Kerala’s ‘Whatsapp Hartal’ For Asifa: Troubling Questions That Need Answers

Kerala’s ‘Whatsapp Hartal’ For Asifa: Troubling Questions That Need Answers

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The busting of the Hindutva racket who tried to foment communal tension in Kerala in the name of the ‘People’s Hartal’ on 16th of this month has sent shock waves through Kerala society. The hartal was called through Whatsapp groups to protest the gruesome rape and murder of the Kathua minor girl. Since the sponsors remained anonymous, no organisation claimed responsibility for  the hartal. The April 16 hartal hit normal life in several northern districts.  Supporters of the hartal forcefully shut down shops in the districts and the hartal was partially complete. Stones were also hurled at buses and shops in certain areas. While the public was largely unaware of the hartal call, supporters of the hartal took out a march in Thiruvananthapuram and districts in north Kerala. They took out protest march at several places and sat on the road. There were reports of looting in some places. Kerala police quickly sprung into action. The Kerala police arrested close to a thousand people on April 16, 2018 in connection with the harthal seeking Justice for Asifa. Several youths have been arrested and charged with non-bailable offences. Arrested youths belonged to various organizations including CPM, Muslim League, Congress and SDPI and many others did  not belong to any organization.

Fortunately Kerala police didn’t stop their investigations there. They dug deeper and unearthed a wider conspiracy hatched by Sangh Parivar affiliated youth to foment communal tension in Kerala. They arrested five youth who belong to Sangh Parivar. Amarnath Baiju (19), A former RSS worker  and a resident of Thenmala in Kollam, was the admin of the group that gave out the call for the hartal.  The four others arrested were identified as N J Siril (22), P Sudheesh (22), Gokul Shekhar (21), and V Akhil (23) — all residents of Thiruvananthapuram district. Police say they started the campaign in a group named after the Kathua girl. Then they changed the name to ‘Voice of Sisters’, ‘Voice for Sisters’, ‘Voice of Youth’ and then ‘Voice of Truth’. More than 100 subgroups were created in  many small towns and villages of Kerala. All the groups were created within 48 hours of April 14. Saddest part is that youth from minority communities fell prey to the trap and took the hartal as their own. Activists of many political parties also took part in the hartal. They were simply duped by the deviousness of the Sangh Parivar groups. There are many questions that must be asked. 1.Cui bono? (Who benefits?) 2. How people fell for this orchestrated campaign? 3. Was it a trial run to organise large scale communal violence in Kerala to polarise Kerala society? Why and how minorities caught in this trap? What cautions should be taken to prevent such scenarios in the future?

The question should not be how this Hartal became a success, rather why it became a success. Kerala society should not fall into the polarising ‘victim’ blaming trap, but must take caution against such nefarious activities of Sangh Parivar groups who are looking for every opportunity to make inroads into the citadel which Kerala still really is.

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