Twice in the past four years, first in 2002 and then again in 2003, violent clashes in Marad, a coastal town off Kozhikode in north Kerala, not only took a toll on lives but deepened communal polarisation. On January 3, 2002, communal clashes between Hindu and Muslim extremists started in the afternoon and by the next morning there were five dead and several injured (‘Massacre in Marad’, Communalism Combat, May 2003 and ‘People as Pawns’, Communalism Combat, November 2003). Two of those killed were Hindus while three were Muslims.
On May 2, 2003, a calculated one-sided attack by Muslim extremists who came armed with lethal weapons left nine dead and scores of severely injured men and women on Marad beach. Eight of those killed in cold blood were Hindus.
On the night of the attack, police arrested more than 50 people involved in the crime, some of whom were hiding in the local Juma Masjid after the carnage. A large number of weapons and explosives were also found at the mosque soon after the killings.
Fearing reprisals after the Muslim attack, more than 2,000 Muslim women and children fled Marad beach on May 3, 2003. They fled, leaving all their belongings at home, to take refuge at the three relief camps set up in the neighbouring areas of Chaliyam, Kappakkal and Payyankkal.
For six months, the AK Antony government in Kerala faced the critical problem of rehabilitation of these refugees as some Hindu organisations, who had taken control of Marad beach following the attack by Muslim extremists, resisted residents’ attempts to go back to their homes. The Hindu organisations, led by the VHP and locally spearheaded by the Araya Samajam, a caste organisation of Hindu fishermen, physically stopped all efforts at rehabilitation, demanding that the government order a CBI inquiry into the alleged larger conspiracy behind the attack.
Ultimately, the state government ordered a judicial inquiry into the communal violence in Marad after the CPI (M)-led opposition, supported by the Congress party faction led by veteran leader K. Karunakaran, raised the demand.
Now, more than three years later, the judicial report charges political parties with precipitating a minor incident into a major communal issue. Headed by Justice Thomas P. Joseph, the commission’s report was tabled in the Kerala assembly on September 27 this year but made public only recently. Communalism Combat has been able to access the report and is publishing the commission’s findings below.
While stating that there was not enough evidence to suggest any direct international involvement in the incident of May 2, 2003, the Joseph Commission recommends a multi-agency probe to investigate the larger conspiracy at work in the planning and execution of the massacre.
The report is particularly critical of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), a coalition partner of the Congress-led United Democratic Front government which ruled the state in 2003, holding that some IUML leaders were aware of the conspiracy behind the attack and that activists of the National Development Front (NDF), a local Muslim organisation, as well as some IUML activists were actively involved in its planning and execution.
However, the IUML is not the only party that the Marad commission report indicts. The report also accuses local leaders of the CPI (M), IUML, BJP and RSS of deliberately exploiting a minor altercation between locals in communally sensitive Marad in 2001 (which was amicably settled by local elders) to provoke the subsequent communal conflagration in 2002 that claimed five lives. Local politicians then used the 2002 riots to create a further divide between Hindus and Muslims in the area. The state government’s procrastination with regard to punishment of those accused in the 2002 riots only served to widen the communal gap. The increasing divide between Hindus and Muslims led to the attack on Marad beach in May 2003.
The report accuses the police of persistent inaction and failure to take effective steps to prevent the incident. Justice Joseph flays the then state government for refusing to order a CBI probe into the incident and points out serious lapses on the part of the Kozhikode civil and police administration during that period. Four senior officials