Kerala: A record gone missed

Aditya Aamir

Different strokes for different people are giving Kerala Police a bad name. Shouting ‘Sat Sri Akal’ doesn’t invite instant arrest in Amritsar post the recent grenade attack, which killed several people, but chanting ‘Sharanam Ayyappa’ in Sabarimala can land the Ayyappa devotee in the slammer, especially if the hombre is a BJP or per chance an RSS activist. This ‘difference’ is giving the BJP and an “RSS TV channel” grist to drive a wedge between Hindu and other communities.
Tuesday, the “real opposition” in Kerala – the Congress – took the plunge to “stand by the devotee in both word and deed”. A delegation of Congress MLAs led by Leader of Opposition in Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala and former Chief Minister Oomen Chandy waded into the deserted “Nilackal Base Camp’ and violated Section 144 imposed in Sabarimala and adjacent areas, the first time in any religious place in the country.
Section 144 is also reason cited by the police why devotees cannot chant “namajapa” in the temple sannidhanam. Sunday night, 69 devotees were arrested for the “crime”; Monday night a group of 25 devotees chanting “Sharanam Ayyappa’ were herded next to a urinal and told to do their “Sharanam-chanting” from there, which they refused. On both nights, the police officer enforcing Section 144 happened to be the same – Special Police Officer Prateesh Kumar, IPS.
And both times, such action gave vested interests the excuse to take forward their alleged communal agenda. Tuesday, even as the Congress delegation headed to Nilackal to violate Section 144, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan charged the BJP with attempting to “capture Sabarimala”. Besides, according to him, the Section 144 in Sabarimala was different from the Section 144 in the Criminal Procedure Code. Section 144 imposed in Sabarimala did not apply to 4 or 7 people congregating, he said. “Outside Sabarimala”, the police will count!
The police also gave the Congress the benefit of doubt. Where BJP general secretary K Surendran was pushed and propelled roughly into a police jeep, Chennithala and his entourage were given permission to “travel by the KSRTC bus” to Pamba en route to Sabarimala. This “different stroke” was promptly picked up by the “RSS TV Channel” as clear proof of how the Hindu is treated differently by an atheist government. The different approaches used by DCP Yatish Chandra, IPS, in dealing with Hindutva leader K Sasikala and Chennithala was pointed out for the viewer as indication to decide.
By refusing to give any respite from Section 144 to ordinary devotees in the temple complex and persisting with their control of KSRTC bus services from Nilackal to Pamba, the police were violating the Kerala High Court order to “keep to the barracks.” Neither SPO Prateesh Kumar nor DCP Yatish Chandra were in any way bothered. They appeared to have Pinarayi Vijayan’s total backing even as the Kerala Chief Minister swore it was his government’s duty to follow through with the Supreme Court’s September 28 judgment on “yuvati entry” in Sabarimala.
Tuesday, Pinarayi pointed out that Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh was with him on the top court’s judgment and Union Minister for Tourism K Alphonse should take a cue from Rajnath Singh before judging the state of toilets in Sabarimala, which by all accounts were creating a stench far beyond the limits of Pathanamthita district. The Congress refused to be clubbed with the BJP and RSS protestors and warned Pinarayi not to make the mistake of clubbing Ayyappa devotees with “BJP and RSS troublemakers”.
And doing a Pinarayi on Pinarayi, the Congress charged the Pinarayi government with working hard to hand over the opposition space to the BJP, first with “yuvati praveshnam” and then, now, with the “canard of terrorist infiltration”, a contention that was the biggest lie told on a fine sunny day. “The money collected in the name of developing Pamba, where has it all gone?” a Congress MLA asked. “All the crores that poured in as flood relief.”
The bottom-line is the chaos theory – played out in Delhi, CBI, CVC, RBI, Punjab, Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and where have-you-not – propounded and practiced by the Bharatiya Janata Party is more pronounced in Kerala because it has found favour with the LDF. BJP President Amit Shah categorized Sabarimala as a ‘Gulag to heap insult and atrocity' on Ayyappa devotees, his choice of communist lexicon not missed. Sad, though, is the fact that, in all the chaos and confusion, the chance to register a Guinness Record was overlooked, that of “17 hours non-stop namajapa chanting”, a feat unseen and unheard in all of human history, courtesy darling of rights activists Trupti Desai. (IPA)

Sunday, 2 December, 2018