Another macabre killing of an innocent youth in Kerala has erased even the vestigial credibility of the chief minister and the police department that he handles. The body of 23-year-old Kevin Joseph was fished out from a stream on Monday morning, some 36 hours after his abductors took him from his home in Kottayam. In the meantime, his 20-year-old wife and his father had made an unsuccessful attempt to get the help of the police. But they did not get any help, and a man was eventually brutally murdered.
Kevin's was a (dis)honour killing. He was murdered less than a week after he married 21-year-old Neenu Chacko after a three-year courtship. The girl's family engaged contract killers, popularly known as 'quotation gangs', to eliminate him after they failed to retrieve the girl through a mediation attempt at the police station the previous day. The murder just didn't happen as a blot from the blue. It was in the making. The police did know the vicissitudes of the case. They are no less than suspected collaborators in this case.
After Kevin and Neenu secretly married, the financially strong family of the bride tried to forcefully take her away. When that failed, the matter reached Gandhinagar police station in Kottayam, where the sub-inspector summoned both the families. The girl insisted on going with the bridegroom. This had happened on Friday. The police full well knew what was happening. Then on Saturday, the gang made another ominous visit to the locality where Kevin and family lived. They retreated only after the local residents Intervened, local reports said.
The cine-style kidnap happened later at that night. The heavily armed gang arrived around midnight in three vehicles and broke into the house where Kevin was staying for the night. Sensing danger, he had by then moved his young wife to a ladies' hostel. According to a Times of India report, the gang broke the back door open, ransacked the place and took Kevin and his cousin.
As day broke, Kevin's wife Neenu rushed to the police station to report the kidnapping. So did the father of the young man. The callous police refused to even carry out preliminary investigations. They rebuffed the girl, saying that the Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, was participating in some events in the district. They reportedly said they would look into the matter after the CM leaves.
The young girl, who was dying to save her new husband and long-time lover from the hands of her brother and the mercenaries he had roped in, staged a sit-in at the station. Still the police establishment in the state didn't move. She pleaded with them to save the life of Kevin. Finally, the body of the young man was found in the Chaliyakkara canal near Thenmala in south Kerala a day later.
This is not an ordinary crime. The utterly despicable incident was in the making. And the police were in the front row galleries. The youth's family has accused the police of taking money from the girl's family. The police led by Pinarayi Vijayan has ordered an inquiry and suspended the police officer -- as always, after the fact.
For a long time, the police of Pinarayi Vijaan have been on the front-row, witnessing murders and other gruesome crimes. On many occasions they been accomplices as well, the latest being the brutal custody killing of Sreejith in Kochi. Sreejith was innocent. Yet he was picked up and beaten and kicked to death as the police wanted to please the local CPI-M leadership that wanted swift action in a case.
Kevin's was a life that could have been saved. But police in Kerala have long traded their soul away. They seem to have forgotten the call of duty even as they display inane loyalty to the ruling party, cede ground to the goons and watch from the sidewalk as political killings happen with impunity.
Each time the police utterly fails in their duty, a media and public uproar forces the CM to admit 'lapses.' For him everything is a slip-up. He doesn't seem to be bothered about these serial slips in a key ministry that he himself handles. This ministry is showing it is impervious to the pressures of accountability to the people. Perhaps in that trait it merely reflects the attitude of the CM. If the CM and his police department are not accountable to the people of the state, he should resign. At least he should entrust someone else in the ministry to handle the crucial home portfolio.
Ever since Pinarayi Vijayan came to power in 2016, there have been more than two dozen political killings in the state. Most of these happened in his home district of Kannur. Most of these killings were carried out by mercenaries and goons. In some cases the CPI-M cadres were able to carry out counter killings within an hour of the BJP attack on their cadres, with the support of the contract killers.
It looks like the Kerala government is not doing anything to stop the rampant rise in contract killings. Kevin is the latest to pay the price of the government's inability to rein in contract killers and make the police force responsive to the call of safeguarding the lives of the people. While the police criminally neglected the tearful plea of the young woman to save her husband, his killers were gouging out his eyes. Shockingly, the local media reported that the police officers were in touch with the gang members over the phone on Sunday.
The CM has now ordered an inquiry and transferred the police superintendent in the state. But he and his posse of advisers have not found a way to clean up the police establishment. What happened on Sunday is not merely a gory crime. It displays the rot in the system. If Pinarayi Vijayan can't fix the policing failures in the state he should rather quit.
(The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own)