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!