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Kerala: 8 Muslim Activists remanded to jail, Police lathi charges at anti-CAA protest by Fraternity Movement

8 Muslims associated with the Fraternity Movement of India and the Welfare Party of India of Kozhikode district, Kerala were remanded to Kozhikode district jail for 14 days today evening. Kozhikode police arrested them on Monday night for protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) notified the Citizenship Amendment Rules, 2024, on March 11.

The protest, organized by the Kozhikode district committee of the Fraternity Movement of India, was met with brute force by the police who lathi-charged against the peaceful gathering comprising students, youth, women, and the elderly outside the All India Radio (AIR) station in Kozhikode.

The First Investigation Report (FIR) filed by the Kozhikode Town police station names Fraternity Movement leaders Labeeb Kayakkodi (State Vice-President), Vaseem Ali (State Secretariat Member), Raees Ahammad (Kozhikode General Secretary), Aadil Ali (Kozhikode Vice-President), Nasim Abdul Latheef (Secretary, Area), and members Safin Sabeer, Hasanul Banna, and Muhammad Savad, along with Savad’s father, Anas, a member of Welfare Party of India, as accused.

They are booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including non-bailable charges such as IPC 145 (Joining an unlawful assembly despite command being penalized), IPC 147 (Rioting punished), IPC 149 (All members of unlawful assembly accountable), IPC 188 (Disobedience to public servant’s orders punished), IPC 283 (Acts causing danger in public areas fined), IPC 353 (Assault on a public servant deterred from duty penalized), IPC 332 (Causing hurt to deter a public servant from duty punished), and 117(e) of the Kerala Police Act.

The FIR states that Fraternity Movement members marched towards the AIR station, raising slogans, and unlawfully gathered in front of the station, violating the legal orders of the police and disrupting traffic on public roads. Additionally, the FIR says that police officers who tried to arrest the Fraternity members were injured, and official duty was obstructed.

Denouncing the accusations, Fraternity Movement Kozhikode district secretariat member Shaheen Narikkuni told The Observer Post, “Usually, we march towards the AIR station whenever there is a protest against the central government. Every time, there will be a small confrontation with the police in front of the gate, which withers away after some time. Then we address the public, and after it, we disperse. This routine happens every time without any violence. However, last night, the situation took an unexpected turn. Almost 100 of us peacefully gathered on one side of the beach road as our state leader, Labeeb, was delivering his inaugural speech against the CAA. Our intention was to peacefully disperse after the speech. To our surprise, the police, who arrived in three jeeps and a bus, launched an unprovoked attack. They resorted to violence, striking us mercilessly, including women, with batons. When we prevented male officers from attacking women, they roughed us up and restrained us. Police chased down the protestors to the beach and beat them despite the cadres agreeing to disperse. Even the pedestrians who were on the footpath were assaulted. The police team was under the command of the Assistant Commissioner of Police”.

Recalling the harrowing experience, one of the accused in the FIR who is not yet arrested and state vice president of the Fraternity Movement who made the inaugural speech, Labeeb, said, “While I was speaking, the police tried to arrest our cadres, and they resisted it. The police encircled the cadres and beat them brutally. I was pushed down to the ground by the police and was beaten all over my body by more than 5 officers. I have injuries on my hand and elbow. Similarly, other cadres were rounded up and attacked by a large number of police. Our state secretariat member Vaseem Ali, who is in police custody, has a deep cut like a laceration on his hand inflicted from the police attack. More than 5 cadres had to avail treatment from the hospital.”

Videos and photos shared by Fraternity Movement leaders corroborate the accusations against the police and the injuries inflicted by them.

Labeeb added, “4 years ago when parliament introduced CAA, it was the student community who organised massive protests against it. The intention of yesterday’s protest was only to bring the attention of the public against CAA after the recent move by the union government. Despite Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan ensuring that CAA won’t be implemented in Kerala, yesterday we witnessed their double stand. Just hours after he made the statement, we were subjected to brutality by his police. The home ministry which also comes under the discretion of Pinarayi Vijayan is working in the interests of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)”.

Shaheen told the reporter that Raees was referred to the medical college from the Kozhikode Beach hospital because of the nature of the injuries. He alleged that the police were delaying the procedures today by taking them late to the hospital for a medical checkup. After being produced in the court, the Chief Judicial Magistrate directed the police to remand the arrestees in jail for 14 days.

Salwa Abdul Khadar, Fraternity district committee member, and participant of the protest told the reporter that the police tried to create a tense atmosphere by provoking the cadres even before the inaugural speech commenced in front of the radio station. She also confirmed to the reporter that female cadres were verbally abused by male police officers and randomly assaulted.

Salwa told The Observer Post, “I participated in the protest along with my 3-year-old son and husband. Moments after we reached the AIR station after the march, my son, who was in my arms, was tried to be taken away from me forcefully by a female police officer. They were pulling him away from me without my consent. They were hurting him and he started crying. I resisted it, and the police had to back off after a few leaders intervened. Later after the lathi charge started, they severely verbally abused me. The female officers were very few in number, and it was male officers who beat us. While dragging us, the male police officers called me ‘bitch’ and other slurs. They also threatened us and shouted ‘Beat those bitches to death,’ ‘Throw them inside the jeep’ while beating us. We were caught on our neck and hijab by the police. They were treating us like male protestors. I was beaten on my legs.”

“Even after arresting our leaders and dispersing the cadres, the police did not end their atrocities. When we were waiting for a vehicle to go home, police came to us and shouted at my husband in front of our son. When I warned them that our son was witnessing their harassment, they again called me ‘bitch’ and abused me further. I am sure that police came to the protest with an intention to unleash violence,” recounted Salwa.

Kerala-based news channel, Media One reported that Kerala police filed cases over anti-CAA protests against 124 individuals in the state capital alone. Additionally, Pinarayi Vijayan is being criticized for years for failing to keep his promise made during the 2021 state assembly election campaign to anti-NRC-CAA protesters.

The government had promised to quash all non-serious cases related to the protest. Out of 835 cases including 103 criminal cases registered in 2019 against activists and politicians, only less than 100 cases have been revoked.

Condemning the police violence on Fraternity Movement, Ajayan Mannur, a communist based in Ernakulam district of Kerala having cases for protesting against NRC-CAA and farm bills, told the reporter, “Pinarayi Vijayan, who promised that the state government will revoke cases registered against anti-NRC-CAA protestors has only quashed the case taken against the Nair Service Society (NSS) members, and Sangh Parivar criminals who unleashed violence in the name of the Sabarimala temple. This selective leniency by CPI(M) government of Kerala is in favor of the right-wing forces. If the government has any responsibility, they should withdraw cases filed against politicians and human rights activists immediately for protesting against the policies of RSS.”

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