Can Kannur expect peaceful days ?

KANNUR, MAY 20. Will the change of guard in the State administration have its positive impact on the volatile law and order situation in the district marred by recurrent political violence engendered by deep-rooted political animosities?

The question is being asked in the backdrop of the high expectations about possible official-level efforts to restore lasting peace in the region generated in the wake of the formation of the new UDF Government headed by Mr. A.K. Antony who had expressed his serious concern about the situation in the district during his stint as the Leader of the Opposition.

Isolated incidents of violence reported from different parts of the district notwithstanding, the district is relatively peaceful after the orgy of political violence in December. The atmosphere of peace has renewed the public expectation about a fresh thinking on the part of the UDF Government to address the issue of political violence in the region with a sense of urgency it demands.

As the Congress-led Opposition during the past five years spared no words to attack the then LDF Government for its failure to contain political violence in the region and wasted no occasion to make political gains out of the past incidents of violence by blaming the CPI(M), the present UDF dispensation can only ill- afford any delay in addressing the issue. As the morale of the district police was at its lowest during the final phase of the LDF Government, the immediate task of the new Government is to streamline the police machinery here by giving a sense of independence to deal with the law and order situation here.

`The police should be given free hand to deal with the law and order situation in the trouble-torn areas of the district, though it is the duty of the Government to ensure that the police act democratically', says Mr. M.P. Radhakrishnan, an activist who is in the forefront of the newly-launched Accountability Movement that is engaged in mobilising public awareness against political violence in the region. The Accountability Movement does not, however, consider the Kannur incidents as a mere law and order issue, he says.

The police have already shown signs of playing a pro-active role since the process of the State Assembly election began last month. The election in the district would not have been by and large peaceful if the police as well as the district administration had not made it adequately clear that culprits would be sternly dealt with. The change of Government has infused a sense confidence in the district police establishment. `The Chief Minister, Mr. A.K. Antony, is expected to put his foot down while dealing with the law and order situation in the district', says Mr. K. Panoor, human rights activist in the region.

With its hands tied, the police during the LDF regime was ineffective in checking violence, he says. While real culprits involved in violence continue to be still at large, police arrests have often been made on the basis of arrangements by rival parties, he says.

Given the fact that deep-rooted hostilities between rival political parties, especially the CPI(M) and the BJP-RSS, help perpetuate the culture of political violence that has prevailed in the region for the past quarter of a century, it is argued that the Government should not shy away from its responsibility to initiate a long-term dialogue process aimed at making Kannur a violence-free district. ``The new Government could work as a catalytic agent to end the culture of violence in the district'', Mr. Radhakrishnan says.

Apart from law and order measures, the Government should involve local party leaders, women and youth in the trouble-torn areas in the efforts for a lasting solution, he observes. `The culture of violence has destroyed the grace of rural life in the so-called party villages of the district', he says calling for emergency efforts to restore that grace.

It is also said that peace efforts in the district can go a long way if the Chief Minister himself personally intervenes in the matter. `Mr. Antony could make good use of his largely non- partisan image while addressing the issue of political violence in the district', says Mr. Panoor.

The history of violence in the district has its adverse impact on the development of the region as a major focus of the district administration and the police here is to tackle incidents of violence. Acceleration of developmental activities in the region, especially the trouble-torn areas, is also expected to help clear the atmosphere of tension prevailing there. The role that the new Ministers from the region will play in this regard is also expected to be crucial in bringing peace to the region.

The Minister, Mr. M.V. Raghavan, has already emphasised the need for the region's overall development. His statement that he will not adopt a confrontationist attitude as a Minister has certainly gone down well with the public here.