A dangerous pattern of campus violence in Kerala

Last Updated: Fri, Jul 06, 2018 14:41 hrs
CPI-M

Abhimanyu, 20 year old BSc Chemistry student was murdered on the campus of Maharaja College in Kochi earlier this week; the incident has sent shockwaves through the state. He was a member of the Students Federation of India (SFI) which is the student wing of the ruling CPI (M).

The murder took place as SFI students and workers of the Campus Front of India (CFI), which is a student Wing of Popular Front of India (PFI), clashed inside the campus and Abhimanyu was stabbed late Sunday night. The incident began over an argument about sticking posters within the campus by the two groups. Police have detained three people in connection with the murder while an investigation is ongoing. An alumnus of Maharaja College writes in Manorama that political immaturity is behind campus violence –

The unfortunate incident happened in a college which has made immense contributions to the intellectual and cultural spheres of Kerala. This was not the Maharaja’s I went to. That campus had room for every conflicting streams of thought”.

The Kerala police have begun a crackdown on members across the state who are thought to be involved in the brutal murder. Given that the SFI is affiliated with the ruling CPI (M), they have political clout in the state. The CPI (M) has called the activities a model of Taliban attacks. In the wake of suspects being detained, the police stated that they would conduct raids on the homes of these suspects. The police indicated that the murder was done by professionals with a clear motive.

One of the arrested is a flag bearer of the CFI. The CFI is the student wing of the PFI, which has gained notoriety for its particular brand of politics using moral policing and hatred. The organization was earlier known in Kerala as the National Development Front (NDF). Over time, it merged with like-minded groups in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and in 2006, the PFI was born. The organization also has a political party called Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) as its affiliate.

The thesis for this group is a form of right wing fundamental Islam that was founded by Abul Ala Maududi who founded the Jamaat e-Islami, which is responsible for spreading this doctrine of Islam across South Asia including the Indian subcontinent. The NDF was a successor to the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) which emerged from the Jamaat e-Islami. In July 2010, some members of the PFI cut off the hand of a college lecturer for a passage in a question paper which made reference to padachon (the creator).

Following the murder of Abhimanyu, Kerala Finance Minister called for a social boycott of religious extremist outfits like the PFI, SDPI and CFI. In a post on Facebook, he wrote in part, “They are religious extremists who deserve no place in the Kerala society. They act in the name of religion. They use the knife in the name of religion. They issue threats in the name of religion”. Former police chiefs have stated that the incidents of violence on campuses are a problem that has persisted over time. They had warned through filing of reports on the rise in religion-based wings making in- roads in campuses.

The PFI has claimed to be an organization that works for the socio-economic welfare of the state’s Muslim community. However, in 2003, some of its members were arrested for rioting and the murder of eight Hindus in a beach at Kozhikode. The Kerala government submitted a report to the High Court in 2012 which stated that PFI members were involved in 27 murder cases. In a similar report submitted in 2014, the government stated that 86 murder attempts cases were registered against PFI.

There have also been accusations that the PFI is connected with ISIS. Per the Kerala police, at least 10 men who belonged to the PFI have travelled to Syria to fight for ISIS. The police learnt this through interrogating an Islamic State sympathizer who was deported from Turkey after failing to cross the border. The PFI has claimed that these men who joined the Islamic State cut tied with them and even had difference of opinions when they were a part of PFI. The state government has sought to ban the PFI. In February, this issue was discussed at the annual DGP meet held in Madhya Pradesh where Kerala police chief Lokanath Behera detailed the growth of PFI and its activities in the state. Last month, the Madras High Court dismissed a plea which sought the Tamil Nadu government to ban the PFI. In its ruling, the court stated in part, “It is not for this court to decide which organisation should be banned and which organisation might continue. That is in the realm of the executive of the state”.

In a show of unity and solidarity, the Kerala Students Union (KSU), who are rivals to the SFI on campus, came out in support of Abhimanyu in a Facebook post. They posted a story about a football tournament that was organized by the KSU where all student union groups were invited. They recalled that day saying in part, “We still cannot forget his smiles and laughter from that day”. The post continued, “We will tear down the organisations that are trying to create a communal divide inside the campus… Let us all unite for Abhimanyu and his dreams”.

More columns by Varun Sukumar

SC verdict on Delhi power tussle sends a clear signal to all - get to work

Puthiya Thalaimurai case: A dangerous and slippery slope for press freedom

Break up of alliance in J-K reveals BJP weakness

More from Sify: