Dalit extremism spreading roots in Kerala

via VR Jayaraj | Thiruvananthapuram -Daily Pioneer published on September 26, 2009

The Kerala Police has launched an intense probe to find out the extent of the growth of an extremist Dalit movement in the State, suspected to be behind the murder of a 62-year-old man in Varkala, Thiruvananthapuram, who was out on the streets for a walk on early Wednesday morning.

Reports from the Dalit colonies in and around Varkala and other Dalit areas of Thiruvananthapuram district said that the armed Dalit movement, constituted three years ago, had been active for the past one year, and had been resorting to violence to force the poor to join them. The police suspect that the outfit, constituted mainly by young men and women, is enjoying the support of certain Maoist groups inside the State and getting assistance from outside.

The police suspect that the activists of the movement had hacked Sivaprasad of Ashwathi house, Ayiroor, Varkala to death while he was on a morning walk as part of a strategy to enforce their influence on the society by showing their might. Sivaprasad was hacked to death by three men who came on a motorbike. On the same day, Asokan, a tea-vendor of the area, was also attacked and he had been hospitalized with injuries.

Director General of Police Jacob Punnoose, who visited the crime scenes on Saturday, held a meeting of top-ranking police officials, and entrusted Additional DGP Chandrasekhar with the charge of probing the outfit. Sources in the police said that the probe was sure to be extended to other states as it was certain that the extremist outfit had been getting outside help.

Reports say that the activists of the armed movement, working on strict extremist principles, are being trained in the jungles of Palakkad and Wayanad districts and that they have support systems in several regions, especially the ones with a history of Naxalite movements, in the State. Residents of Dalit colonies in Varkala said the black-uniformed activists used to attack their huts under the cover of darkness to force them to join the outfit.

The police probe presently was focused on the Kochi-based president of the movement and soon it would spread into other areas, sources said. The “battle-readiness” of the activists had become obvious when around 200 black-uniformed activists had held a dharna in front of the State Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram after some persons were taken into custody.

“We are living in terror here. Groups of young men and women, wearing black dress and jeans, would descend on our homes at night attacking everyone. They don’t spare even the women. They want us to join them,” said a resident of a Dalit colony in Varkala, adding that terrorization seemed to be a strategy “to drag us into their fold”.

The mainstream political parties of the area are also worried about the activities of the armed Dalit group, which, according to them, was trying to lead the poor and the Dalits onto a wrong path. They said the strategy of the movement was to convince the Dalits that the Government or the political parties would never let them live a decent life.

Sources in the police said the prime mission would be to freeze the sources of funds and other resources like weapons for the group. However, the police had not so far got any clinching evidence to prove that the group had become a menace. The DGP said that the police had got some clear leads with respect to the murder and arrest could be made any moment.

The authorities are worried that the State could see serious law and order problems and social disruptions if the movement succeeds in taking over the several agitations held currently by Dalits and Adivasis in different locations in the State like Chengara in Pathanamthitta district and Meppadi in Wayanad.

Reports of disruptions have already come from Chengara where violence had broken out in the rubber estates where close to 10,000 Dalits were agitating to get land and livelihood. Eight persons were admitted to hospital after the clash on Friday. According to Lhaha Gopalan, president of the Sadhu Jana Viomochana Samyuktha Vedi, which was spearheading the agitation, the clashes were sparked off by a section of the agitators who were showing extremist leanings.

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