The police department of Kerala is in the hands of the chief ministerand by implication of the ruling front. But of late that department has been claiming attention by setting new models of anti-people actions.
After the controversial crackdown on Maoists in Attappadi, now comes the arrest of two youths under the provisions of the discredited UAPA [Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act]. Three persons are noticed in suspicious circumstances during night patrols, some pamphlets are spotted in their hands. When one of them flees, the remaining two are held and a large police team conducts a raid in their house; several items are taken away from there and the two are arrested under UAPA.
As opposed to the incident in Attappadi, the ruling coalition's lead party is also in the forefront of blaming the police here because the accused are party workers. When things move to the next steps, the excess by police may get corrected. But the system that needs to be corrected by the government and the left front continues in the same manner. When all advocates of democratic rights and freedom reproach the police in unison, it is the BJP alone which justifies application of UAPA in cases including this - sufficient to convince what the goal of this black law is.
When rights guaranteed by the constitution are made subservient to the mercy of the government and police personnel, words like extremism, terrorism, Maoism etc are used to justify the use of black laws. Out of this, Maoism is an exception acceptable to some left-wing groups too, as proven by experience. That is to say, when the BJP supports governmental excesses in line with its own policy, CPM opposes and supports it by turns as it suits their interests. In this process, the ones who experience the biggest convenience is not that party, but the top rungs of the police who under cover of the democratic government ventures to commit excesses.
UAPA gives big leeway for 'legally' breaking law in crackdown on Maoists and in swooping on several other groups. This piece of legislation lets law enforcers make acts like supporting an idea, protesting against the government, conducting social work, possessing and propagating pamphlets all evidence that attract UAPA. When the police version becomes law, even innocents get tortured. Even when its own rank and file become victims, CPM is not able to summarily denounce police overaction, or put an end to it. And this when Kerala is the only state that can show through its left-wing government a pro-people politics in practice, but unfortunately it is in such a state the police under its chief minister shows its teeth. It is believed that all the seven Maoists killings during the LDF regime were through fake encounters. Besides this, in a few other cases instances of delay in crime investigations, failing to gather evidence and conceding defeat in prosecution have all brought shame to the government. But it is not that the chief minister did not give due warnings in those cases, but the discredit is continuing.
But then why is it that the government is not able to rein in its own police force? The Kozhikode incidents once again underline the fact that one reason for it is the ambivalence of CPM's stance on the black laws. CPM is a party that opposed tooth and nail the invocation of UAPA during rival UDF rule. It came to such a pass that UAPA was slapped even in crimes which could be prevented with existing laws is they were impartially enforced. Jurists have pointed out that as long as this law remains in the statute books, its misuse is bound to continue. It should have acted as a corrective pointer that the High Court 2015 decreed a compensation of Rs 1 lakh to Shyam Balakrishnan for being unlawfully arrested on allegation of Maoist links.
But what we saw the very next year was the arrest of the activists of 'Porattam' magazine for calling for boycotting elections, on charges of sedition. One's being a Maoist or possessing leaflets or distributing them is not a crime, as was amply made clear by the High Court. What is called freedom and democracy is a space where disagreements and contrary opinions can freely be aired. But in spite of a record of series of misuse, CPM leaders have stuck to the stand that UAPA is needed in certain situations. If so, then the loophole provided through this is sufficient for its continued misuse.
Democratic forces should be prepared to denounce this black law in toto and protests should be raised against it. It is incumbent on the civic population to ensure justice for all arrested under UAPA. There is no point in giving a free hand to the police to let its writ run according to its whims, and then bursing in rage when two youths from its own party ranks are caught.