What had happened at Marad in Kozhikode district of Kerala on May 2nd? Rajeev Srinivasan, the Rediff columnist, termed it as “Second Moplah Rebellion”. The columnist – whom Rediff itself describes as one who “works in sales and marketing in software industry and spends time in US and India – quoted on May 9 the “reported” facts about Marad as:
1) A group of Hindu fishermen sitting on the beach near a temple is attacked suddenly, without provocation or warning, by a mob of Muslims armed with swords (and) after a chaotic ten minutes, nine people are dead; 2) A cache of swords and other sharp weapons, including blood-stained ones, as well as powerful country bombs is recovered from a mosque in the vicinity; 3) Various politicians make soothing noises, 66 persons have been arrested in connection with the crime. A judicial inquiry has been instituted; and 4) The dead are: Gopalan, Chandran, Santosh, Madhavan, Asghar, Dasan, Pushparaj, Krishnan, and Prajeesh. One of them had been married for just five days. Admitting that he based his analysis on reports in Malayalam media like Keralakaumudi.com, Srinivasan found the “local media to be far more accurate and less prejudiced than the English language media in most cases”.
He never said that “Kerala Kaumudi” is the new catch for Sangh Parivar propaganda in Kerala due to its management’s close ties with SNDP leader Vellappally Natesan’s new slogan of “Hindu Unity”. (Did not local Gujarati media like “Gujarat Samachar” and “Sandesh” present “accurate and unprejudiced” version on post-Godhra Gujarat pogroms than the English media!) Look at the way the orchestrated Sangh Parivar propaganda on Marad started from day one: One of the first VIP to reach Marad was Union Minister of State for Home, I. D. Swamy, within three days of the killings, on May 5. The announcement on the previous day came from the BJP State HQ quoting information received by them from Union Home Ministry in New Delhi. And, on his arrival, Swamy did not rule out the possibility of “Pak ISI” behind Marad. But, the disagreement came from the US based Rajeev Srinivasan to buttress his “Second Moplah Rebellion” theory:
“After all, the Moplahs of Malabar did not need any Pakistani inspiration when they launched into the terrible riots of 1921 (the Moplah Rebellion) when they, without provocation, murdered, raped, and forcibly converted thousands of Hindus, just because distant Turkey had abolished the Caliphate.” This was in tune with the well-orchestrated Sangh Parivar chorus unleashed on Marad both at national and state level: Seeking Central intervention, instituting a CBI probe, invoking of POTA, allegations of wiping out Hindus from Kerala’s coastal zone by “Pak-backed” Muslim terrorists a la Kashmir.
BJP Spokesperson Vijay Kumar Malhotra said in New Delhi that the Kerala Minister belonging to Muslim League, P. K. Kunjalikutty, had secured the release of PDP Chairperson Abdul Nazar Madani from Coimbatore jail after he was arrested on conspiracy charge in Coimbatore serial bomb blast of 1998 to kill L. K. Advani. Malhotra ate humble pie since both PDP and Muslim League are not only at loggerheads in Kerala politics, but Madani still remains in Coimbatore jail for more than five years now – without conviction and without bail or parole. It was the turn of Union Minister of State for Defence, O. Rajagopal, to come to Kerala and declare Kunjalikutty’s “hand” behind Marad. It met with stout opposition from all quarters. Even Chief minister AK Antony suggested he give his evidence to the investigating agencies. Rajagopal quickly retracted saying that what he said was what he “only heard” from several quarters. Since it crossed the parameters of a federal system of governance, Rajagopal talked with AK Antony at New Delhi and telephoned to Kunjalikutty “explaining” what he said. Even thereafter, Rajagopal demanded that a CBI probe was appropriate, instead of the judicial inquiry and Crime Branch probe already ordered by the State Government, because of the alleged involvement of a State Minister in the Marad carnage.
Rajagopal — who never won an election but faced repeated electoral defeats in Kerala, and became Central Minister by virtue of winning a Rajya Sabha seat from Madhya Pradesh – misused his position as a Central Minister on earlier occasions, too. On December 30, 1999, the penultimate day of Indian Airlines hijacking to Kandahar, when then Foreign Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh was flying to Kandahar, Rajagopal was addressing a press meet at Alappuzha Press Club to “reveal” that the Kandahar hijackers had demanded Abdul Nazar Madani’s release from Coimbatore prison in lieu of the aircraft and the hostages. He was rebuked by Jaswant Singh himself who said the next day that the hijackers’ list contained no prisoner outside Kashmir. Rajagopal never expressed regret, leave alone giving an apology.
