Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Black Diwali-follow up

After the Black Diwali arrest and bail some well wishers have made some efforts to help me. Veteran Brig M PG Menon, AVSM arranged a copy of the Kerala Police Act, 2011 (which has replaced the '61 Act'). Veteran Maj Gen P Subhas, VSM had explored contacts to see if the case can be kept away from the court and found it futile. Veteran JWO Sivasankaran also made an effort to pay up any fine in the police station if it could be done so to close the case and reported that I may have to pay about Rs 100/- as fine only when the case came up in the court! In the meanwhile I studied the Kerala Police Act and based on the knowledge so gained, sent a letter to the District Superintendent of Police. This letter is reproduced in this blog.

Maj (Retd) P M Ravindran
2/18, 'Aathira', Sivapuri, Kalpathy-678003
Tele: 0491-2576042; E-mail:

File: Pers/DSP-261112                                                                                                                                      26 Nov 2011

The District Superintendent of Police
District Police Office
Yakkara Road, Palakkad-678014

Sub: Illegal arrest and detention- request to exercise powers under sec 22 of the KPA, 2011.

Ref: Sec 22, 29, 32, 39, 40, 116,120, 125 and 126

1.       On 13 Nov 2011, Minister of Defence, A K Antony, was in station to inaugurate a function in the Auditorium of Hotel Indraprastha at 1530h.
2.       Armed forces veterans had been agitating in various parts of the country seeking redresal of their many problems. The agitation at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi where veterans had gathred on many occassions to collect and return their hard  earned medals to the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces, the President of India,  and also submitting memorandum signed in blood have been reported adequately in the media. Given this situation and the rare visit of the Defence Minister to Palakkad I had tried to mobile a protest in front of the venue, that is Hotel Indraprastha from 1500h. I had reached there by about 1450h and had with me 1000 copies of a leaflet titled ‘Pattalakkaar sahikkunna thyaganagal aarkkuvendi‘ and a banner which amoung other things demanded the resignation of the Defence Minister. The intention was to display the banner across the road, opposite Hotel Indraprastha, and distribute the leaflet to those going in to participate in the function in the hotel complex. I had earlier requested the members of the Defence Services Officers‘ Institute to join the protest. I had also requested the President, Indian ExServicemens League (Palakkad Block) to convey the message to the members of the League in the district.
3.       Since I had 10 minutes to spare to see if any other armed forces veterans would be joining the protest, I waited. Then I met one of the councillors of the Palakkad Municipality who was also one of the organisers of the function being inaugurated by Mr A K Antony and walked upto him on the driveway of the hotel. There he sought to see the leaflet and the banner and I had obliged. At this Mr P B Prasobh, Dy SP, Palakkad, standing next to him, ordered my arrest and I was whisked away to the Town South Police Station.
4.       At the Police Station I sought to make a telephone call but was denied.
5.       Around 1900h, I was told to get 2 persons to provide surety as a prelude to granting me bail. I rang up Dr P S Panikkar and soon he along with two others came to the police station.
6.       We were then made to sign some forms in which the space for the charges against me were found  left blank. On enquiry, we were told that it was under the Police Act and had to do with creating public nuisance.  We left after signing the documents – the charges space still blank- by about 2000h.
7.       A perusal of the KPA 2011 indicates that the arrest was illegal.
8.       Also the provisions of the Supreme Court orders had not been complied with.
9.       In fact till now I am ignorant of the charges framed against me and also how my intention of distributing leaflets and holding a banner on the road side could in way have been interpreted as a public nuisance. To the best of my knowledge and understanding, I was only asserting a democratic right to protest. In fact I have mostly been a victim of bandhs, held illegal by the apex court itself but enforced as hartals therafter and even denial of access to the offices of the district administation by even more blatantly illegal seige of the complex by groups owing allegiance to various political parties.
10.    For reason given above, I request you to exercise you power under Sec 22 of the KPA and undo the damage done by the Dy SP, Palakkad.

Yours truly,

(P M Ravindran)

