Glare on Left government for UAPA arrests
The Left Front government in Kerala is being embroiled in one political controversy after another, the latest being the arrest of two students under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in Kozhikode for possessing pro-Maoist literature and leaflets.
They have been branded as “Urban Maoists”.
The arrest of the two, both branch committee members of the CPM, follows the killing of four activists allegedly belonging to the Communist Party of India (Maoist) in the forests of Attapadi in Palakkad district early last week.
The CPM has in the past termed the UAPA a dastardly act and has condemned encounter killings elsewhere in the country.
In fact, the CPM is perhaps the only party in the country that is vehemently opposed to the death penalty.
Only this May, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had assured the Assembly that political workers would not be booked under the UAPA in the state. Hence, it is an irony that encounter killings and arrests under the UAPA are happening in a state ruled by the CPM.
As for the killings of the alleged Maoists, this was the third such incident to have happened under the current Left government.
The Vijayan government has been facing flak over the failure of its police and the prosecution in bringing to book three men accused of brutally raping and causing the deaths of two Dalit sisters, one below 10, in Palakkad district, in 2017.
The Opposition Congress and human rights activists have alleged that the “state-sponsored killing” was enacted to divert public attention from the bungling of the Pocso (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) case.
Differences within the Left Front too have surfaced with the CPI, the second largest partner in the front, coming down heavily on the state police for “stage managing a fake encounter”.
The CPI, though not so critical of the government in the Pocso case, had even despatched a team to the encounter site in the Attapadi forests and found the police version that the Maoists had opened fire first “totally false”.
While opinion within the CPM itself is divided over the use of the UAPA, what is baffling is the party’s justification of the police action against the Maoists. For one, hardly any Maoist activity has been reported in the state. At least no case has been registered with any of the police stations in the Malabar region where Maoists surface on and off.
The tribal population living in the forests of the Western Ghats say the Maoists are quite harmless and come often to their huts only for provisions and food.
It is said that the police force in the state led by DGP Loknath Behera, a confidant of the chief minister, is keen on securing central funds allotted to tackle organisations professing Maoist ideology. It is also said that the state police have clandestinely declared seven of the 14 districts in the state “Maoist-infected”.
Organisations such as the Peoples War Group and others may have pockets of influence in several northern and eastern states, but that is hardly the case in the south. Even in the Andhra region, where the ultra-Left movement had its roots in the past, these organisations are not active.
This leads to the question as to what the political leadership is doing if it is a case of Behera and company acting behind its back. Chief minister Vijayan holds the home portfolio too.
For the past three years the Left Front government has come under criticism mostly for the doings of its police force. There is a popular perception that the home minister has no control over the force.
Each time something goes wrong, Vijayan apologises for his errant forces, but Behera continues to remain in his post; so also the police officers who have come under the scrutiny of the law.
As for the Maoists, the current CPM leadership seems to have completely forgotten its past association with armed struggle. The party may now have adopted itself to parliamentary democracy, but still identifies itself as a revolutionary party.