Kerala

Crime Branch suspects divisive motive in arson attack

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Agency also looking into copycat attacks on NSS offices in the aftermath of Sabarimala verdict

The Crime Branch (CB) investigating the firebombing of the Ashram of Sandeepananda Giri here in October 2018 suspect that the high-profile arson attack was one among a series of hate crimes intended to deepen schisms within Kerala society as it grappled with the touchy issue of accepting the Supreme Court order allowing women of all ages to worship at the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala .

The Crime Branch is also investigating whether the attacks were part of a larger political conspiracy to leverage votes in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections by creating enmity between communities.

Wreath of clues

Additional Director General of Police, Crime Branch, Tomin Thachankery, told The Hindu that the ominous funeral wreath left behind by the arsonist at the Ashram as a dire warning to Sandeepananda Giri might hold the clues to the identity of the arsonist.

Sandeepananda, a Hindu preacher and television personality, had emerged as one of the most vocal critics of the Sangh Parivar-backed Sabarimala Karma Samithi, which had spearheaded the emotionally charged and socially volatile campaign to deter the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government from implementing the momentous SC order.

Soon, a series of copycat crimes targeting the offices and institutions of the Nair Service Society (NSS) unfolded across Kerala.

The NSS had vehemently opposed the move to allow women between the age of 10 and 50 into the temple and petitioned the SC to review its decision.

Early on November 1, five days after the firebombing of the Ashram, unknown persons vandalised the NSS office at Nemom here.

They damaged the idol of social reformer Chattambi Swamy and portentously left behind a funeral wreath as a warning to NSS general secretary G. Sukumaran Nair.

In early December, the NSS office at Kudassanad in Alappuzha witnessed a similar attack.

The miscreants hoisted a black flag at the office and placed a funeral wreath as a notice to the NSS leadership. The local police had arrested two NSS workers allegedly affiliated to the RSS in connection with the incident.

The local police had traced the provenance of the funeral wreath found there to a florist shop at Pettah. They had also prepared a facial composite of the suspected firebug based on eyewitness statements.

However, the investigation floundered after some officers questioned the authenticity of the police sketch, which bore a close resemblance to a Communist Party of India (Marxist)functionary.

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 3:39:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/crime-branch-suspects-divisive-motive-in-arson-attack/article29612016.ece

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