The image of the Kerala police has taken yet another severe beating with the abduction and killing of Kevin P. Joseph on Sunday.
The latest in the string of embarrassments came on Monday when the police found itself in a spot over the troubling question whether its officers, due to an extraneous influence, had hung back from actively pursuing the kidnappers of Kevin, the victim of what is widely perceived to be a honour killing.
The youth, who had gone to a relative’s home immediately after his marriage with Neenu Chacko at a civil marriage ceremony on May 24, defying objections from her family, was dragged out of the house early Sunday morning and taken away.
Although Neenu and Kevin’s parents reached the Gandhi Nagar police station, Kottayam, pleading for quick action to trace him, the police refused to respond. By Monday morning, Kevin’s body was found in a canal at Thenmala in Kollam, from where Neenu hails, leaving the police scurrying for explanations.
Earlier this month, the police lost face over the delay to prosecute a child abuse case in Edappal in Malappuram despite receiving visual evidence. Last month, a mistaken arrest in a armed trespass case at Varappuzha in Ernakulam resulted in the death of a blameless youth in police custody, with allegations that an illegally constituted special team of the Aluva Rural police had beaten up the youth. He breathed his last the following day due to fatal injuries to his intestines.
In March, the police invited harsh criticism for allegedly causing a fatal motorbike crash involving a husband and wife in a high-speed chase in Kanjikuzhy in Alappuzha.
The same month an officer was caught on camera abusing two-wheeler riders during a routine traffic check at Eerattupetta in Kottayam. Such instances of police misconduct, magnified in the news and social media, has not augured well for the government’s image either.
Neenu’s statement that the police had cited Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s impending public programme as an excuse not to trace her husband became a poll issue on Chengannur by-election day. The police attempted a fire-fighting operation by suspending Sub Inspector, Gandhi Nagar station, M.S. Shibu. They also removed V.M. Muhammad Rafik, District Police Chief, Kottayam.
Senior officials said the police appeared not to have pursued an active kidnapping case in which the complainant was the hostage’s wife.
They did not immediately register a case and sound a Statewide alert for the vehicles carrying the abductors. Officials said it was not clear whether the SI had informed his superiors of the gravity of the case and its societal implications. The law required officers to give high priority to social crimes such as honour killings and dowry murders. However, the police appeared not to have followed the rule in the case of the hapless couple in Kottayam.