By Suresh Unnithan
Thiruvanathapuram: It is surprising, even after three years the Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala remained selectively silent on the attempt on Governor Arif Mohammad Khan. Keeping its bitterness at bay, the political executive should have acted in accordance with the law and booked the culprits. Instead the ruling party and its leaders in the government preferred to engage in a war of words justifying the criminal offence against the Head of the State.
On December 28, 2019, while delivering the inaugural address in the 80th edition of Indian History Congress (IHC) at Kannur University campus in Kannur Governor Khan was heckled and an attempt was made to physically intimidate him. Surprisingly, ever since the incident a section within the government and the ruling CPIM unleashed a smear campaign against the Head of the State and spared no instance to demean him. The torrential smearing campaign by the ruling party leader and a selected few from the government finally prompted Governor Khan to go public with the facts pertaining to the attempted attack on him and the deliberate laxity from the State Police to act against the culprits.
Narrating the incident during a candid conversation at the Raj Bhavan Governor Khan questioned the silence of the state administration against a cognizable offence committed against the Head of the State. In the light of this incident the Khan asked if this was the attitude of the Police in a crime committed against the Head of the State, and then imagine the fate of the common man in Kerala.
The controversy erupted when Irfan Habib, a Leftist historian, in his out of context and provocative speech tried to taunt the Governor. When Khan in his address tried to reply with facts, a visibly infuriated Irfan charged towards the Governor. In between, a sizable section from the audience started displaying placards and shouting slogans against the Governor. For unbiased observers the entire episode seemed choreographed well in advance.
Dwelling on the unsavory incident, Governor Khan said that there were over hundred policemen of different rank witnessing the attempt of attack on him. “Of course some policemen tried to prevent those who were charging towards me with an intention to attack. But I could see a senior party functionary, who was till that time sitting pretty in the dais, suddenly rushed to the mod and was seen directing the police to move away so that the crowd can reach me. It is an irony, the same party man who was supporting a crime against the head of the State has now found a safe haven in the Chief Minister’s office as private secretary to the Chief Minister who is custodian of the law and order of the state. In fact, the party functionary who is now the private secretary of the chief minister was at that time preventing the police from discharging their lawful duties, which was a serious offence by itself.”
Harping on the conspiracy angle, Khan continued, “if someone ventures to justify that the protest against my speech from the audience was spontaneous, I ask, how come hundreds of placards suddenly sprouting from the audience? Placards cannot be prepared on the spot. It takes time to prepare the slogans. Any independent brain with commonsense can easily understand that the protest and the attempted attack on me was premeditated and deliberate.”
Regarding the question posed by certain CPIM leaders and also members of the state cabinet on why he did not report the matter to the state administration or police, Khan quipped, “my sympathies to those who ask me why the incident was not reported. They need to know that the Police are bound to register the case suo moto when the offence is cognizable. The police had to set the law in motion. The attempt of attack on a governor is a cognizable offence under IPC section 124. This section is applicable only on offences committed against the President of India and Governors of the states. Those having legal literacy know this. It is curious, people are arrested for wearing black shirts and when there is an attempt on the Head of the State, that too in presence of police personnel of various ranks, no crime is registered. If you see the visuals of the incident you will infer the entire episode was preplanned with an ulterior motive.”
To a question of Khan, if he plans to lodge any formal complaint on the attempted attack and mayhem created during his speech, the governor answered in negative. “Recently some media misquoted me as saying that I am ordering an investigation into the Kannur incident. This is wrong reporting. I never said so. I am urging the media to probe and reveal the truth to the public.”
Khan accused that the state government was targeting the governor with political intent and said, “in fact police officers themselves told me that they wanted to act (against the culprits who created the commotion), but they were prevented from doing so.”
Further charging the leaders of the ruling party for arrogance and disrespect to the legal system, the governor said, “We have witnessed the convener of the ruling front banned from flying by airlines. That leader was banned for creating havoc and attacking two youths inside the aircraft. These leaders think it is their right to break the law. A minister in the current cabinet mocks the constitution publicly and he gets ousted. A former minister challenges the territorial integrity of India, using the language of Pakistan. They are indoctrinated like this and they intentionally utter such objectionable public statements with scant regards to our constitution or rule of law. They are the adherents of a foreign ideology that is intolerant to others. These leaders go up to the extent of smothering their opponents physically.”
Regarding Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s public outburst against him, the Governor said, “in my statements of speeches I never referred to any particular party or group, then why the CM is getting offended. So the chief minister properly realizes who is at fault. How so many political murders happen in Kannur, his home district? Let me know if the ideology he adheres to allow use of force against those who are opposed to it? How many young lives are lost on the campus of the Universities in Kerala?”
Khan said that the government is “reluctant to book Irfan Habib, because he is projected as the icon of that ideology which believes in eliminating political and ideological opponents. So there is nothing unusual in Irfan Habib trying to assault anyone who is against his ideology and no crime being registered against him even after he brazenly made an attempt to attack the Governor in front of senior police officials. “