When the Sangh Parivar scheme of holding a saffron conclave at Changanassery NSS College, with Rajagopal as Chief Guest, was thwarted by the College management recently, the Union Minister dragged the name of Prime Minister’s office saying that the PMO was inquiring into it. The PMO kept silent over the issue apparently because they have more serious topics to handle than a college issue within a Municipality in Kerala. Here, too, Rajagopal never expressed regret nor retracted the statement. Spending more in Kerala than in Delhi, the latest from Rajagopal on Marad was his apprehension of threat perceptions in Kerala coastal area where, as Defence Minister, he wants to establish a chain of Coast Guard units including one at Marad! However, the Kerala Industries Ministry (controlled by the same Kunjalikutty) had raised objections to it, Rajagopal complained after Marad.
In January 2002 Marad witnessed a sudden bout of communal violence, arson and looting in which 5 persons (three Muslims and two Hindus) were killed. “What was the objective this time”, asks Rajeev Srinivasan before quickly presenting the world his answer: “Possibly to create a communal riot along the lines of what happened in Gujarat in the wake of the Godhra massacre. Perhaps to emphasise that in Muslim-dominated Malabar, as in Bangladesh and Kashmir, it is just fine to murder Hindus. The perpetrators — whoever they are — are confident that there will be no consequences.” Also, he throws a question: “What is likely to happen?”, and presents his prediction : “Frightened Hindus will move some place safer, and one more piece of real estate will become dar-ul Islam, land of Muslims. This has been happening in other parts of Malabar, for example Muslim-majority Malappuram district, where Hindus are leaving for less dangerous places. Yes, the famed Nehruvian Stalinist ‘secularism’ in action, yet again.” Amidst this Sangh Parivar orchestrated campaign, none noticed a few precious notes.
The very next day of the Marad killings, Director General of Police KJ Joseph said that the “violence were not a riot but murder, pure and simple, with a communal background”. Although this statement came under sharp criticism of many, it proved correct later when it was identified that the kith and kin of the Muslims killed at Marad in January 2002 were the kingpins behind Marad 2003. And, those who got killed now at Marad were the killers of January 2002 and belonging to the Sangh Parivar. This is especially true with Pushparaj, the local RSS leader, who was accused in the murder of Aboobecker in January 2002. Incidentally, Aboobecker was killed when he was digging the grave at the local Mosque to bury the two Muslims who were killed on the previous day. According to police, his son and brother, working in Gulf, came back recently to mastermind the present revenge killing. Both of them, as main accused, apart from seven others, were promptly arrested on May 19.
Marad can never be equated with Gujarat. For, no Muslim body or individual openly acclaimed it with Newton’s “reaction to action” theory, as was simultaneously justified by Narendra Modi and O. Rajagopal on March 2, 2002, amidst the ongoing Gujarat carnage. On the other hand, all Muslim bodies in Kerala stoutly condemned the Marad 2003 killings. The same night, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) state president Panakkad Muhammedali Shihab Thangal urged members of all communities to strive to regain peace and harmony in Marad. “Like the children of one mother, we all should come out to end this brutality,” he said. Terming the violence as cruel and diabolic, Thangal observed that no religion can justify a massacre of this magnitude. “All those who are left with an iota of conscience should isolate the miscreants behind this. We had erased the bloodstains of last year’s violence in Marad. It is really crookedness to take back the village to those days of hatred,” he said. And, despite this, Union Minister Rajagopal, and the whole Sangh Parivar, still hammers for CBI probe into IUML Minister Kunjalikutty’s hand behind Marad! Rajeev Srinivasan’s fond prediction also failed to materialize.
In fact, instead of a Hindu exodus after the “second Moplah rebellion” from Marad, what happened was the Muslim exodus within hours of the May 2 killing. All the 500-odd Muslim families of Marad moved away. The Muslim-free Marad is now an “RSS liberated zone”. And, Gujarat was repeated in the form of arson and looting on the emptied Muslim houses. Incidentally, all those arms recovery started only after the Muslims fled Marad. “Deshabhimani”, the CPI-M daily organ, reported that the police were seizing arms from places pointed out by RSS cadres. CPM State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said on May 15 “The RSS had taken over the control of Marad. The police force was dancing to the tune of the RSS by not protecting the Muslim population that had deserted the area. The Muslims in Marad remain as refugees in their homeland and these innocents are paying the price for the misdeeds of a handful of fundamentalist elements.
