[The broad brush which criminalizes all victims and opposition, and which justifies political repression on ever-growing scale, is characteristic of all repressive undemocratic states, but is especially so in India today, which is a prison-house for oppressed nations, adivasis (tribals), dalits (in Hindutva society, the outcasts, permanently dehumanized and scorned), the women who have no rights against patrirchy, and all who choose to resist. And within India, the state of Kerala today reveals the intensity of these attacks, when all who are not part of the club of privilege and power are labelled “Maoist” and toward them no repressive move is unused, and the police wield this label to prevent the slightest sympathy in media coverage. — Frontlines ed.]
When Everyone Became A Maoist in Kerala
By Ajmal Khan, India Resists
Kerala police is hunting for Maoist’s from the last one year, innocent Adivasis and Dalit boys, people working among the tribals, human rights activists, people who respond to the daily injustice and human right violations and even people who “look like Maoist”are being picked up every day. What does it mean to be a Maoist Kerala? To answer this, an analysis of the so called Maoist incidents and arrests that have happen has to be closely looked at. There are many questions that are unanswered in the fog that are spreading from the last one year in the name of Maoist. The recent Maoist story in Kerala starts after the lookout notice which was displayed in the limits of Mananthawadi Police station in Wayanad district in April 2014.
The notice carried the names and pictures of around 40 people, including few alleged Maoist guerrillas and number of social and human rights activist who are active in the mainstream political sphere in the state. The notice carried names and picture of Adv. PA Pouran, state general secretary of Peoples Union for Civil Liberties , N Subramanian, a social activist with more than three decades of public presence, Adv. Thushar Nirmal Saradhy, president of the Jankeeya Manushyvakasa Prasthanam , MN Ravunni, general convener of Porattam , CRPP member Nikhil, CHRD member KK Rajeesh, RDF President Sugathan, Secretary Ajayan, Joint Secretary Devarajan, C. Ajithan, a trade union activist in public life for more than two decades, activist Karthikeyan, Vilayodi Sivankuti, Jaison Cooper, and Adv. Manuel. All of them have public appearance and life in the Kerala society actively engaging and responding to the different socio-political injustice that were taking place.
This look out notice was contested and condemned by the larger civil society with huge shock that was inflicted to the political activist. It was also a reminder to the activist by the state that, if you engaged in activities “against the state” this can be the result, this has to also be understood in the context where people are waking up and started voicing against the injustice that is historically imposed upon them and the new forms of injustice that are being manifested in the recent times. All of those whose names were appeared were also from outside the main stream political parties and in fact their enemies or threat to them in many ways.
Beyond the main stream narratives of welfare, development, castelessness, communal harmony and celebrated Kerala model of development, there are hundreds of active social, (It has to be called as political movements and should not imprisoned to the category of old social movements or new social movment) movements that are going on in the state, movements that are led by Adivasis and Dalits for land, against exploitations and violations of even fundamental constitutional rights. The recent standing up struggle by Adivasi Gohtra Mahasabha in front of the Kerala secretariat was one of the historic in its kind.
Evicted and disturbed people by the different projects such as Kadikudam, illegal minings and quarrying in Ambittan Tharish, movements against big road constructions and against toles for roads and bridges, movements led by women workers for dignity against exploitations and gender based discriminations, youth on the roads for freedom to love (the larger movement created as Kiss of Love) and against fascist attacks and moral policing, the voices of victims of Endosalfan in the district of Kasargodu, Muthanga and Chengara land struggles, Plachimada struggles against Coco cola company and many others.
All these are happening outside the mainstream feudal, aristocratic, castist, communal and male chauvinist mainstream political discourses and parties in the state, Congress, CPIM, CPI, Muslim league and other parties are either together or singly a collaborator in most of these struggles and are at the opposite gang. So, people are left with no option other than mobilize themselves against the oppressor, the political establishment that includes a huge and power full gang of industrial and business groups, leaders from various parties, corporations, dominant religious and caste groups and media etc.. Historically the governments in Kerala have tried to curb the democratic rights and Naxalite/Maoist links has been one of the historical reason for this. This is the context in which Maoism take birth or re-birth in Kerala.
