There is a perception growing across Kerala that the growing incidents of violence against women and children after the Left Democratic Front came to power have put the police force in a tight spot. While the police have been accused of bungling in the case of the sensational abduction and subsequent rape of a leading Malayalam actor, the latest crime that shook the state is the mysterious death of two minor siblings within a span of 52 days. In the incident which took place in Walayar in northern Palakkad district, and 11-year-old elder sister was found hanging from the ceiling of their one-roomed house on 13 January this year. The nine-year-old younger sister was found hanging the same way on 4 March. Though medical examination on the elder girl had revealed that she was subjected to sexual abuse, the police did not bother to take any action, contending it was a case of suicide. It has now come to light that the younger sister had seen two people going out of the house on that day. Still, even after her death, there is no trace of as to who the two were. Her autopsy report too point to sexual abuse. Veteran CPM leader V.S. Achuthanandan had come out sternly, demanding firm action against the defaulting police. Even Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, admitting to police lapses in the Assembly, had failed to assuage hurt sentiments among the public, which believes that the police are shielding someone and holds the government responsible for deteriorating law and order in the state.

Despite the promise to deal with such crimes firmly, there seems to be no end to atrocities against children. In Kannur district, a Christian priest has been arrested after a girl he allegedly raped delivered a baby in a Church-run hospital in Koothuparamabu there. The priest had tried to cover up the matter by offering lakhs to the family. The Church authorities too had tried to help him escape to Canada. Police kept a blind eye while the culprits went into hiding.

At least 104 police officers have been kicked around like football in the past eight months. Twelve SPs were transferred in January alone. There were eight political murders in Kannur after Behra took over.

In Wayanad, the children of an orphanage were sexually assaulted by a few people with business interests nearby. While the government claims that safety of women and children are its utmost priority, in reality not a single day passes without news of fresh attack on women or children. These have become a terrible embarrassment to the LDF, which had castigated the previous United Democratic Front government during election campaigns for not protecting women and children. In fact, this very issue was one of the main planks on which the LDF rode to power.

Many slip-ups on the part of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who also holds the Home portfolio, have added to the sagging morale of the police force. He had exposed himself and his force by playing down the assault on the actor initially. His party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, himself a former Home Minister, did not help matters when he said that it was “just an isolated incident”. By the time he and the Chief Minister retracted, much damage had been done, with the police wondering what to do, especially when the CM ruled out any conspiracy behind the attack, but with the actor and her close friends pointing very much to such a possibility.

Vijayan’s on and off allegation that the Sangh Parivar has infiltrated the police force has only worsened the situation. He cited the incident where some alleged Shiv Sainiks attacked couples in the name of moral policing on Marine Drive in Kochi, while the police stood listlessly. However, while taking action against the police, the CM changed track, saying the so called Shiv Sainiks were in fact goons hired by the opposition Congress to discredit the government. This was yet another incident where the Home Minister and his force were not on the same page. It is known for all that it is the CPM more than any other political party which meddles in the affairs of the police. From the time of the first Communist government in 1957, it was the party functionaries at the lowest level who dictate terms at police stations. This time too things are no different. Within 24 hours of swearing in as Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan elbowed out the then DGP, T.P. Senkumar, who had the reputation of an upright official, to bring in his own man Loknath Behra. At least 104 police officers have been kicked around like football in the past eight months. Twelve SPs were transferred in January alone. There were eight political murders in Kannur after Behra took over. Now the Chief Minister is accusing Senkumar, who has moved the Supreme Court against his removal, of hobnobbing with the “saffron brigade”. The erstwhile UDF government might have been neck-deep in corruption, but it should be credited with a fairly good track record when it comes to law and order. The CPM may have taken the state backwards in this regard within just ten months of being in power, if facts are any guide.

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