Read Islam in Action in Marad:
RAJEEV PI, Indian Express
Posted online: Wednesday, April 26, 2006 at 0000 hrs IST
KOCHI, APRIL 25
The judicial commission probing Kerala’s worst communal massacre in Marad in 2003 has severely indicted almost every arm of the Congress-led United Democratic Front Government: politicians, police officers and top bureaucrats.
It has also found that the massacre was a planned conspiracy involving extremist organizations, including those funded from abroad, organisations, it said, successive state governments have used to cultivate “vote banks.”
And that at least one senior politician belonging to the Muslim League, part of the ruling Congress-led front, had advance knowledge of the conspiracy.
The report of the commission, set up in 2004 and headed by District Judge Thomas P Joseph, has been kept under wraps by the state government which received it two months ago. It has been accessed by The Indian Express.
The report asks the state government—which declined to allow a CBI probe—to hand over the investigation to a special investigation team. Its reason: the state police not only botched up investigation, it planted false leads and avoided looking at the wider conspiracy.
Marad, a sleepy fishing village off Kozhikode, hit headlines on January 3, 2002 when Hindu and Muslim extremist elements were quick to hijack what began as a trivial altercation over drinking water at the public tap.
A couple of Hindus and three Muslims lay dead the morning after.
This was the first communal eruption in this village of 275 Hindu and 191 Muslim families. The police did round up a few men, almost all were found to belong to mainstream political groups, Congress, CPI(M), BJP and the Muslim League. Police later found several had a dual identity as members of a rash of extremist outfits.
No chargesheet was filed for a year and a half— until after Marad erupted again, much more violently, at sunset on May 2, 2003. Armed men chopped and hacked eight Hindu fishermen to death on the beach. One assailant was reportedly hacked by mistake in the melee. The killers then escaped into the local Juma Masjid.
The commission’s report notes the submission of then Kozhikode Police Commissioner T K Vinod Kumar that hundreds of local Muslim women converged on the mosque to prevent the police from entering it to catch the killers.
While the police tried to reason with them, a nearly 300-strong armed Hindu mob gathered as well threatening to attack the cops if they didn’t catch the killers.
Driven to the wall, the cops opened fire after lathicharges and teargassing failed, injuring one man. Vinod Kumar’s deposition asserts that ‘‘the conspiracy was hatched in the Marad Juma Masjid and other places.’’
The cops later confiscated a huge cache of arms from this mosque, including explosives.
By then, the communal rift in Marad was total. The Sangh Parivar had driven away all Muslim families from the village, not allowing them to return and rapidly converting Marad into a saffron bastion.
So much so that even then chief minister A K Antony had to plead with the Sangh leadership to be allowed into Marad after the incident.
Local Muslim families, all 191 of them, had to live in exile in relief camps or with relatives elsewhere, for over a year. The Antony Government did not dare to help them get back to their homes.
The Muslim League, meanwhile, vehemently opposed demands to have the Marad massacre probed by the CBI. Though Antony said his Government would consider a ‘‘partial CBI probe,’’ the Government later submitted to the commission that it decided not to have a CBI probe since a partial probe was not ‘‘procedurally possible.’’
The commission, however, dismisses this Government view saying it would not stand legal scrutiny. Its report cites a Supreme Court order asserting that such a probe was indeed possible, and adds that the Government’s stubborn unwillingness to have the CBI look into the massacre was ‘‘mysterious’’.
But the commission’s documents are more revealing. One is the deposition of N P Rajendran, president of the Calicut Press Club, which the Government sought to help restore peace in Marad. Rajendran told the commission that Muslim League state secretary and then state Industries Minister P K Kunhalikutty had asked him while he was at the Chief Minister’s residence for the Marad meeting: “Where’s the guarantee that the CBI, if allowed to probe the incident, will not arrest me or Panakkad Syed Mohammed Ali Shihab Thangal (Muslim League supremo)?” The commission’s report also says a senior Muslim League leader knew about the conspiracy that later led to the killings.
Its other key findings:
• Coming in for strong indictment is then Kozhikode District Collector T O Sooraj, currently director of Industries. The commission has observed that allegations that the Collector was a communalist cannot be dismissed as untrue.
The Collector had taken custody of the mosque from where the police had seized lethal weapons. But, the commission noted, he allowed Muslim League leader E Ahmed, then an MP and now Minister of State for External Affairs, to enter the mosque and offer prayers, even as an explosive situation prevailed in the area.
• The commission dismissed as ‘‘untrue’’ the Collector’s deposition that intelligence officials had not alerted him about the possibility of violence.
• The commission has taken a serious note of the deposition of state DGP K J Joseph, that the then Assistant Commissioner of Police (Kozhikode) Abdul Rahim “failed to investigate and take prompt action in Marad.’’ The DGP deposed that Rahim not only ‘‘hid the truth from his superior officers’’ but also tried to establish that the key accused in the massacre on the beach on May 2, 2003 were not guilty.
• The report talks about the presence of extremist outfits with foreign links operating in Kerala, and slams the current and previous state Governments for their failure to take any effective action against these elements, being ‘‘interested only in the vote banks.’’
The commission has asserted that there was a much larger conspiracy than what the police crime branch has revealed in Marad, and it must be probed.
What happened in sleepy Marad
• On Jan 3, 2002 a couple of Hindus and 3 Muslims were killed after a trivial altercation over drinking water.
• No chargesheet filed for over a year
• On May 2, 2003, 8 Hindu fishermen hacked to death, killers escape into mosque
• All 191 Muslim families driven out of the village by Sangh Parivar
• Cong ally Muslim League opposed CBI probe, Govt agreed
• Then Kozhikode district collector T O Sooraj indicted for bias in favour of Muslim League
• The commission dismissed as ‘‘untrue’’ Sooraj’s deposition that he had no intelligence alert
• State DGP said ACP “hid truth” from superior officers.
• The report talks about the presence of extremist outfits with foreign links operating in Kerala