Police fuelling Systemic Communalism in Kerala?

Allegations of communal bias in response to and treatment of cases involving Muslims

Kerala Police
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In a recent and unusual stride, the Kerala Police have drawn fierce criticism for their prejudice against the Muslims. Kanhangad Police in Kasargod district had issued a notice to all mosque committees under its sub-division asking them to check the criminal background of their employees before appointing them in madrassas and other religious institutions.

The notice was issued in the context of the alleged sexual abuse of a 16-year-old girl by her father, a madrassa teacher at Kottappuram, Neeleshwaram. The notice was issued to police sub-divisions of Bakel, Kanhangad, Rajapuram, Cheemeni, Neeleshwaram, Chandera and Vellarikkund. The notice demands the mosque committee to appoint the teachers and other employees in their institutions only after verifying their criminal backgrounds. It further asks to report to the Police if any employees are involved in any criminal activities. The Kanhangad DSP MP Vinod said that the accused already has criminal cases registered against him and the notice was issued only in a precautious sense. The notice was withdrawn after severe criticism from the civil society.

Prejudice and bias of the Police have alleged before, but it is for the first time in Kerala; a notice is issued by the Police stereotyping and discriminating against an entire community. Sexual abuse cases involving religious persons (from different communities) have taken place in Kerala previously. The cases of Robin Vadakkumcherry, the former priest convicted of raping a minor girl and allegedly pressured the family to take the case back and Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal who have allegedly raped a nun are few among them. However, no stereotyping took place in the ‘other’ cases; at the time, the Police are accused of mishandling of sexual abuse cases in many instances. The Palathay minor rape case involving Padmarajan, a local BJP leader and a school teacher who stands accused of sexually abusing a class four student in a school in Palathayi, Thalassery, Kannur being one of such instances.

In a different incident, in Kuttiady, Kozhikode on July 31, the Police have allegedly assaulted the Narayankadu Juma Masjid executives, Imam Sulaiman Musliar and a staff Shareef inside the mosque accusing them of violating lockdown restrictions. The mosque executives alleged that they went to the mosque to post a notice informing the people that there would not be Eid prayers as the locality has been declared a containment zone. The imam also alleged that the Police insulted him. However, Kuttiady C. I, P. Vinod denied the allegations, and he said that the news that he had beaten the staff and the imam was false. He also stated that he received information about people engaging in prayers in the mosque despite the Covid-19 restrictions and cases have been registered against eight people present there.  

These prejudicial instances are pointing towards a systematic alienation and targeting of Muslim identities in a different dimension. Muslim persons have been facing discrimination nationwide during the lockdown due to a pervieved association with Tablighi Jamaat. To target an identity, systemically is a severe offence, especially at times when religious hatred and violence are predominantly attacking the secular-democratic nature of the nation. A culprit belonging to a particular identity does not mean an entire community is offenders; particularly when ‘specific communities and identities’ are being targeted.  The police action has only contributed to the escalation of prejudice and hatred towards Muslims in an already hatred ridden society, further normalising the discriminations. Targeting of Muslim identities by the Police are fundamentally challenging the fairness of the state and seeding fear in the minds of minorities.

Systemic bias and prejudice are derived from hatred, and it needs to be understood with the Indian society’s history of communalism. Essentially, hate is subjected within the individual bodies, with serious efforts, it can be transferred into institutions. To disseminate hatred individually and institutionally are far different. Both instances should be treated in their respective gravity. Therefore, the involvement of civilians in the perpetuation of hate and discrimination must be distinguished from a police officer or Police as an institution perpetuating it. Both the offences end in generating the same ‘results’ however, different ‘effects’.

No actions have taken against the police officers involved in the controversial notice; the same is with the Kuttiady incident. Most of all, the matter was not brought into the discourse except by a few media organisations. The government, nor the Police department have so far made any comments, which undermines the issue. To maintain an offence as a taboo will not do any good to the society, on the other hand, it will only escalate the socio-political inequalities prevailing in a society.

Indoctrination of communalism by the state forces must be analysed in the milieu of rising Hindutwa forces. The fundamentalist Hindutva ideology, which is challenging to the traditional Hinduism, is empowered with their roots in the state apparatuses. The semi-feudal social system of India has been accommodating to the penetration of Hindutwa forces. The deep-rooted hatred towards Muslims and Dalits along with ethno-religious centric hyper-nationalism constitutes the foundation of Hindutva.

As for now, it has succeeded in domesticating various state apparatuses for its murky agendas. The alleged involvement of Delhi police during the recent CAA protests, Delhi pogrom and in the further investigations are standard examples for this. Furthermore, atrocities against Dalits by the state Polices has also been on the rise, the Police brutalities against a Dalit couple in Guna, Madhya Pradesh is a recent case.  The sooner the institutional influences of the Hindutva are addressed, the better it will convey justice.

The communal bias of law enforcement agencies has always been an issue in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, New Delhi, and other Right-wing dominated states. The orientation of Kerala Police towards the same path is worrisome. The partiality of Kerala Police has been in question previously, when Alan and Thala, two Muslim students were arrested on the grounds of UAPA charges in November 2019. To perpetuate discrimination against any community is contrary to the constitution of India. When the offenders are from the law enforcement bodies who are supposed to be impartial, the problem becomes stern. As long as the issue is taken seriously and appropriate means are adopted to prevent further communal attitudes and behaviours from the Police, it will be a burden to the secular fabric of the nation. The matter shall be addressed fairly, and the constitutional offenders must be brought into justice.



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