In Kerala, a Smoking Fuse

Communalism in Kerala

With its large Muslim population and strong RSS presence, the state sits on a precipice, reports KA SHAJI from Marad village in Kozhikode district

TILL JANUARY 2002, Marad was just another fishing village near Beypore in Kerala’s Kozhikode district. Today, it is Kerala’s worst communal tinderbox. The village is almost completely under the control of the RSS. Most Muslims here are not ready to sleep in their homes and leave for the houses of relatives in other villages before sunset. A large number of gun-carrying policemen have been posted in the village — the government claims Marad is peaceful.

On the night of January 3-4, 2002, three Hindus and two Muslims were killed on the Marad beach after a squabble between two youths. Among those killed, one Aboobacker was hacked to death in front of the police when he was trying to bury the other four.

In a carefully-planned operation on May 2, 2003, eight Hindu fishermen were killed, and the murderers, believed to be hired, disappeared. The police swiftly took charge of the mosque that had sheltered the culprits and also harboured weapons. Fearing retaliation, the village’s Muslim families left immediately. On June 25, two families returned, only to be sent back by irate Hindus.

According to police sources, about 800 persons are accused in the January 2002 case, and around 300 have been chargesheeted. For the May 2003 incident, Bijli, the son of Aboobacker, is the main suspect. As many as 126 people have been arrested in the case, including three youths below 18 years.

Marad was home to 191 Muslim families. A road divides the hamlet into two portions — the left side is inhabited mostly by Hindu families (known as Arayas), and to the right live the Muslim families. But there are few of them left. Their houses have been looted. Shops they used to run lie closed since the second round of violence. Worse, no one knows where these families are.

In the past, Kerala was known for its relatively harmonious communal relations. However, the post-Babri Masjid demolition period saw communal clashes occurring in Poonthura, Nadapuram, Panur, Taikal and Pathanamthitta. During the past couple of decades, the influence of communal formations has considerably increased in Kerala. Data published by Organiser in its March 25, 2001 issue, said the RSS was running 4,300 shakhas and upashakhas in Kerala. The VHP recently undertook the distribution of tridents in its effort to use religious symbols for mobilisation and creating “self-confidence” among Hindus.

Currently, there are reports of possible links between terrorist outfits and communal groups in the state. Some high-ranking police officers suspect that Kozhikode in north Kerala is emerging as a new base for the terrorist group Al-Badr to plan and execute terror attacks in South Indian cities. Last year, a suspected Al-Badr member, Mohammed Fahad, was arrested in Mysore for planning an attack on the Vikas Soudha in Bangalore and the Central Institute of Indian Languages in Mysore. Police teams from Kerala and Karnataka investigating Fahad’s antecedents say several members of the terrorist outfit may have camped in Kozhikode before the attempt came to light.

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