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Kerala student cases

Thiruvananthapuram, June 17: Kerala home minister Ramesh Chennithala today told the Assembly the state government did not approve of registration of cases against students on charges that they had defamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi through their college magazines.

Replying to concerns raised by Left MLAs, Chennithala said it was a common practice in Kerala to denounce political opponents through cartoons and write-ups, and booking the authors for this was not the state government’s policy.

The home minister said he had asked the inspector-general of police, Thrissur, to inquire into the registration of the FIR against students of the Government Polytechnic and Sri Krishna College. Both institutions are in Thrissur.

Speaking at an event in Alappuzha, CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan also expressed outrage over the cases against the students.

Attacking Modi, Vijayan said as far as secular parties were concerned “Modi personified evil” and there was nothing wrong with portraying him as such in the magazine.

Justifying the action of the students, who are all activists of the CPM outfit Students’ Federation of India, Vijayan said the issue raised questions of freedom of speech and expression. He asked the government to reconsider the action against the students.

In two separate incidents, Thrissur police had arrested 13 students of the two institutions over alleged objectionable content against Modi in college magazines edited by them. In the first case, the magazine brought out by the Government Polytechnic union had portrayed Modi alongside Osama bin Laden, sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, 26/11 gunman Ajmal Kasab and others under the head “Negative Faces”.

The second case related to a crossword puzzle in the magazine brought out by the students’ union at Sree Krishna College, Guruvayur. One of the questions had a derogatory reference to the word “Namo” and carried Narendra Modi’s picture.

BJP state spokesperson V.V. Rajesh asked if Vijayan had forgotten about freedom of speech when arrests were made over an email the CPM state secretary had found offensive. Acting on Vijayan’s complaint, the police’s cyber wing had arrested two persons in November 2009 for allegedly altering and forwarding an email with a picture of a palatial house, claiming it belonged to the CPM leader. The house actually belonged to an NRI from Kottayam.