A case has been filed against a group of people who were protesting against custodial deaths and police brutality in Varappuzha, Kochi. Human rights activists and others have been vocal about the alarming number of custodial deaths and increased rate of police brutality in Kerala coming from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) government in the state. Many recent instances of violence had given strength to the demand that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan resigns or give up the responsibility of Home Affairs.
Eight people of the group that was actively campaigning against custodial deaths have been charged with sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting) and 149 (offence committed in prosecution of common object of unlawful assembly) of IPC by the Varappuzha police.
According to the protestors, the complaint is said to have been filed by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)/ RSS member or affiliate. The protesters say that this has become one among the many instances when the communist government in Kerala is joining hands with RSS and other Right wingers to suppress dissent.
It was on June 10, 2018 that the group held a campaign against police brutality and custodial murders. Jishad, one of the accused in the case, said that they got to know that a case had been filed against them through a newspaper report in a Malayalam daily by the name Mathrubhumi that was published on June 13. ‘The police haven’t contacted any of us,’ he added.
Police have accused the group of ‘rioting’ by distributing a notice. The notice, which has now been made public by the activists, speaks of how the government is actively suppressing people’s protests by subjecting them to police brutality.
It speaks particularly about the case of ‘Sreejith’, a Dalit youth who was killed in custody in Varappuzha. One of the charges levied on Sreejith was ‘rioting,’ the same that has now been slapped on the protesters. It was later revealed that the police had arrested ‘the wrong Sreejith‘ and that he had nothing to do with the suicide he was accused of abetting.
The notice clearly stated that the CPI(M) government that came to power two years ago have joint hands with the right wing to implement their Savarna Hindutva agenda. Most of the custodial deaths have been of Dalits, Muslims and Adivasis and the perpetrators among the police have been protected.
In Sreejith’s case, even though police officials were arrested, it was later revealed that they had been made to take the blame to save officials in the higher echelons of power. Involvement of District Police Chief A.V. George has not been investigated even though reports suggested he was involved.
Official records show at least 18 custodial deaths to have happened after the Vijayan government came to power. In addition to this, people’s protests have been subjected to police brutality. The Vadayambadi protesters were beaten up and arrested by the police while the RSS workers who had yelled provocative slogans were protected. Journalist Abhilash, who is also named in the Varappuzha case was one among those who were arrested in the protest against a caste wall that was erected in Vadayambadi. The protesters at Thuruthi strike were also arrested by the police recently.
When Vijayan government was questioned by the opposition regarding the custodial deaths in the 11th Kerala Legislative Assembly convention, the Chief Minister had responded saying ‘it was being looked into.’
An official from Varappuzha police station said that it was based on a complaint filed by one Mr. Babu that the current case is filed. A petition to charge a case was filed by a ‘Babu’, who is said to be a resident of the area. Asked if there was going to be an arrest, the official said ‘The SI (Sub-Inspector) is investigating.’