For any political party in power there comes a time when one crucial decision would mean the difference between credit and condemnation.
On Monday when the state police did the inevitable of arresting Mollywood’s most popular actor, Pinarayi Vijayan’s police was sending out the message loud and clear.
No external pressure from any quarters would usurp the rule of law, and this government was committed to the task not just by words but by deed too.
For the same Chief Minister who a few months ago almost did a political blunder by openly saying there is no scope for conspiracy, in this case, the arrest on Monday was once again giving him the chance to set the record straight, and he did take it with both hands.
On Tuesday morning almost 12 hours after Dileep’s arrest, a beaming Pinarayi Vijayan had an unusual grin for having conquered the demons when he met the media outside his office at the Government Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram.
“See this government is very clear about one thing. The issue is whether you have done a crime or not. If you have done something wrong there is no way this government is going to let you get away,’’said Vijayan.
The CPM soon jumped to reap the political dividends as the party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan went on to say that the arrest of Dileep only goes on to show that how much ever influential one was, the law will finally be the same for all.
By Monday, late evening and into the night as Dileep remained under arrest at the Aluva Police Club, youth organisations of political parties went on a rampage at various business outlets of the actor including his food chain at Kochi and Kozhikode.
That the DYFI, the youth wing of the CPM was at the forefront of the attacks goes on to show that the party was all out to get the maximum mileage out of this arrest.
“See there was a time when Malayalam cinema was the flag bearer of humanism. But today it is a den of criminals, and that has to be changed. This LDF government is committed to it, and this is only the first and the right step towards cleansing the industry,’’ Cabinet Minister G Sudhakaran told Asianet Newsable.
There is no doubting the fact that putting the handcuffs on Dileep was no mean task. Rather it should have called for the political will of the highest order, something which till the evening of July 10 nobody in the state would believe that the Left government in Kerala could muster.
The government especially the Chief Minister’s office and the top think tank involved in that office never gave even the slightest hint that Kerala’s media were in for a blockbuster Monday evening.
Perhaps this was the mantra of their success too. That is keeping the decision secret and leaving to a highly capable police force to make a final call was the best modus operandi the government could have adopted in a situation like this.
But is that the real story or the fact that the government did not buckle even under extreme pressure from the top stars of Mollywood is primarily because of a highly vigilant media and an over zealous civil society that was hell bent on getting to the bottom of the case.Had the public opinion against the actor too reached a line of no return that the bulk of evidence, of which there was no dearth of, suddenly became too hot to ignore.
Not everyone agrees
For the same reasons, not everyone agrees to the sudden hogging of limelight by the ruling party and the in particular Chief Minister.
PT Thomas is Congress MLA from Thrikkakkara in Ernakulam, close to where the actress was attacked on a February night. Thomas is one among the very few who met the actress face to face immediately after the incident and perhaps tops the list of people who through their relentless chasing of the case proved that the crime is not restricted to Sunil Kumar but indeed had bigger fishes lurking behind him.
Thomas is highly critical of the stand taken by the Chief Minister, and he has reasons for the same. “What did the Chief Minister say immediately after his police caught Suni? He went on to say that there is no conspiracy. Is that the way a responsible Chief Minister should react to an ongoing investigation. What does he have to say now? He should apologise to the people of the state for attempting to fool them,’’ Thomas told Asianet Newsable.
Thomas’s words are being echoed from many quarters in the state who doubt the real intentions of the government and the ruling party. Thomas was the only one to raise the matter in the state assembly from where he again got a lukewarm reply from Vijayan. But when Thomas raised the CBI bogey, the government perhaps started handling the issue much more seriously.
Even when there is a consensus that the government ultimately pulled its act together, many feel this could have been done much earlier had the Chief Minister himself been more pro-active with his approach.
“There were a lot of people standing close to the Chief Minister who wanted to bail out Dileep. That is why the CM was misled initially. It then took a lot of pressure from the civil society, the media and others for a change of stand. See if the government had taken this stand right from the beginning the political mileage for Pinarayi and the party would have been tremendous. This is where the CPM lost the plot,” noted political analyst Advocate Jayasankar told Asianet Newsable.
Immense media pressure
From a media that is often ridiculed by all in a state that is high on news diet to one that has acted as the lynchpin in democracy over the last ten days, the zeal with which the media in Kerala chased the case against Dileep is worthy of making a case study.
For all those who cried hoarse over ‘media trial’ the arrest of Dileep was the best answer that reiterated the media’s importance as a watchdog. If one was to keep away the usual few suspects who thrive on sensationalism, most of the mainstream media kept to reporting the facts and drove worthy discussions that not only made the people aware of the what exactly were the charges against the actor but also ensured that enough pressure was put on the state that it could hardly look the other way.
“In the recent past, people have always looked down up on the media in Kerala. But I think this is one time where the media pressure has worked. It also gave a platform for the gender sensitive voices to be heard. Surely the government could not get away without taking action because the noise made by the media was becoming bigger and bigger with every passing day,’’ says CR Neelakandan, a noted social activist.
Perhaps the breaking point where a majority of the media decided that enough was enough and some parity needs to be brought to the reel and the real world was after the press briefing called by Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA).
Not only it galvanised the media, but through it, the CPI(M) too realised that things were getting out of hand if the whip is not cracked at the right time. That explanation was sought from the party’s MLA in Kollam Mukesh and the Chief Minister openly hitting out at criminals and those shielding them cannot be seen as coincidence after all.
Perhaps the police had no option but to eventually arrest Dileep and were only delaying the inevitable by sitting on ‘lack of evidence’ as an excuse to gauge the mood.
Veteran investigating officers like retired Superintendent of Police George Joseph has been shouting from rooftops that the present evidence is more than enough to arrest the actor.
While the letter, the phone calls both the ‘sandwich calls’ where the accused used a third person go-in-between to contact the actor and the direct calls of Dileep to the accused and the pictures the police got from shooting locations with Dileep and Kumar in the same frame were all pointing towards the actor’s association with the accused.
But perhaps what was clinging evidence that will hold good in the court of law is the confession made by Jinson the co-accused who overheard Kumar’s conversation with Dileep and his associates while sharing the cell with Kumar.
“See if you look at relevant sections of the Indian Evidence Act this voluntary confession of a co-accused in judicial custody said without any duress have great legal sanctity. With just that alone police could have easily booked Dileep long ago. They just wanted to be doubly careful while arresting someone as important as Dileep. So they again dished out more evidence,’’ George Joseph told Asianet Newsable.
Legal experts say that right from the moment the police understood the motive which was divulged from the statements recorded from the actress herself and Manju Warrier, Dileep’s former wife, they had probably very fewer doubts about who was the brain behind it. From then on it was an attempt to fill up the dots and reach Dileep’s doorstep. That the state police did in the most scrupulous way speaks volumes of the force’s ability and will.
Perhaps it is these men and women in the force that deserve all the kudos more than anyone else.