Kerala govt under fire over police chief’s “recruiting ground for terrorism” remarks

The outgoing Director General of Police (DGP) of the Kerala State Police, Lokanath Behera was in the midst of a fresh row as his remark that Kerala has become recruiting ground for terror outfits, leading Opposition parties and Muslim groups to condemn the left ruling State’s police chief’s “pro-Sangh Parivar” remarks.

“According to the inputs, Kerala is a recruiting ground because the people here are educated and the IS requires engineers and doctors. But we have dealt with it in a systematic way and it has come down,” The 1985-batch IPS officer, who will retire on June 30, said in his interactions with Malyalam television channels.

Behera added that that Kerala Police have set up surveillance on the suspected sleeper cells of terrorist groups. “The recruit has comedown recently. We are handling it in a systematic manner. Nuetralisation, deradicalisation and counter radicalisation is being conducted effectively in Kerala,” he said in an interaction with Asianet News.

Many Opposition leaders and community leaders have criticised the police chief’s statement which criminalises the Muslim community in the state. Former education minister and Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leader PK Abdu Rabb, in a Facebook post, said that Lokanath Behera’s allegation about the “sleeper-cell network in Kerala” is to help the Kerala BJP which lacks a divisive topic in the state.

“Its not a crime to help BJP during the final tenure of your service. But this is progressive Kerala. Even the metro man was shown his way out, after he joined the BJP, by the progressive people of Kerala. Such false allegations cannot divide the land,” he said.

Behera’s remarks triggered fresh protests by Welfare Party of India (WPI) also. WPI Kerala unit general secretary KA Shafeeque alleged that police chief Behera is behaving like an RSS cadre. The Chief Minister who handles the Home portfolio should respond to his police chief’s allegations, Shafeeque demanded.

There are allegations that Loknath Behera tried to absolve Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah of several criminal cases, including the 2004 Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case.

Meanwhile, bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut, who is infamous for her anti-Muslim hate tweets, has endorsed the Kerala DGP’s statement. Kangana shared the news on her Instagram account with the caption “ Kerala model”. Many right wing trolls have been circulating the news on various social media platforms.

While delivering the inaugural address at the BJP Kerala state executive committee meeting through online, BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe latched on to the state police chief’s claim on the ISIS recruiting in Kerala.

While talking to another TV channel Media One TV, the DGP justified the encounter killings of Maoists in Kerala. “Why the Maoists are entering the reserved forest areas with weapons. They are threatening the locals with weapons and snatching food and medicines. If the police challenge them, they will shoot us using guns. What are we supposed to do? Do you expect us to garland them?,” he asked during the TV interview. “If they shoot us, we will retaliate,” he added.

At least four alleged left radicals were killed in encounter by the thunderbolt commandos since the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front came to power in 2016. Thunderbolt, an elite police force set up for counter-insurgency operations, was set up in 2012 by the then Congress led-United Democratic Front government. Ironically, the CPIM, which heads the LDF coalition, has always taken a stand against extra judicial killings in national level.

Behera also told media that he had no regret about invoking the draconian UAPA in the state and added that being a law enforcer, its his duty to implement the act which got passed by the Parliament. He advocated for the rule similar to Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MACOCA) be implemented in Kerala to avoid the organised crime. “Under the law, the confesion given to police during the custody will be taken as evidence,” Behra was quoted by Media One TV as saying.

Behera was one of the founding member of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and was part of the team that travelled to the USA to question the 2008 Mumbai serial blast case accused David Headley in 2010.