Kerala High Court puts the spotlight back on the political murders of two Youth Congress workers in 2019.

 

New Delhi: Once again, memories of political murders have come to haunt the CPM in Kerala. Just a day after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan turned the tables on the Opposition in the state Assembly through a marathon three-hour forty five minute reply to a no-confidence motion against his government, the Kerala High Court struck. The celebrations by comrades over their leader’s successful papering of grave corruption charges against his government were short lived. Instead of replying to charges of corruption expected from him, the Chief Minister had cleverly turned the occasion to read out a well-prepared progress report of his four years in power which was nothing but a eulogy of his own government’s so called achievements.

He did not utter a word about the charges levelled by the Opposition except for a reference to one of his ministers who is under the scanner of the Enforcement Department in connection with the import and distribution of the Quran from the UAE consulate in state capital Thiruvananthapuram.

Even then, the CM only read out the statement made by his Minister for Higher Education and Welfare of Minorities, K.T. Jaleel who is at the centre of the controversy. Jaleel had been trying to fan communal passions by saying that if distributing Quran was a crime in the country, he was ready to go to the gallows for that crime.

It was indeed a sad spectacle to watch a CPM politburo member trying to justify such a minister, let alone allowing him to continue to hold a responsible position in a Left-led government. The court put the spotlight right back on a twin murder which the ruling CPM was trying to push under the carpet when on Tuesday it dismissed a state government plea challenging a single bench order directing a CBI probe into the case. The case in question is the murder of two Youth Congress workers, Sarathlal and Kripesh, who were hacked to death in Periya in Kasaragod district in north Kerala on 17 February 2019, allegedly by CPM workers as the state was in the midst of campaign for the general elections. The murders cost the CPM dearly in the elections in north Kerala. On 30 September 2019, a Single Bench of the Kerala High Court had ordered a CBI probe into the murder after hearing a plea of the victims’ families who alleged that top leaders of the CPM had conspired to kill the two youths. The Single Bench had even quashed the charge sheet filed by the police. Following the order, the CBI re-registered a case on 23 October 2019. However, the CBI could not make any progress in its investigations due to the stonewalling of local police which is under the direct control of the Chief Minister himself. The police simply refused to hand over the necessary documents for the investigation.

In fact, the CBI had mentioned the alleged non-cooperation on the part of the state Crime Branch in the status report of the probe submitted by the investigation officer before the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Kochi.

Hiring senior lawyers from the Supreme Court at the expense of the state exchequer, the Kerala government appealed against the Single Bench ruling. It argued that a CBI inquiry was not at all needed as the investigation by the state police was progressing in the right direction. The Chief Minister himself tried to justify the government many a time. From his statements, it was clear that the CPM leadership feared that once the CBI takes over the case, involvement of the party’s top leaders, especially those from its stronghold Kannur, will stand exposed.

This is the usual practice by the CPM leadership to protect its cadre. The tragedy of it all is that public money is being spent without any qualms to defend murderers when the duty of an elected government is to bring the culprits to book.

Now it is to be keenly watched whether the state government would move the Supreme Court against the High Court order. Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala expressed the sentiments of the common man on the road when he said: “Pinarayi Vijayan should be ashamed because his government spent huge amounts of money and hired senior advocates to stall a CBI inquiry.”

“This is a huge victory,” said Congress MP from Kasaragod, Rajmohan Unnithan, the immediate beneficiary of the fallout of the murder just before the Lok Sabha elections. Family of the young victims, who has braved CPM threats all these months, said they were indebted to the court for handing over the case to CBI, something which the family was demanding right from the beginning. No one can blame them, for more than anyone else they knew full well that they would never get justice from the Kerala police as long as CPM and Pinarayi Vijayan was in power. What is significant is that this ruling reflects the collective tragedy of a state.

Here is a Chief Minister who claims to be not scared of any investigation from any central agency, but at the same time, uses public money to shield party cadre from the very same agencies. Or as Pinarayi Vijayan had claimed in the past: Has the government the right to do so? It is time CPM in Kerala is made accountable for its misdeeds.