The case under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act involves two youngsters.

 

NEW DELHI: In a major climb down from his previous tough political stand, Kerala’s Marxist Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote a letter on Wednesday to Union Home Minister Amit Shah requesting that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) hand over the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) case involving two youngsters back to the Kerala police. A day before, on Tuesday, the same Vijayan angrily retorted to the Opposition in the state Assembly whether they wanted him to go and touch the feet of Amit Shah regarding the case. If not touch the feet, what prompted Vijayan to go begging before the Central minister regarding a case “fabricated” by his own police is the talk in political circles in Kerala. The UAPA case against 20-year-old Alan Shuhaib and 24-year-old Thaha Fasal, both active members of CPM’s Students Federation of India, accused of possessing pro-Maoist literature, was being investigated by Pinarayi’s own police, until the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a notification on 16 December 2019 that the NIA would be taking over the probe. Both were arrested from their hometown Kozhikode after police allegedly seized Maoist leaflets that condemned the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. No one is explaining how possessing Maoist literature becomes a crime under UAPA. Since then opposition parties, progressive writers, social activists and some free-thinkers within the CPM had been accusing the Left Front government of toeing the Centre’s line on the dreaded law destroying the life of two promising youths. It had also cast a dark shadow over the sincerity of Pinarayi’s “tough stand” against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act and posture as the sole protector of Muslims in the state.

In his letter, Vijayan argues that the case lacks a gravity of offence which is of a high degree requiring an investigation by NIA. Interestingly, this is contrary to the stand taken by the Chief Minister ever since the arrest of the two. He had been repeatedly saying that “they (Alan and Thaha) were not lambs” and at one particular press conference he said, laughing sarcastically, captured by cameras and repeated over television channels umpteen times, that “they had not gone to drink tea”. This had particularly drawn emotionally bitter reactions from Alan’s family, especially his mother, who are known CPM supporters and had full faith in the CM till that time. “Statement of Objects and Reasons of the NIA Act states that the Act is envisaged to deal with the cases that involve ‘complex, inter-state and international linkages and possible connection with other activities like smuggling of arms and drugs, pushing in and circulation of Indian currency, infiltration from across the borders etc.’ None of these ingredients mentioned in the Statement of Objects and Reasons mentioned in the NIA Act 2008, appears to be relevant in the instant case,” Pinarayi argued in the letter. He also added that both the ruling and opposition parties were of the view that the case should be investigated by the Kerala police and not the NIA. He also cited the legal advice given to the state government to underline his argument that the case be investigated by the Kerala police. “I request you to kindly give appropriate directions and grant approval to the National Investigation Agency for handing over the case back to the Kerala Police to carry on with the investigations which were being effectively carried out,” Vijayan concluded.

Interestingly, once again, the day he questioned Opposition over touching Shah’s feet, the same Vijayan had opposed a notice for an adjournment motion sought to be moved by the Congress-led UDF against slapping UAPA on the two students. At the time, Vijayan had asked the opposition not to justify Maoists because they (UDF) opposed the Left. “There is no need to justify the Maoists just because you are opposed to LDF. We all know what the Maoists are doing…Some terrorists operating in the state have some connection with the Maoists.” This had prompted the Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala to say that he felt as if he was listening to Amit Shah in the Lok Sabha. Till this day, the Pinarayi Vijayan government and the Kerala police have not specified on what grounds the two students have been arrested and UAPA slapped. One need not look too far to understand Vijayan’s overnight change of mind. The Congress leaders have been visiting the boys’ houses and have been raising public opinion in favour of them in the Muslim-dominated Malabar region. The day Chennithala and others called on the boys’ parents, CPM’s Kozhikode district committee secretary had come out with a statement that the two still belonged to the party and the leadership was in the process of rehabilitating them, bringing the strayed baby lambs back with the flock. Till that time, the state CPM leadership had claimed that the two had been thrown out of the party after an inner-party investigation. Congress leaders from the region have also been pointing out most victims of CPM’s murder politics belonged to the Muslim community, which is a fact. This is in contrast to the image Pinarayi Vijayan had been trying to create in the wake of the anti-CAA agitations in the state.

It is no coincidence that Alan and Thaha belong to the minority community. But while it is not difficult to understand reasons for Vijayan’s about-turn, it is a mystery that why the party after all invoked UAPA against the two, knowing full well the case will go to NIA. The whole of Kerala knows that Shah is not going to hand over the case back to Vijayan’s police, but CPM can make use of the letter to save the Chief Minister’s face and image. That is revolution for you!

 

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