In Left ruled Kerala, don’t distraught parents of a dead 18-year-old have space for dissent?

Not only did he not condemn the police action, the Kerala Chief Minister in fact justified them.
In Left ruled Kerala, don’t distraught parents of a dead 18-year-old have space for dissent?
In Left ruled Kerala, don’t distraught parents of a dead 18-year-old have space for dissent?

Some feel proud when they hear the name Pinarayi.
Some get scared, some others cry, some might get irritated.
Just avoid.
Feel proud thinking about this strong leader.
Lal salaam.

This poem was written not by a CPI(M) worker, nor a friend of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The poet was Jishnu Pranoy, the 18-year-old Engineering student of Nehru College, who was found dead in his hostel room under suspicious circumstances, two months ago.

Jishnu was a fan of Pinarayi Vijayan, as his mother has said multiple times after his death.

Jishnu was also naive to place his trust in the Chief Minister of Kerala, as Pinarayi Vijayan made amply clear today.

The Kerala Chief Minister first allowed the police to drag Jishnu’s grieving mother, father and relatives away for the crime of protesting. He then told a bizarre tale of how the police thought Mahija - Jishnu’s mother - was unwell as she was lying on the ground, and that they bodily lifted her and took her away to get her medical help.

And then, he did what was entirely unsurprising: Pinarayi Vijayan claimed that the peaceful protest by 14 people was stalled by the state police because ‘anti-social elements’ were involved.

The space for dissent

Jishnu’s body was found in his hostel room under suspicious circumstances. While the college authorities have claimed that the student killed himself, his parents have maintained that Jishnu was in fact murdered. While the parents have accused several people in the college management, they hold the police responsible for not acting in the case.

The police excesses - and there really is no other name for their actions - were seen in a state where a DGP had famously given space in his own house for people protesting against him. Former DGP Venkatachalam made a shed for protesters who were marching to his house and agitating against him, as CPI State Secretary Kanam Rajendran recounted in a Facebook post. Venkatachalam, Rajendran recalled, even gave water and refreshments to the protesters.

Compare that to the actions of the police officials under the current DGP on Wednesday, and you get a sordid truth: In the Left ruled state, where many a politician has made a career on the back of several protests, dissent will only be tolerated as long as it suits those in power.

Pinarayi’s weakest link

But as the state was shocked by the visuals of police dragging away Jishnu’s mother - and Mahija herself came out to say that she was physically assaulted during the chaos - Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan did not have any time for empathy.

Not only did he not condemn the police action, the Kerala Chief Minister in fact justified them.

This isn’t the first time that Pinarayi has, not popularly, taken the side of the police. He defended the police when there was massive outrage against the force for not acting in the many child abuse cases filed in Kerala in recent months. In the past, he has been accused of not speaking out against the police in an alleged fake encounter case.

Clearly, the police force is emerging as the weakest link for Pinarayi Vijayan’s CPI(M) - a party that has, in the past, spoken out against the custodial killing of P Rajan, an engineering student who was brutally tortured and murdered during the emergency.

The Left’s hypocrisy

On Tuesday, the Kerala government announced a slew of events to mark the 60th anniversary of the first Kerala Cabinet, headed by EMS Namboodiripad. This was also the first democratically elected Communist government in the world, that came to power in 1957.

Ironically, a day later, the present day democratically elected Communist government in Kerala stopped a distraught mother from demanding justice for her son.

In a state that sees political protests and agitations on a daily basis, what justifies the use of police force against civilians who are holding a peaceful protest? In a state that prides itself for its Communist history and Left leaning, what was the need for the police to crack down on 14 individuals who were not armed, not violent, and not committing any crime?

Even during the jallikattu protests in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, the police, which was accused of violence in the fag end of the agitation, tried to have a dialogue with the protesters, and did not use any force in the initial days.

So who gave the Kerala police the right to behave in such a manner with Jishnu’s relatives?

The CPI(M) - whose student wing SFI marches to the secretariat routinely - has endorsed police action against Jishnu’s family. But what threat did they pose to the state or the public for the police to arrest them?

(Note: Opinions expressed are the authors' personal views.)

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