By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Keralites woke up this Monday to a different kind of hartal.
The hartal which, as usual, hurt all was unique in that it had no sponsors! How can a hartal be observed without anybody giving a call for it? You might ask. Well, that is exactly what was unique about this latest one, which was enforced by youth responding to a social media call to protest against the Kathua rape and murder.
The hartal, which turned violent, affected the north Kerala districts of Kasargod, Kannur, Kozhikode, Malappuram and Palakkad. Police had to swing into action to repel angry crowds, which resorted to violence and blocking of traffic at many places across the state. The sponsors of the hartal managed to remain behind the scenes.
But the police suspect the hand of two political outfits which boast extremist leanings. The Muslim-dominated Malappuram and Kozhikode bore the brunt of the violence the hartal unleashed. The slogans raised during the course of the hartal were aimed at whipping up communal frenzy. The scale of violence prompted the police to clamp down prohibitory orders in parts of Malappuram district.
The hartal took the mainstream political parties by surprise. Leaders of these parties promptly disowned the hartal and reacted strongly to the conspiracy hatched by the extremist organizations. CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan accused these radical outfits of trying to whip up communal tensions in the state. He also cautioned the party cadres against falling a prey to the false propaganda that the hartal had the backing of mainstream parties.
Leader of the opposition Ramesh Chennithala also expressed similar sentiments. The concerted attempts to create a communal divide should be resisted and defeated, he said. Indian Union Muslim League general secretary KPA Majid said that his party had nothing to do with the hartal. BJP state president Kummanam Rajashekharan petitioned the State Director General of Police to act against the ‘sponsors’ of the hartal, who were bent upon dividing the people on communal lines.
That such a hartal could be successfully organized is a severe indictment of the police and the state intelligence department. The police, which was caught napping despite the calls for the hartal in the social media, should have nipped the mischief in the bud. But it dismally failed in its duty.
The mainstream political parties must also learn the right lessons from the unpleasant episode. If only they had remained alert, the mischief could have been frustrated. The fact is nobody took the hartal call through the social media seriously. The parties and the police seemed to have treated it as a hoax being perpetrated on the people of the state. By the time they realized that this was not the case, the damage had been done.
That the real sponsors of the hartal chose to remain anonymous speaks for itself. By remaining behind the scenes, they gave away their sinister game of disrupting the communal harmony the state enjoys. It is a matter of relief that their dangerous designs did not succeed. That is a tribute to the people of the state, which is known for its secular spirit and pluralistic ethos.
But the state has been fore-warned. And to be forewarned is to be fore-armed. Efforts must be initiated to see that there is no recurrence of the mischief. At stake is Kerala’s reputation of being a state which puts a premium on attempts to create communal disharmony. (IPA Service)