June 25, 2005

Lest We Forget

Today is the 30th anniversary of the declaration of emergency in India. It is not a happy occasion but rather a poignant one; to remember how close we came to becoming another tin pot third world dictatorship.

However, i am not going to talk about emergency here; its been talked about and dissected a lot. I would rather talk about "Rajan case", the infamous police custody murder which happened in kerala during emergency period and the tragical farce it has become today.

For those who dont know the story: Rajan was a student of REC Calicut during the emergency period. In the 1970's the Naxalite movement had become very strong in north kerala. Almost any idealistic, young man/woman in those days were attracted to that ideology. College hostels were probably full of sympathizers to the "cause". It is generally accepted that Rajan was not in the movement but likely was a sympathizer but so were thousands of others. However, what allegedly bought him to the attention of police was a play which he acted/directed (i am not sure about the specifics) during a college festival which made fun of a minister in the kerala cabinet.

After he was tortured, murdered and burned (allegedly) in the kakkyam police camp, the government and the police steadfastly maintained that he was never even taken into custody. Prof Eachara Warrior, Rajan's father, could not even approach the courts during emergency as "habeus corpus" was suspended. After emergency was lifted, he filed a case against the government which ultimately led to a judgement by the high court against the government. karunakaran who was the home minister at the time of the murder (and chief minister when the judgement came out) had to resign. Jayaram Padikkal IPS,the man in charge of the camp and Pulikkodan Narayanan, the SI who tortured and killed Rajan were prosecuted but never rally paid for their crimes. Rajan's mother, who was mentally ill, was never told about his murder. She lived for more than 25 years in the fond hope that her only son will one day return.

Even today, exactly what happened to Rajan is a mystery. Was he burned with sugar (to ensure that not even burns will be left behind) or dumped in a dam? Will the perpetrators ever confess? I hope some one will tell the true story like the retired constable who confessed to the killing of Vargheese so that the old man will gain some peace of mind in the twilight of his life.

I once had the privilege of hearing Prof Eachara Warrior speak about his experience. A humble man, he spoke simply but movingly about his futile attempts to get his boy back. As he spoke, I tried to imagine his sufferings but failed miserably. He has written a small book on his experience. English version of the book can be found here

The incident should remind us of the excesses that a supremely powerful government can commit if the "checks and balances" are removed. During emergency, trains ran on time, governent service was efficient, civil servants were afraid to strike but personal liberty, "due proces" and fundamental human rights were trampled upon. In the quest for achieving the former nobody should have to give up the latter.

Finally, politics is again showing how farcial life is. Karunakaran has left the congrss fold and is open to joining hands with "non communal" forces. CPM, which once provided financial help to Prof Eachara Warrior during the legal proceedings and was at the forefront of the agitation against karunakaran, is obviously the "non communal" force. They are likely to welcome karunakarn to LDF fold sooner or later. All those post-emergency strikes against Karunakaran will likely be forgotten. SFI, the students wing of CPM, will follow suit.

To add insult to injury, one of my old SFI colleagues (yes i had communist leanings for a while before better sense prevailed!) still has the signature "Porattangal Nilakkunnilla" (the fight never stops) in his email while blissfully justifying the party position in every issue

this world is f***ed up!



silverine said...

I've heard about the Rajan case and heard numerous discussions too about his death. And its touching that people still remember him. Hope someone will confess and provide the much needed closure for his parents.

Till we have a strong and vibrant human rights movement the police and their political masters will continue to misuse their powers.

Praveen said...

I have heard a lot about the Rajan case and the traumatic times for his parents. I hope that the mystrey surrounding his death is solved just for his parents sake.

Jiby said...

Thank You so much for this post. Reading Prof.Eachara Warrier's book made me cry but also made me wonder wht each of us do to preserve our democracy. Prof.Warrier is a national hero...despite old age and suffering it is men like him who fight for our freedoms and keep our haughty rulers in check.

Jithu said...

dont know how many of such stories happened during the emergency period. some came out some never came out..
thnx for that link to Prof. Warriers book...

flaashgordon said...


