The Opposition staged a walkout in Kerala Assembly on Tuesday in protest against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's refusal to specifically state the offences that led the police to slap Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) on CPM youths Alan Shuhaib and Thaha Fazal. Pinarayi Vijayan made it clear that he still held the opinion that the two youths had strong links with Maoist elements. “Don't think they are sweet-eyed does,” Pinarayi told the House.
The chief minister also turned down the Opposition's demand that the state government take back the investigation of the Alan-Thaha case from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) using section 7(B) of the NIA Act.
Bouquet of flowers for Shah
The section 7(B) demand was made by Muslim League leader M K Muneer while moving an adjournment motion on the issue. “There is a provision in the NIA Act that allows the state to get back the investigation of cases from the national agency. I urge the chief minister to invoke section 7(B) of the NIA Act,” Muneer said.
“What the Opposition is suggesting is that I should go before Amit Shah,” the chief minister said, in a tone that suggested that it was below his dignity. Under the section it was only with the approval of the Centre that the state government can get a case transferred back from the NIA for investigation and trial.
When his time came, Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said: “Didn't you recently meet Amit Shah with a large bouquet of flowers. As a chief minister you are obliged to meet the home minister of the country. Your ego and stubbornness should not stand in the way of your meeting the Union home minister and requesting him to transfer the case back to the state.”
The chief minister's argument was that the NIA took over the case before the state government could take a call on the two youths. “We have a system in place to vet the cases taken under the UAPA,” he said. A committee headed by a retired judge would hear the UAPA cases and only if it is convinced the UAPA charge would be persisted with. The committee had found many UAPA cases in Kerala wrongfully charged after its judicial review. “The NIA took over the case before we could do a review at the state level,” the chief minister said.
He also said the NIA Act has provisions that allow the NIA to take over “scheduled offences” bypassing the state government. Further, he asked the Opposition whether they had sought such a transfer of any of the nine cases that were taken over by the NIA during the UDF tenure. Under the UDF, 123 cases were registered under the UAPA, and nine of them were taken over by the NIA.
Muneer said the LDF government facilitated the NIA's takeover of the case by slapping charges under UAPA. “The NIA just cannot come in and take over a case that is being probed by the state. It could take over only because cases were registered under the UAPA, a scheduled offence,” Muneer said.
He wanted to know why the UAPA was slapped on the two youths. “When the police came upon them were they conspiring to launch any attack? What more did the police get from them other than some political literature? Does the police have the authority to take a case under UAPA simply because they found a Jamat-e-Islami book with them,” he asked, and added: “I have books written by E M S Namboodirippad in my house. Does it make me a Marxist? I have Hegdewar's book with me. Does it make me RSS?”
Earlier, the chief minister had said that both Alan and Thaha were suspended from their institutions because they did not have the necessary attendance. “Did the Kannur University ask these two kids why they had failed to attend classes,” Muneer asked. “You put them in jail, keep them out of studies and then push them out saying they had no attendance,” he added.
The chief minister did not give reasons for the UAPA charges slapped on Alan and Thaha but he seemed displeased with the Opposition's support for the youths. “In your desperation to oppose the CPM, don't end up justifying the Maoists,” he said.