Terrorism: Kerala could be a sitting duck Monday, Nov 3 2008 

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi at bomb blast site at Guwahati, Assam last month

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi at a bomb blast site in Guwahati, Assam, last month -- PIB

The bomb blasts in different parts of the country should be a wake up call for Kerala and several other States. Intelligence and security arrangements remain inadequate in Kerala that it is impossible for extremists to target any place in Kerala. Security is lax even at important establishments and locations.

Kerala has several factors that would act as a protective net terrorism from within. The first and foremost is perhaps the support for communist ideologies among the populace. Second is the presence of significant population of Christians and large majority of Hindus and Muslims who are not sympathisers of any extremist activity. (Extremists flourish only when they have roots in the communities and get sympathy and support.) The absence of Cosmopolitan cities and limited population of those from Northern States was another advantage. That made it easy for the police to track outsiders. However, this advantage is being lost with the influx of migrant workers from States such as Bihar, West Bengal  and  recruitment of criminal gangs by extremist organisations. However, it is to the credit of the Muslim community that hardly anyone could be recruited from Kerala by ideological brainwashing.

Despite all this favourable factors, it should concern the State that large sums are flowing into the State from foreign sources. There could be sleeping cells across the State that could be called into action by outside forces any time. In a subtle way, there are also moves to open up channels for public communication by several quarters. These have to be watched carefully as they could be used for subtle communal and ideological propaganda. This applies to both majority and minority communities.

Kerala ran into this situation because of the vote bank politics and resultant communal appeasement policies. Even mainstream political parties courted communal parties with extremist views to secure votes. As a result, deeper investigation into incidents such as the Marad massacre, burning of cinema theatres in Malappuram district and Tamil Nadu transport bus in Kochi, bomb blasts at Kadalundi and Thrissur , hawala, money laundering cases and dubious land transactions were undermined. Telltale developments at places like Kottackal and neighbouring areas, training camp at Vagamon and functioning of dozens of organisations with dubious agenda were ignored.

As the Malayalam saying goes, Kerala is now in a situation that it now would have use a spade to take out what could have been removed with a needle (Soochikondedukedathu, Thoombakondu Edukkuka).

Debate over law and order Friday, Jan 18 2008 

Crime controlKeralites would tolerate inefficiency of administration, corruption, poor condition of State’s roads, lack of development and much more. But, it is believed that they would not tolerate violence and other crimes in their neighbourhood. Hence, all the noise by the Opposition about law and order situation in the State, which has put the Government on the defensive.

The report of the National Crime Records Bureau that the State showed high rate of crime has come handy for the Opposition. So, also instances of political violence and forced release of political offenders from police custody. The Government’s defence is that a larger number of cases get registered in Kerala because people in the State are an educated and enlightened lot, aware of their rights. The intense political activity and accompanying demonstrations and pickets are cited as another reason.

There may be a grain of truth in these arguments. However, the efficiency of police and administration of justice is to be looked at using another criteria— the conviction rate.
The conviction rate is very low in Kerala, especially when it comes to the crimes against women (that much for the enlightenment of the State). This puts not only the present Government but also the previous Government’s in bad light.

Incidentally, part of the NCRB statistics pertains to period of rule by the present Opposition (United Democratic Front). If the present Government has contributed anything to the situation that existed before, it is in terms of political violence and worse political interference in the working of the police.

Officials ditch the Communist party! Wednesday, Nov 28 2007 

CPI State headquarters in TrivandrumIf the Communist Party of India leaders of Kerala are to be believed, the officials in the State are conspiring against the party.

When the party submitted an application for title to four cents of Government land at Munnar, some nasty official changed it to eleven cents. Then he faked the signature of the then party State secretary and former Chief Minister of Kerala P. K. Vasudevan Nair.

The officials did not stop with that. One Tahasildar reported that Mr. Nair was the resident of Munnar and was engaged in agriculture. Finally, the title was granted under rules that stipulated that it could only be used for agricultural or residential purposes. The party was oblivious of all this when it built a tourist cum office complex on the land.

Years later, another official, in charge of National Highways, demolished the front portion of the three-storeyed building on the ground that the party had encroached upon the land earmarked for the high way. When the party showed its title, a higher officer said that it was invalid. The party had to get a few officials shifted before the building could be saved from demolition.

The party’s woes did not end there. Its Forest Minister Binoy Viswam almost had to resign because a Chief Conservator did not inform him that the land in which he permitted cutting of trees for running a tea factory was actually notified ecologically fragile land (deemed forest). This was also the land coveted by the Indian Space Research Organisation for its Institute of Space Science and Technology.

Knowing well that this would mean trouble, the Government found some revenue land in the Agasthyakoodam Biosphere Reserve for the Institute. But, a divisional forest officer reported that the area was forest and qualified to be termed ecologically fragile (indicating that it could not be given away like that). To clear all these mess, the Government had to take action against them—the former for not keeping the Government well-informed, and the latter for informing it of unwanted matters.

The troubles did not end there. The police arrested a local councilor of the party on charges of a non-bailable offence after she violently protested against retail chains and slapped a woman police constable. The party State secretary and two Ministers had to rush to the police control room to bail her out. Now, the Opposition is demanding that the Ministers should resign for breaching oath of office, the Constitution and what not by forcibly securing the release of an accused. The only solace was that the police did not register a case against the Ministers and the councilor for obstructing the police from doing their lawful duties.


CPI takes on the retail chains

Munnar Mission statements

An unnecessary Act to check crime Sunday, Nov 11 2007 

Crime controlA year after the enactment of Kerala Anti Social Activities (Prevention) Ordinance providing for preventive detention of known delinquents, goondas are still at large. In fact, the Ordinance and the Act that replaced it subsequently were unnecessary and dangerous legislation. Unnecessary because it would serve little purpose. Dangerous because it could be misused anytime.

The Ordinance was a modified version of the Felonious Activities (Prevention) Ordinance brought by the previous Oommen Chandy Government (United Democratic Front). It was one of the several gimmicks played by that Government to show that it was acting fast when it was left with hardly a year to show results. Crime was mounting and the Ordinance was presented as the answer to that.

When the Left Democratic Front (LDF) Government came to power, there was no let up to the operations of criminal gangs. Mr. Chandy, who is now the Opposition Leader, took the Government to task for neglecting his Ordinance. So, the LDF Government also found it expedient to reenact the legislation, which had lapsed. As the LDF had opposed the draconian provisions of the law when in the Opposition, it found a way out by incorporating some provisions that, it claimed, would prevent misuse of the law. But preventive detention is nothing but preventive detection.

The police establishment generally welcomed the measure as they could keep people in custody without taking the trouble of investigating crimes and prosecuting goondas successfully. Now, troublemakers could be held to the whims and fancies or pulls and pressures.

The goonda menace was increasing in the State not because it lacked effectives laws. There are enough laws in the statute book that can be used to put almost anyone in jail. Innocents are not safe if someone decides to use the existing laws deviously. (In fact, the statute book is in need of a pruning.)

The real problem is that the laws are always applied selectively. The reason behind that is the nexus between goons, police and the politicians. The goonda menace is not going to end as along the nexus exists. Harsh laws would increase the stakes but not break the nexus. Only a clean government can break the nexus and end the menace.