Remembered once again Piravi whch had the Rajan case as its background plot... with Premji as Prof Eachara Warrior if i remmbr right..a long forgotten chapter in Kerala History.

Forgotten?? well not quite ! The communists have utilized Rajan over and over again for their own selfish motives.

Disgustingly so !

Every college magazine by an SFI committee will hav a page to Rajan for a so called "tribute" Whenver required they'll just resurrect the "rakthasakhi" to their convenience

Thank god better sense prevailed on u ; my dear ex-sakhaav. All those other kutti sakhaavs who incited people to get out of the classrooms and strike; are happily in some MNC, Gulf or in some Capitalist Bourgeois country they shouted slogans against once.The sufferers probably are still paying for lost time..

Lesser said of Karunakaran the better.But worse is LDF attitude. Enemy's enemy is a friend , right??Class enemy, Kalla karunakaran??No , he's a valuable ally!!

Political parties in Kerala will be happiest if they can have this endless source of unemployed youths who can wage street battles wth the police... Any ventures which generate employment are hence scuttled! The state is caught in that time warp ideologically and hence industrially & developmentwise too!!


(My friend Silverine introduced me to ur blog; been following it for sometime. Liked the articles on Hamilton Naki and the "Priestly" Bachelor's Party

My not so serious blog's link is below..)

vishal sah said...

Read in V S Naipaul's book - India a Wounded civilization. Greatest tragedy of the naxalite movement that India's best talent was lost in it

Neil Padayatty said...

The SFI sure did make lots of use of the Rajan case. Another case, which they have abused a lot is the case of Simon Britto of Ernakulam Maharaja's.

Anonymous said...

I happend to read Prof Eharara Warriers book.This is a tragedy.I am surprised such things happen even in so called gods own country.Shame on our judiciary.

Anonymous said...

Too pathetic that karunakaran such a criminal won many times in electionals after this incidents.Wether people in kerala are really educated i wonder??
These types of criminals should be kicked out of the politics.

Anonymous said...

I read the PDF version of the book. It helps in revealing the darker sides of so called clean politicians like Mr.Achutha Menon and Mr A.K.Antony to the younger generation. Now the CPI secretary Mr.Veliyam Bharghavan is busy trying to justify the stands of Achutha Menon. But atleast he didn't want Mr.Karunakaran to be part of the LDF while CPM leadership (the lesser communists like Pinarayi) wanted Karunakaran to be part of the LDF.

ysidique said...

Thr are still many countries in the world ( and will continues to have) that torture and kill their citizens for political reasons. They give various justifications for this like national security etc. Whe I was young I did not understand Rajan kola Case very much. Now I feel proud of my fellow malayalees who kept the issue alive and brought prosecution to the guilty so that some thing like this never happen in the state of Kerala again. It also means that the the future generations also should have the courage to face oppression and government brutality and ensure that the rule of law is supreme and should apply to everyone irrespective of the rank. In this context it is also important to mention two aspect of justice 1. the punishment should fit the crime and 2. timelines- as justice delayed is justice denied .

Anonymous said...

Screw this dirty old bastard Karunakaran, may he rot in hell!

Anonymous said...

All those who committed these crimes will rot in hell once they reach their maker and the worst of the lot karunakaran would have faced the hottest of hell fires by now. He will remain eternally cursed by the innocent tears shed by Rajans father and mother . Of that I have no doubt .

Nebu said...

Emergency was indeed welcomed by ordinary citizens in some parts of the country, In the subsequent Lok Sabha elections of 1977, Cong and its allies won 41 out of 42 in AP., 26 out of 28 in karnataka, 34 out of 39 in TN and 19 out of 20 in Kerala. That is 119 seats out of 128 in South India, a thumping endorsement for life in mergency. In retrospect, and to take a contrarian view, JP's call to the armed forces and state constabulary not to obey the govt orders was an extreme one. The physical horrors of forced sterilisations and statism was evident in the north while in the south, Rajan case excepted, the outcome of emergency was discipline, efficient and responsive governance and not surpisingly, the people welcomed it.