“The Maoist scare is an easy tool which the police utilise to stop activists and researchers,” says an editor.
Inside the Spartan office of Vidyarthi publications tucked away in a corner of an old city building, books and magazines that it had published in the last three years of their operations are scattered on the table and on the ground. On Saturday, the police had raided the office and the houses of the publishers after five of them were arrested from Meppadi in Wayanad, the site of an ongoing Adivasi land struggle, for alleged Maoist connections.
Speaking to The Hindu on Monday, a day after they were freed from the 24-hour-long detention, H. Shafeeque, one of the editors of the publishing house, said that what they had gone through in the past two days was an eerie warning for anyone who aimed to do in-depth studies on people’s struggles in the country.
“We had gone to Meppadi to conduct a comprehensive study of the Adivasi land struggle there and its successes and failures. It is part of the work on our upcoming book ‘Keralathile Samarabhoomikal’. The police came with arms and detained us while we were conducting the study on Saturday morning,” Mr. Shafeeque said.
Accompanying the team of editors was Divya Diwakaran, who is in the second year of her Ph.D thesis work in Mahatma Gandhi University.
“I have been visiting places in the State having serious land related issues. My thesis topic is ‘Rights of the displaced vis-à-vis Right to development – a human rights perspective’. Last month, I visited Attapady and neighbouring areas for the study. The police refused to believe us even after we stated the purpose of our visit clearly and showed them the books and other materials collected,” Ms. Divya said.
The police simultaneously raided their houses.
“They took away our books, CPU, film DVDs and even my phone directory. Film titles like ‘Bicycle Thieves’ probably confused them. I had given them the contact of my Ph.D guide to clear the air. But they refused to do that. The police asked us why we had not asked them if we wanted information as part of our research. The questioning went on for several hours,” Mr. Shafeeque said.
“In view of the sighting of Maoists in Nilambur recently, we acted swiftly when we got information from one of the local people. It was a preventive arrest. Though the material collected did not point to the five having any Maoists, one of them has been in touch with a phone number in Andhra for a long time. We are enquiring on that. They should have asked our permission before this research. The Maoists usually operate with human rights organisations as their front and so we have to be alert,” said A.V. George, Wayanad District Police Chief.
When contacted, Meppadi Sub Inspector N.M. Jose said the team was arrested after the police got information through an anonymous call of Maoist presence.
“The Maoist scare is an easy tool, which the police utilise to stop activists and researchers. The recent arrest of five people including a scientist in Mavelikara and the high profile Maoist hunts in Kerala’s forests which did not yield any result are part of this bogey that the establishment sells to hide its inefficiency and for the sake of global finance capital’s land grab,” Mr. Shafeeque said.