Kerala is in the national limelight for its glaring policing failures. The 100 percent literate state, which also leads in all social indicators, shames the badlands of north India when it comes to law and order. With the murder of 23-year-old Kevin Joseph by contact killers on Sunday, the last remaining fig leaf covering Pinarayi Vijayan's police has come off. The district police knew about the abduction but did nothing to stop a certain escalation.
The unbelievable is happening in Kerala. Here's a look at the timeline of the horrific events that shows how swift police action could have saved a life.
2 Am, Sunday morning: The Dalit youth is kidnapped from his home in Kottayam.
3 Am: The neighbours alert Gandhinagar police about the incident. Local reports said they gave the police hints about the cars in which the armed gangs arrived, including vehicle type and registration numbers. The locals had seen the suspect gang hovering around the area the previous evening.
-- No action is taken by the police. The phone number of the gang leader was available with the police. They could have tracked it and alerted other police stations.
6 am: The father of the kidnapped youth arrives at the police station, but the police refuse to register a case or start investigation. The local police is fully aware of the threat to the lives of the newly-wed Kevin and Neenu. The girl's family had tried to forcibly take her away at the same police station on Friday.
11 am; Kevin's wife, 21-year-old Neenu Chacko, comes to the police station and demands they start investigation. She tells the police that she fears Kevin would be killed. She tells them her brother and the gangs had abducted Kevin.
-- The police response is that they are busy as the chief minister was visiting the city. The girl, who had married Kevin just a day earlier defying threats from her own family, stages a sit-in at the station. Yet the police don't move.
5pm. The police take up the case after Neenu's protest at the station goes viral on visual media. By then, conveniently, the Chief minister's function in the city is over as well.
-- Even at this stage, the police sub-inspector chooses to speak on phone with the abductors. The local media categorically says there was unholy nexus between the criminal gangs and the police. At least two members of the criminal gang were members of DYFI, the youth wing of the ruling party. It's also reported that the sub-inspector whose dereliction of duty resulted in the death of an inn cement young man, was handpicked by the ruling party's secretary in the district.
Kevin's mutilated body is fished out from a river 100 km away from where he was taken. The Chaliyekara river in Thenmala is near the home of the Sanu Chacko, the chief suspect in the crime. While the police wasted precious time taking care of the CM's security, a young man was killed.
-- Facing media backlash, CM Vijayan says that the Gandhinagar sub-inspector was not part of his security detail. But that was a lie. Leading newspaper Malayala Manorama reports that the sub-inspector was present at the CM's function throughout the event. A police circular had categorically said he was part of the security retinue.
Party rule, no rule of law?
This sort of disastrous police failings are the result of a culture of abject sycophancy and callousness. The police is not answerable to the people, but only to the chief minister. And no wonder if someone suspects if Kerala's Marxist chief minister is worse than the feudal lords his party fought several decades back. The CM's trademark policy is contempt for everyone -- media, opposition, rivals within the party and social and cultural leader who are not his lackeys.
Under his rule, help is imminent for the erring police officers. The custody death of Sreejith in Kochi shocked Kerala's conscience, but police action was slow and incomplete. The police had acted in undue haste to please the ruling party's local leaders, resulting in the death of an innocent young man in police custody. So Pinarayi Vijayan's police would invariably protect the guilty.
In the Kevin case, a DYFI leader was arrested eventually on Monday, after a new police team was formed to carry out the investigation. This clearly established the reasons behind police inaction. It doesn't bode well when the police in a state is only trying to please their political masters. Pinarayi Vijayan has somehow managed to totally wreck the policing system in the state. The lowest-level party leaders now rule the police.
Vijayan is the elected leader. His primary responsibility is to the people of the state, not to the party cadres. The string of incidents in the state shows that he has abdicated that responsibility. It's laughable that he covers up his utter failures with a broad grin and impudent language. Can he now hand over the home ministry to someone else in the cabinet, please?