Published: 08th November 2019
How the Kerala Police's use of UAPA against two students has got Kerala raging
Two students from Thalassery were charged under the UAPA for alleged Maoist links, in what is now being described as a fake encounter. What will happen to the students next?
On November 1, two students from Thalassery, Alan Suhaib and Thaha Fazal stirred up quite a scene at the Pantheerankavu Market. Onlookers reported that the students, who are members of the ruling CPI(M) party, were seen distributing leaflets that contained 'pro-Maoist' messages at the location. The police were informed about the students and they report that when they reached the market, the students were chanting pro-Maoist slogans.
Later during the day, the students were arrested. They were charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) at the Pantheerankavu Police Station. The arrest comes hot on the heels of the new that the Kerala Thunderbolts, an elite command force of the Kerala Police under the India Reserve, shot four alleged Maoists in Attappadi, Palakkad. The encounter was received with a barrage of criticism from opposition parties.
The UAPA has always been described as a severe law by human rights advocates within the country and outside it. There have been several incidences where the law has been misused by government leaders and law enforcement to abuse their power and sweep their actions under the terrorism rug without people asking too many questions.
BACK LASH: The Kerala Chief Minister has been fielding criticism for the arrests
At the next Kerala Assembly, Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala wrote on his Facebook page: "The unlawful UAPA is being used by the Kerala Police to justify their debauchery. Distributing pamphlets does not make you a Maoist, it means that you are simply supporting a cause. We must say no to Police Raj." He went on to announced that six Maoists had been killed in 'fake encounters' under Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's tenure since 2016. He also said that no such incident had occurred under Congress rule when he was Home Minister and that the party had always maintained a strict rule of taking Maoists under custody.
The State Secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI), Kanam Rajendran agreed to the statement and stuck with their policy of dealing with Maoists lawfully and condemned police violence against them. The Communist Party of India also joined in in criticising the use of UAPA in the case. CPI Assistant Secretary, Prakash Babu told the local media, "The Left parties of India has always stood against the indiscriminate use of the UAPA. The Kerala police is using this to arrest CPI(M) workers.”
Pinarayi Vijayan has ordered a report from Kerala police chief, Lokanath Behra explaining the arrest. A fact-finding team employed by the CPI conclded that the incident was a fake encounter. The report has been submitted to the chief minister
On November 7, former General Secretary of CPM, Prakash Karat added an important voice to the people rallying against the act and the government's use of it by urging the LDF govt to revoke 'draconian' UAPA charges slapped on Kerala students. According to The New Indian Express, the CPM leader said, "Our party has always opposed the law. In the case of the two students who were slapped with UAPA, the police have wrongly used the Act. You can't call them Maoists for mere possession of brochures. I hope the Government will undo its decision."
On Wednesday, Kozhikode's District Principal Sessions court rejected a bail application filed by the students under the reasoning that bail could potentially impede national security as the UAPA had been invoked. The defence lawyer of the accused, MK Dinesan and their families announced that they would go on to approach the High Court.