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T V R Shenoy: What more could Antony have done?
More than three years after one of the worst communal riots at Marad village in Kozhikode, north Kerala [Images], a judicial report has damned political parties for precipitating a minor incident into a major communal issue.
Nine people were killed and several others injured when a group of some 50 people armed with swords, knives and other lethal weapons like country-made bombs pounced on the fishing village of Marad on the night of May 2, 2003.
Eight of those killed were Hindus.
Bharatiya Janata Party leaders then alleged that Muslim political parties in the region were behind the massacre.
The police recovered explosives and arms from the local Jama Masjid two days after the killings. A special investigation team of the Kerala Crime Branch filed chargesheets against 147 people accused of involvement or complicity in the crime.
Then Kerala Chief Minister A K Antony ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident. The inquiry was headed by Justice Thomas P Joseph and his report was tabled in the Kerala assembly on Wednesday, September 27.
The Justice Joseph Commission recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the conspiracy involving fundamentalist forces and terrorists in the massacre. The Communist Party of India-Marxist government headed by Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan has requested the central government's permission to order a CBI probe.
Most Kerala political parties have welcomed the CBI probe. But not many of them would perhaps like to read through the report that damns political parties.
The report is particularly critical of the Indian Union of Muslim League, a coalition partner of the Congress-led United Democratic Front government that ruled the state in 2003. It says some IUML leaders were aware of the conspiracy behind the massacre.
It says activists of the National Development Front -- a Muslim organisation with a base in Malappuram -- and some IUML activists were actively involved in the planning and execution of the massacre at Marad beach. 'It was unlikely that the attack did not have the blessings of their leadership at least at the local level,' says the report.
The IUML is not the only party that the Marad Judicial Commission report indicts.
It says a minor incident -- an altercation between fishermen -- in communally-sensitive Marad in 2001 was the beginning of a larger social problem, and the subsequent communal killings.
The 2001 altercation was then settled by local elders. But local leaders of the CPI-M, IUML, BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh got involved with the issue which led to a communal riot in 2002 that claimed five lives in Marad.
Local politicians used the 2002 riot to create a further divide between Hindus and Muslims in the area. And the police who operate under strict instructions from local politicians kept quiet, the report says.
The wedge between the Hindu and Muslims led to the communal killings in May 2003, which claimed nine lives.
'The communal division that existed in Marad beach coupled with the divisive activities of Muslim fundamentalists and other forces contributed to the 2003 violence,' the report states.
It has particularly flayed the A K Antony government for not ordering a CBI probe into the incident and found serious lapses on the part of the civil and police administration in Kozhikode during the period.
Marxist leaders have claimed that the Antony government did not order the CBI probe because IUML leaders were indirectly involved in the massacre.
But Congress leaders reject the argument. "Our government did not order a CBI probe because we ordered a judicial probe. Now that the judicial report has recommended a CBI enquiry, it should be done," Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala told rediff.com
He said the Marad massacre has exposed the BJP and the CPI-M. "Both parties have been creating a dangerous communal situation in north Kerala all these years. I hope they learn from this report, work for the people and not create communal flare-ups," he added.
Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan says the CBI should not only arrest the culprits, but also inquire into aspects like the possible involvement of terrorists, the dimensions of the conspiracy and mobilisation of explosives in a fishing village like Marad.
The state government has sought explanations from four officials who have been criticised by the Marad Commission -- then District Collector T O Suraj, Kozhikode Police Commissioner Sanjivkumar Patjoshi, Assistant Commissioner of Police M Abdul Rahim and Inspector General of Police Mahesh Kumar Singla.
"The Commissin report and CBI probe will be of no use if politicians here continue to instigate the people on communal lines," says social activist G S Raghavan who heads the Social Harmony Forum in Kozhikode.
"The Marad incident has exposed how politicians can create communal killings," Raghavan told rediff.com "The tragedy is that they do not learn from such tragedies, and the people continue to suffer."
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