A few days ago, member of Kerala Assembly from Angamali, Roji John asked the chief minister during the house session why the police filed a case against 200 people who participated in the rally against citizenship denial organised by the Muslim Mahal committee of Angamali, Ernakulam. In his reply to the question, the chief minister did not explain why the case was filed. What Pinarayi Vijayan did instead was only to repeat the thesis - of those like Yogi Adityanath over the last several days - that extremists were infiltrating the anti-CAA stir. And on Thursday while speaking in the Rajya Sabha, prime minister Narendra Modi also quoted Pinarayi Vijayan's remarks to drive home his point.
Pinarayi's comments did in effect provide ammunition for the BJP government and the sangh parivar in their effort to torpedo the countrywide popular protest against the denial of citizenship. When popular agitations had erupted earlier on issues like Gail pipeline, widening of national highway and LNG terminal of Puthuvyppin, the same 'extremist infiltration' theory was floated by Pinarayi Vijayan and his party. In a way he has been saying in so many words that Kerala is a state where extremist elements can infiltrate and organise any people's struggle at any time of their choice. But the way he included the anti-CAA protests in that category, is sure to cause concern among a section of people who have already been in anxiety.
When protests evolved against the discriminatory citizenship legislation, the left governemt and the front did come forward in solidarity with the strike. And the slogan they raised in the protests was 'the government is with it'. It is also a fact that the government made significant moves in this direction by piloting a resolution against CAA in the Assembly, filing a petition in the Supreme Court and by declaring that the state would not implement NPR in the state. At the same time, several moves by the government as well as CPM as a party, seem to insist that all anti-CAA movements be steered by them. On any issue of this kind, it is natural for its first-line victims to react immediately. On the issue of CAA, the first direct victims are Muslims, for it is their Muslim identity that is being challenged. It is in the name of their religious belonging that they are going to be denied citizenship. Then naturally the protests against it will also constitute an expression of their identity. But the CPM and the government have been trying to undo all such expressions by stigmatising them as communal and extremist. And that now has also become a handy ammunition for Narendra Modi.
It is clear that even as the government stands by the anti-CAA side, on the other hand it is trying to rein in protesters by giving a free hand to the police. The approach thus switches from 'the government is with you' to 'the government is after you'. The cases charged across the state against the protesters (many of them on non-bailable charges) prove just that. What Roji John raised in the house was only one among such cases. But the chief minister was trying to overturn that query by playing an extremist card. It is another fact that when the issue extremism was brought in, even the Opposition got tamed.
Boycott is a mode of protest taught by Mahatma Gandhi. In places where BJP organized pro-CAA programmes, it has become a form of protest to shut shops and boycott those programmes. It is a method used by people's collectives voluntarily under no call by any one. But Kerala police has tended to brand it as an act creating communal hatred. In Karimannur police station, Idukki district, the police even gave a warning in writing to the traders that if they shut shops severe action would be taken. But in Kuttiadi, Kozhikode district, when the sangh parivar took out a procession calling provocative slogans reminding of Gujarat, what the police did before charging a case against the processionists was to book those who boycotted the event!
Similar cases have been charged in many places of Kozhikode and Malappuram districts. In Thrissur, the police has been registering cases extensively against anti-CAA protesters. In Mannuthy, when a lady out for a morning week was beaten by an RSS worker with shouts of 'go to Pakistan', the police tried to portray him as mentally ill. Not stopping there, when a public worker brought this to people's attention through social media, the police filed a case against him. If all this happens for want of the chief minister having any control over police, that is a serious failing which needs to be corrected. And if not, i.e. if these are under a decision and direction by the government, it is a sign of hypocrisy. It is a universal truth that one cannot be with the hare and the hound at the same time.