The deserted Muslim houses are being looted with the tacit approval of the police. The police were searching for weapons only in the houses pointed out by the RSS.” When Vijayan and other CPM leaders visited Marad, they made a hasty retreat since the RSS cadres objected to their presence. When Vijayan said that they came to visit the houses of those killed, and not an RSS “Shakha”, the local leader Ramesh retorted : “Each Hindu household in Marad is an RSS ‘Shakha’”! On the same day, Antony also visited Marad only after “getting the permission” of Sangh Parivar leaders who insisted that other Ministers of his Cabinet present at Kozhikode, including Kunjalikutty, local MLAs or MP, should not accompany him. He obeyed and went alone with, of course, strong police protection.
Next day, when Antony went to Kozhikode Medical College to visit those injured, a local BJP woman leader, threatened to close the doors unless he promise to release the Sangh Parivar cadres taken into custody. In front of senior police officers and TV camera, she said : “Or else, Gujarat will be repeated”. And, that was the lone Newton’s theory emerged from Marad so far. Apart from Minister Kunjalikutty, the Sangh Parivar ire was also on Kozhikode District Collector TO Sooraj. In fact, many in Kerala, including this correspondent, learnt that the Collector is a Muslim only from the blatant communal criticism heaped on him by the Sangh Parivar, including in the editorial of RSS daily organ “Janmabhoomi”. At the same time, praises were showered on selective police personnel.
Astonishingly, even Antony came to know only from Marad 2003 that the chargesheets against the accused involved in Marad 2002 violence were still not filed. A total of 392 persons figured as accused in 102 cases registered in 2002, of whom many in more than one case. Among these accused, the party-wise affiliation are: 213 belonging to RSS/BJP; 78 CPI(M); 68 IUML; 06 of Indian National League (INL) ; and one of Congress. Eventually, the FIRs in all these 102 cases of Marad 2002 were filed on May 15. Making yet another startling disclosure on May 16, Antony said there were 182 cases connected to communal disturbances in the state registered since 1992, for which chargesheets have not been submitted in courts till date. “I gave instructions to speed up the proceedings and submit chargesheet in all these cases, as early as possible.” Admitting that he faced lot of flak over failure in not submitting chargesheet on 2002 Marad cases, he explained : “That gave me an opportunity to study the records and I found that another 182 cases were also pending due to the same reason. These cases include those registered during the LDF rule also. I will take up all these cases within an year.” It was this type of governance and rule of law that always give scope for revenge killings. The lapses of LDF and UDF dispensations in Kerala had given enough scope for the Sangh Parivar to influence senior police officials, especially after they occupied Central Governance in 1998. It was on this count that the 2002 Marad cases were totally neglected since the largest accused segment belonged to RSS/BJP. It was also due to the belated filing of the FIRs now that the Sangh Parivar had launched an orchestrated campaign on 2003 Marad revenge killings – by leveling wild charges against all those who are Muslim – from Minister Kunjalikutty to District Collector Sooraj. And, AK Antony always maintains a posture of being apologetic towards Sangh Parivar so as to compensate the “sin” of IUML being the second largest ruling UDF partner. According to Pinarayi Vijayan, it was a shame that Antony chose not to take Industry Minister Kunhalikutty while visiting the Marad victims’ families solely because the Minister belonged to a different community. ‘’Kunhalikutty has been left to remain at the guest house in Kozhikode. It is clear that Antony is responsible for the Sangh Parivar allegations against Kunhalikutty,” he said.
Marad presented another shock to Rajeev Srinivasan: “I wonder what the world’s reaction would have been if the situation were reversed and a Hindu mob had killed nine Muslims in front of a mosque. Surely Kuldip Nayar and Praful Bidwai would not have been thunderously silent: they would have badgered the National Human Rights Commission. The Washington Post and The New York Times, not to mention The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Indian Express and The Hindu, would have indulged in en masse breastbeating about the end of civilisation in India. But I bet, gentle reader, that this is the first time you have heard of the Maraad massacre. This I call blatant prejudice and double-standards on the part of the media. Where is the outrage? Where are the cries for justice? Furthermore, if by some miracle, Muslim perpetrators in Maraad are brought to book, Nayar and Bidwai will bestir themselves to defend them, along with SAHMAT, Teesta Setalvad, and Shabana Azmi. I wonder why it isn’t clear to them that the human rights of the outlaw and the terrorist are not greater than the human rights of the ordinary citizen.” This was echoed by all Sangh Parivar leaders of Kerala, including their supreme theoretician P. Parameswaran, Director of “Bharateeya Vichara Kendram”.
