Being a Maoist is not a crime. That is how Justice A Muhamed Mustaque observed in his judgement in a case relating to the arrest of Syam Balakrishnan by Kerala Police. Balakrishnan was taken into custody of being a ‘suspected’ Maoist. In truth mere suspicion is enough for Indian Security and Police Forces to detain anybody under Maoist label. Even demanding release of alleged Maoists by civil liberties bodies or any political party on the left may invite arrest as it has happened recently in Jhargram of West Bengal. On 17 May 2015, the police of Sankrail Police Station in West Midnapur district arrested Jiten Giri and Sunil Barik from their houses in Rohini and the police of Jhargram Police Station arrested Niranjan Bera, Secretary, CPI(ML) PCC, District Committee from his residence in Ludhasuli. All of them committed a very ‘serious’ crime before law. They put up some posters on behalf of their party demanding the release of alleged Maoist Chhatradhar Mahato. Well, Mahato doesn’t belong to any Maoist outfit. Nor does he ideologically subscribe to maoism. But police can put anybody behind bars by dubbing him Maoist. What is more the arrested activists of CPI(ML) PCC were not produced in court within stipulated 24 hours. After all the law of the land doesn’t apply to the ‘Maoists’.
The Jhargram police action actually mocks at Kerala High Court judgement. Among other things the judgement categorically defines what is lawful and what is unlawful and under what conditions law agencies can prevent or take action against individuals or organisations.
In case of Syam Balakrishnan’s arrest the police violated his liberty while taking him into custody without satisfying that he was involved in any cognisable offence punishable under law. The same thing has happened in case of arrest of CPI(ML) PCC activists in Jhargram.
The hard reality is that the security establishment doesn’t bother about legal niceties. How many ‘suspected’ Maoists are languishing in jails in different states is not known. Even the Maoist party has no knowledge about the exact number of so-called Maoists rotting as undertrial prisoners because most of the ‘suspected’ persons are not even remotely connected to the party.
The persons in uniform enjoy arbitrary powers to arrest anyone simply by exaggerating Maoist or naxalite threat. They can do it because the naxalites are still isolated from masses. The basic problem with the Maoists is that they do hardly follow the popular Maoist dictum—‘from the masses to the masses’. It’s always from the party leaders to the masses. Feeling people’s pulse is the moot question in any political mobilisation and it is totally absent in Maoist culture.
Many of the so-called ‘suspected’ Maoists are not even recognised by the Maoists. Nor can they get assimilated into what they call mainstream. What is more most of them belong to the vulnerable sections of society. They do not have resources to move lower courts, not to speak of higher courts. Syam Balakrishnan is lucky in the sense that, he has some resources and support to move high court. It is not really the case with most ‘suspected’ Maoists or naxalities.
This way or that Balakrishnan has succeeded in bringing to the fore lawlessness of the law enforcing authorities. The Kerala High Court ruling may create some ripples in human rights movement but these movements are too fragmented and adhoc-ism based to make it an issue at all India level. After some time like many other previous judgements of enormous social significance this judgement too will be forgotten even by the civic society while allowing the system to continue their unlawful activities as usual.
Vol. 47, No. 48, June 7 - 13, 2015