Fear of poll backlash: Freeze on prof attack probe

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi - Daily Pioneer published on October 4, 2010

Three full months have passed since the brutal Taliban-style Islamist attack on college professor TJ Joseph of Muvattupuzha, Kerala, but the State police’s probe into the attack seems to have totally been frozen now.

As many as 29 accused Islamists of the total 53 are yet to be arrested. Sources indicated that the police could have put a freeze on the probe due to instructions from political bosses in the context of the coming elections into the local administration bodies.

A gang of activists of Islamist Popular Front of India (PFI) had cut off the right hand of the Joseph, a Malayalam professor of Church-run Newman College at Thodupuzha on July 4 for preparing a question paper that allegedly blasphemed Prophet Muhammad. Later, the college management dismissed the professor for the same reason.

Sources said that the apprehensions of the CPI(M) of a possible electoral backlash from the Muslim community could be the reason for the police’s inaction with respect to the probe. Immediately after the incident, the police had held extensive raids on PFI offices and leaders’ houses, but all such actions stopped after the civic polls were declared.

The State police are now saying that they are planning to constitute a joint team with their counterparts in Tamil Nadu for the investigations on he ground that most of the remaining culprits are holed up in that state. However, there are indications that this explanation is only an excuse for delaying or diluting the probe.

There are complaints that the freeze on the investigations is so effective that the police had not bothered even about the visit of main accused MK Nasser, a State-level PFI leader, to Kochi on September 9, even when the police were claiming that they are on 24-hour lookout for him.

The court had declared Nasser, the chief conspirator, as an absconder and the police had also issued a lookout notice for him. Nasser had arrived in Kochi despite the “net” the police had spread “all over the State’ for him and met a lawyer of the Kerala High Court to file a petition seeking removal of the freeze on his property.

“The freeze on the investigations against the culprits as well as the Popular Front is equally advantageous to both the ruling LDF and the Opposition UDF,” said a former police official. “In normal situations, the Opposition is expected to oppose such moves but here it has not done that so far,” he pointed out.

The former official said that Nasser could not have met a lawyer in Kochi without the knowledge of the police, especially as the entire force was said to have been focused on him. “The Intelligence wing of the police also has been after him. They can’t sell the theory that Nasser outsmarted the entire police force,” he said.

The Congress has already entered into electoral understanding with the Popular Front in many places, especially in Idukki district where Newman College is situated. Rumours are doing the rounds among the police force that the Government had already come to an understanding with the Popular Front as to who all should be arrested and what charges should be framed against them.

There are also allegations that the recent takeover of some of the cases related to the attack on the professor by the newly constituted Internal Security Investigation Team (ISIT) would only weaken the probe. Since all the cases are interlinked, such a bifurcation would cause huge legal complications and coordination difficulties when the case reaches the court, legal experts say.

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