True, there was no outcry from the so-called socio-cultural leaders on the expected lines of Sangh Parivar. Because, everyone knew that what had happened at Marad now was revenge killing. And, only communal mind-set can identify communalism in such despicable act of revenge killings. For example, two years ago at Malappuram, 12-year-old Krishna Priya was raped and killed. The accused, a Muslim, came out of jail on bail, when he was killed by Krishna Priya’s father, who is in jail now. None termed these twin incidents either as “communal rape-killing” or “killing by a Hindu communalist”. At Thaickal Beach, Alappuzha district, clashes between RSS-led Hindu fishermen and Christian fishermen left five people on both sides dead last year. It was a communal attack carried out by RSS goons came from outside. At a Sangh Parivar conclave at Kozhikode on May 20 P Parameswaran even said that Marad incident took place due to the failure of IUML to hold talks with RSS as was done by a section from among the Christians. He said: “The IUML, which claims to be a secular party, does not want communal amity in Kerala. Had they been sincere, they would not have spurned the initiative of the National Minority Commission member John Joseph six months ago to bring the RSS and the Muslim League to a discussion. An IUML leader and Member of Parliament said a firm ‘no’ to the talks. Had the party shown some tolerance and wisdom, the atmosphere prevailing now could have avoided.
The dialogue between the RSS and the Christian organisations has created an atmosphere of consensus,” he said. Thus, the Marad agenda of the Sangh Parivar was clear. If at all an atmosphere of consensus was created due to the selective Christian individuals talks with RSS at Palai in Kottayam district, Parameswaran owes an explanation as to how the RSS made a dastardly attack on Bishop Cooper and other at Thiruvananthapuram later. Notably, one of the resolution at the Hindu meet demanded invocation of POTA against the accused of Marad killings. The motive was too clear. Kerala is one of the few states that refused to invoke POTA nor used the earlier TADA. The Sangh Parivar mounted its campaign with the sole intention that the Muslims fled from Marad did not return. And, the Mosque did not reopen. The Hindu meet at Kozhikode demanded the rehabilitation of “a large number of Hindus” who were forced to flee after the 1921 “Moplah rebellion” in lieu of the return of Muslims to Marad.
After visiting Marad and meeting the local “Araya Samajam” leaders, the “Amir” of Kerala chapter of Jamaat-e-Islami Hindi, KA Siddique Hassan, said such demands of Hindu organisations “would only serve to reopen old wounds and further vitiate the atmosphere of communal harmony in the State, which had already been disturbed by the Marad killings”. The Hindu leaders’ convention had made such a demand only to counter a similar demand made by Muslim organisations to create the right conditions to enable Muslim families, which had fled Marad after the massacre of May 2, to return home, he added. The Muslim bodies’ demand to hand over the Marad mosque to Wakf Board found support from AICC General Secretary Vylar Ravi, MP. Terming the Marad incident as “shameful” and which deserves “condemnation” Ravi criticized the BJP for trying to use Marad violence as an excuse to brand Kerala a terrorist State.
“BJP’s effort to brand Kerala in this manner tantamount to “abusing the whole Keralites”, he said. In an attempt to keep up the Hindutva tempo of Marad, the Kozhikode Hindu meet decided to observe May 31 as Marad Day at different places of the State by keeping the urns containing the ashes of those killed at Marad. On June 1, the urns would be taken to different holy places throughout the State to be immersed at Thiruvallam, Thirumullavaram, Aranmula, Thrukkunnapuzha, Nagambadam, Nedungandam, Aluva, Thruprayar, Kalpathi, Thirunavaya, Varakkal, Thirunelli and Payyambalam Besides, BJP National General Secretary, B. P. Acharya, declared on May 22 that a team of NDA MPs would soon be visiting Marad “to take stock of the situation”. Meanwhile, late reports say that all the Muslim shop-keepers in and around Marad were forced to close down their establishments under threat from RSS. A large number of RSS and VHP cadres are still pouring into Marad to make it a liberated fortress of Sangh Parivar – totally free from the Muslim menace!
IndianCurrents, 26 May, 2003