The intelligence wing has submitted evidences of the police association meetings being used as ‘a platform to discuss politics’, where office bearers at times use abusive languages against certain former Chief Ministers.
After criminalisation comes the news of rampant politicisation of the police force in Kerala. Not that the men in uniform were apolitical in the state, but with the Left back in power there was this apprehension that the force would slowly turn red. According to a classified report prepared by the state intelligence department, there is an increasing tendency among the force “to raise political slogans” commemorating “martyrs” during association meetings. These happened recently at association meetings held in Ernakulam, Kozhikode and Pathanamthitta districts. The intelligence wing has submitted evidences of the association being used as “a platform to discuss politics”, where office bearers at times use abusive languages against certain former Chief Ministers. Along with the report, Intelligence ADGP T.K. Vinod Kumar has reportedly handed over a letter highlighting the gravity of the situation. Martyrs’ commemoration by erecting cenotaphs painted red and raising slogans such as “Inquilab Zindabad” were in violation of the service rules. Also many of these associations invite leaders of the ruling front, who most of the times deliver political speeches detrimental to the ethics of the force itself, the report said. State DGP Loknath Behera has promised to take action against those who went against the policy of the force, which is not to have any political affiliations. The associations are mainly meant to work for the welfare of its members. “The range IGs have been asked to file a report on the issue,” Behera said.
In Kerala, there are mainly four associations representing the force. The largest, Kerala Police Association (KPA), mainly comprises ordinary policemen and women. The Kerala Police Officers’ Association represents ASIs, SIs and CIs. Service Officers’ Association members include DYSPs and non-IPS officers. Then there is the IPS Association, including heavyweight officers, which hogs most of the limelight by its open confrontation with the IAS lobby. It is the KPA and the Officers’ Association which publicly demonstrate their political leanings, mostly towards the Left, though there are exceptions when the associations come under Congress control. “Saffronisation” is a late comer, but there is no denial that an undercurrent of Hindutva runs deep in the force. But recently, it is the state conference of the Kerala Police Officers’ Association which became controversial. It was reported that at least 50 officers, mostly belonging to the northern districts, came for the meeting wearing red shirts like the red volunteers at CPM and CPI conferences. This was in the presence of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his most-favoured DGP, Behera. They sat in a separate bloc and apparently five officers belonging to the special investigative cell also joined them. At that time no objections were raised either by the Chief Minister, nor the DGP. However, both of them had talked eloquently about the need to serve the people better and praised the force for its “exemplary behaviour”. Not long ago, the Chief Minister used to tell his police to get out of the “hangover” of the past regime, meaning the Congress government. At other times, he had blamed RSS of infiltrating the force, and working against the interests of the LDF government. But he and his party had been steadfastly silent about the associations turning red.
The association has so far held as many as 27 conferences across the state; many of them presided over by prominent Left politicians, who joined policemen in offering floral tributes to martyrs and raising slogans in their memory. Which martyrs they remembered is not very clear, though Opposition parties had said they were CPM ones! But one thing was sure: the officers were not paying tribute to those who died in custody. Instead the association is using all its might to put pressure on the government to give a clean chit to the former Ernakulam Rural SP, A.V. George, who is facing murder charges in the now infamous Varappuzha custody death of Sreejith early last month. George, in all likelihood, will walk free, irrespective of whoever is in power.
Meanwhile, the KPA has denied any political affiliations and clarified that commemorative ceremonies were organised to pay tributes to those officers who were martyred while on duty, though there was none from Kerala in recent memory. Association general secretary, P.G. Anil Kumar, in a statement said, “Police officers might have had political leanings before joining the service. But once they become part of the force, they will be duty-bound to protect the lives and property of the citizens without any political tag attached to them.” According to him, higher-ups would have warned them if there was such a report, meaning no such warning has been issued down the line.
Well said than done. Only difference is that public perception about the force is something different. Recently the Speaker of the Kerala Assembly, Sriramakrishnan had said that people should get used to going to police stations unaccompanied by local political “dadas”. He just stated the obvious. In party strongholds like Kannur, it is the local party unit which decides which police officer gets posted where and whom the officer should arrest. Even now there are instances of party cadre raiding the police station to free their comrades. In this context it is relevant to remember what the present CPM state secretary, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had said while in Opposition. He had threatened to turn every police station in the state into bomb-making units. That it is the very same Kodiyeri who later became home minister of the state is the irony of it.