Black Diwali 2012

13 Nov 2012 was Diwali (Deepaavali in Malayalam), the festival of lights! Some how I was not in a mood to sent out my usual greetings through e mail. To those who had greeted me I had replied almost perfunctorily. My mind was full of the activity planned for the after noon- the Defense Minister was coming to Palakkad to inaugurate the 50th year of public life of O Rajagopal, former minister of state of various ministries under AB Vajpayee. It was indeed a rare occasion. Not that a congress minister was inaugurating a bjp function but a defense minister was coming to Palakkad. I had tried to mobilise some veteran soldiers to protest on the occasion. I wouldn't go into the list of our grievances here. The activities of Indian Ex Servicemen Movement in returning medals to the President of the country, the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces, and signing petitions signed in blood has been somewhat adequately reported. Here, the various organisations I contacted and am part of, were only interested in presenting memorandums, which  I knew would have helped only to subsidise the expenditure on toilet paper, if he had been one of those using such a process. Antony being from Kerala I knew he wouldn't be and so memorandums would be a total and sheer waste of precious paper. So I tried to do the next best thing. I got out a leaflet in Malayalam-titled 'For whom the soldiers make sacrifices'- and decided to distribute it to the participants at the entrance to the hotel where the function was being organised. I had put in a word to the President of the Block level unit of Indian Ex Servicemen's League and while he had outright said that it would be impossible for him to help as an organisation I had suggested that there was no need for him to help as an organisation but the members could come as individuals. If they were coming they could be there before the hotel by 3 pm. (The function was to commence in the auditorium attached to the hotel at 3.30 pm!) He had just smiled.

I reached there with 1000 copies of the leaflet and a banner having the following slogans- Soldiers against Traitors; Pattala dhrohi 'pattala' manthri raaji vekkuka (pattalam means armed forces and raaji vekkuka means resign); Pathirodha senakale prathirodhatthilaakkunna Prathirodha manthriye puratthakkuka (the defence minister who is puttting the defence forces on defence should be removed); raajya surakshakku bheeshaniyaaya raajya raksha manthriye naadu kadatthuka ( excommunicate the defence minister who is a threat to the security of the nation); raajyadhrohikalkkethire sainikar (Soldiers against traitors). Police personnel were overflowing and I had to wait for another 10 minutes or so to see if anybody else would come. I saw one of the organisers inside the gates and since he had invited me to the function I decided to say hello to him. And that turned out to be my undoing. He saw my bag and wanted to see the notice. After seeing the heading he decided that  it had to be brought to the notice of the Dy SP standing next to him. That, plus a look at the banner, the Dy SP snapped 'arrest'. My saying that I was only going to distribute the leaflets on the road, outside the hotel compound and the banner was to be displayed facing the hotel on the roadside did not make any difference. I was soon in a jeep and taken to the police station.

I asked to make a call (I do not carry any mobile!) and was denied. The SI was courteous enough to lie that the telephone at the reception had only incoming facility. But he read through the leaflet and asked some questions, admitting that whatever had been written would be of interest to fellow soldiers. Of course he shared his own understanding that the soldiers were extremely happy with what Antony had done. I blamed it on self serving media for such misinformation campaign.

Of what I overheard of the conversation between the police personnel one bit struck me- O Rajagopal is from BJP, right? So why should Antony be here to inaugurate this function? And the conversation veered on to 2014 elections and the possibility of trade offs between Congress and BJP. I wanted to intervene saying that it was the BJP govt that bailed out Rahul, the Congress prince, when he had been arrested in the USA in 2002. But I kept good counsel- with the devil, use the barge pole!

Anyhow, sitting there my thoughts wandered off in different directions. Maybe I will have to soon take a call on 'jail bharo' -when one would refuse to provide sureties and refuse to argue in courts too!- because there seems to be no other way. The law and order situation is so preposterous in our country, sooner than later people will have to take law into their own hands. Those who are responsible for enforcing law and order seems to be under the impression that what they think and do is the ultimate in law. I myself have no doubt that had I been exposed to even a fraction of the injustice that I see around me today, at the age when I opted to join the army, I would have been a successful naxalite or maoist! A wry smile crossed my lips while imagining how my wife would deal with tracing me out if I had to spend the whole night in the police station! Will be some learning process for her, I told myself. After all adversity is the greatest teacher!

Around 7 pm the SI on duty told me to get two people to bail me out.  And when I repeated I could not because I did not carry a mobile, I was allowed to use the telephone at the reception! I rang up Dr P S Panikkar who told me he was on his way to the police station!

Anyhow, a media friend had got wind of my arrest and he had alerted those in my activists circle- Dr Anuvarudhin and Vilayodi Venugopal. Soon Dr P S Panikkar, Mr Muhammed Shafi and Mr Akbarali were at the police station to bail me out. I was told that the charge was under Sec 35 or so of the Act of 61(the SI on duty was not sure, but he said that it was for creating disturbance in a public place and added that it would be a penalty of Rs 100/- unless contested.)

Anyhow, those 5 hours at the police station, with no familiar faces around, was a new experience. It has only reinforced my understanding that we have a long, long way to go before we can call ourselves a civilized society, leave alone a democracy! I have no choice but to continue with this fight for justice society. Personally I am unlikely to make any worthwhile impact but the concept will always dominate human conscience and should succeed ultimately.