Government of Kerala is prepared to combat the Maoist in a big way. I happen to visit to my hometown police station at Kalikavu few months ago, its located at the western ghats allegedly the hub of Maoist in Malappuram with a friend of mine, I was shocked to see the police station, it looked like a some national security border with big sack and security arrangements, the kind of security arrangements increased my curiosity further, I asked one of the police constable in the station, what happen here, why this much security for our station?. He said, you don’t read newspapers? Our station is one of the targeted station by Maoist! It’s established that, CPI Maoist has presence in the Western guts and Nilagiris in Kerala. This is also the context where central govt. increased the funds to combat the Maoist. Government of Kerala has also introduced the Salwa Judum model to give training and wage to Adivasi youth to monitor and see the Maoist activity in the tribal hamlets. They are called as home guard from tribal community by paying Rs 500 per day.
In Jul, 2014 Mr. Jonathan Bold, a Swiss national, left sympathizer and student of International Economic History at Paul Bairoch Institute of Economic History in Geneva who came in a tourist visa to Kerala was arrested in Thrissur after attending a commemorative meeting held for Maoist leader Sinoj at his native place in Thriprayar. Since police failed to establish any alleged connections Kerala high court quashed the case registered against him and he was released.
In December, 2014, Keralaeeyam’s office was raided. Keraleeyam is a magazine which mainly focus on agriculture, health, environment, human rights, education and gender-dalit-adivasi issues from Thrissur since 1998. The office was raided with allegedly Maoist connections and about 40 armed police personal descended to the office located in Thrissur town at the dead of the night for the raid and seized copies of Keraleeyam, pamphlets and notices of events conducted by Keraleeyam, books and other documents. The police took into custody Ajlal (Marketing Manager, Keraleeyam), Viswanathan Alathu (environmentalist), Santhosh (Youth Dialogue activist) who were present in the office at the time of the raid. The three were subjected to intense questioning and detained at Thrissur East Police Station until the next day morning.
Recently Jaison cooper, one of the noted figure among the social activists, blogger who is actively engaged in a variety of people’s struggles in Kerala and Tushar Nirmal Sharathi, layer and President of the People’s human rights movement was piked up by the police is Kochin and Calicut subsequently alleging connection with the allegedly Maoist attack at Kalamasseri, Jaison Cooper in Ernakulam from his office and Adv. Thushar Nirmal Sarathy from Calicut while he was addressing the press about a protest programme to be held there the following day against the increasing violations of the fundamental rights of the people in the state.
Both of them has been active in the solidarity committee with Koodankulam anti-nuclear movement, movement for the displaced in Mulampilly, People’s movement against the Paliyekkara toll booth, Plachimada people’s movement against Coca Cola, Collective in solidarity with the victims of Endosulfan pesticide, committee against Aadhar, Committee for the protection of Western Ghats, Committee against moral policing, Committee for the release of Dr.Binayak sen, forum demanding justice to Madani etc. Both of them are being kept under remand even when there is wide protest against the arrest of social activist.
Two days latter two students, namely Uday Balakrishnan, who is active with youth dialog, (a youth platform which was created couple of years ago) and Shahaid Shameem with the Student Islamic Organisation and Solidarity Youth Movement was piked up by the police in Kannur district while they were returning from a programme which was conducted in solidarity to the Tamil writer Perumal Muruagan. They were being alleged of involvement with Maoist movement in the state, later it was explained by the police that “they had appearance that they look like Maoist” that is why they were piked up.
Apart from all of these, there are number of Adivasi and Dalit youth being piked up alleging Maoist connections on a day to day basis which not even get reported as news. You can be Maoist if you engage with any movements which questions the main stream development and its aftereffects. If you go for a solidarity meeting that is conducted on any issues worldwide, if you even have a curly hair or your cloths are not washed, you can be a potential Maoist as explained by Kerala police and you can be booked under UAPA in Kerala. The state, with all the other allies are suppressing the voices that are arising against the historical suppressions and its new forms in the era of neo liberal development. The label of Maoist will be granted to anyone who dare to raise the voice.
Originally from Kerala, the writer is a Mumbai based researcher and activist.