kerala. Pinarayi was, however, acquitted in 2013 by a CBI court.
Shajahan, who has been a vocal critic of CPI(M) following his dismissal from the party a few years ago, had filed a petition in the Kerala High Court seeking to implead himself in the SNC Lavalin case. While the High Court had dismissed his petition, Shajahan believes his decision to move court against the Chief Minister is the reason he is now behind bars.
“Pinarayi Vijayan is targeting me for getting involved in the Lavalin case,” Shajahan alleged.
Police arrested five people last Wednesday including Shajahan, controversial monk Himaval Bhadrananda, Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) leaders Shajar Khan, Mini and Sreekumar alleging that they were responsible for the ruckus outside the DGP office when Jishnu Pranoy’s family protested.
Last Thursday, the Chief Judicial Magistrate Thiruvananthapuram denied bail to all five accused with the prosecution arguing that they intentionally created chaos and attacked police officers.
Defending the police action against the protesters, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said that “outsiders” were to blame for the ruckus.
Protesting against the arrest of their leaders, SUCI wrote an open letter to the Chief Minister stating that Shajar Khar had gone for the demonstration as requested by Jishnu’s family.
“Jishnu’s uncle Sreejith had asked us to support the protest. It was the police that played out a conspiracy, not us,” Shajar Khan wrote in the letter.
Prominent journalist and filmmaker Vidhu Vincent also came out in support of Shajar Khan, saying he is a good education activist.
“I know Shajar Khan and Mini for more than 10 years. No one in Kerala speaks so authentically about problems in the education system like them. A man who smiles always. He was jailed for participating in a protest. Allegations are that he conspired to conduct the agitation. We should think about which party (CPI (M), the party known for agitations) says this. The government should be ashamed,” she wrote on Facebook.