KER­ALA: JAILHOUSE BLUES

Chief Min­is­ter Vi­jayan has had enough of the ‘po­lice raj’ in Ker­ala

India Today - - STATES - By Jeemon Ja­cob

Af­ter three years in power, Chief Min­is­ter Pi­narayi Vi­jayan has fi­nally re­alised that the state po­lice are do­ing him more harm than good. Having got­ten over his aver­sion to the po­lice— a re­sult of his ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing the Emer­gency—Vi­jayan had backed the de­part­ment in his cur­rent term, go­ing so far as to pre­vent his CPI(M) par­ty­men from in­ter­fer­ing in its work. But with the po­lice’s lat­est in­dis­cre­tions— in­clud­ing cus­to­dial deaths—even the chief min­is­ter is feel­ing the heat.

That Vi­jayan finds him­self in this po­si­tion—in the line of fire for sup­port­ing the po­lice—has sur­prised ev­ery­one. So marked was his turn­around vis-a-vis the po­lice that, in his cur­rent term, he even ap­pointed a for­mer po­lice of­fi­cial—controvers­ial for­mer DGP Ra­man Sri­vas­tava—as an ad­vi­sor, to help him man­age home af­fairs.

But the faith he placed in the po­lice seems to have been counter-pro­duc­tive. For ex­am­ple, since 2016, Ker­ala has seen six cus­to­dial deaths. The lat­est

case is that of 49-year-old Ra­jku­mar from Idukki dis­trict, whose fi­nance com­pany had gone bust. Taken into cus­tody on June 12, he was for­mally ar­rested on June 15. He died on June 21. Af­ter the me­dia out­rage and fol­low­ing the dis­rup­tion of the state as­sem­bly for sev­eral days, a crime branch in­ves­ti­ga­tion was or­dered. Four po­lice of­fi­cers were ar­rested and charged with mur­der, and a few oth­ers sus­pended.

Dur­ing in­ter­ro­ga­tion, the po­lice of­fi­cers ap­par­ently re­vealed that they were fol­low­ing or­ders, is­sued by Idukki SP K.B. Venu­gopal, who re­port­edly or­dered the third de­gree to re­cover the money from the ac­cused. There are also un­con­firmed re­ports that this was done at the be­hest of lo­cal CPI(M) lead­ers.

The chief min­is­ter has been try­ing hard to re­as­sure Ker­ala that the “guilty will be punished”. But it will not be easy. Cus­to­dial deaths and po­lice tor­ture have long been sen­si­tive is­sues in the state. Even af­ter 41 years, Ker­ala re­mem­bers the case of Ra­jan, an en­gi­neer­ing stu­dent who was tor­tured to death dur­ing the Emer­gency. CM Vi­jayan knows that his­tory only too well. “The chief min­is­ter is boxed in—he doesn’t know who to be­lieve,” a se­nior IPS of­fi­cer told india to­day. “That he has such poor un­der­stand­ing of his IPS of­fi­cers and their mo­tives shows him in a poor light.” He is now pay­ing the price for it.

CAUGHT IN A BIND CM Pi­narayi Vi­jayan

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