Kerala government decides to withdraw Sabarimala, anti-CAA protest cases

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AHEAD OF the assembly elections in the state, the CPI(M)-led government in Kerala on Wednesday decided to withdraw cases registered in connection with protests against entry of young women at the Sabarimala shrine and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

The Cabinet decided to withdraw all “cases of not serious criminal nature’’ registered related to the Sabarimala and anti-CAA protests, said an official communication.

Police had registered an estimated 17,000 cases, arraigning around 68,000 people from various Hindu outfits as accused, in connection with the Sabarimala protests in 2018 following a Supreme Court verdict allowing entry of young women to the hill shrine. In connection with the anti-CAA protests of 2019, around 530 cases were registered from January to March, 2020. The anti-CAA protests have people from various political and Muslims outfits as accused with the Social Democratic Party of India, the political wing of Popular Front of India, figuring in 170-odd cases.

Although the opposition Congress and BJP have placed the Sabarimala issue on their poll plank, the CPI (M) has side-lined the emerging debate on the issue with party state secretary A Vijayaraghavan last week saying that Sabarimala was not an issue in the upcoming polls. However, the CPI (M) has sensed that the issue, which contributed to the LDF’s rout in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019, would haunt it again impacting the prospects of the ruling front in the assembly polls.

The Congress had earlier announced that it would withdraw all cases related to both issues if voted to power, putting pressure on the ruling front.

Besides, last week, upper caste Hindu outfit Nair Service Society had criticised the government’s reluctance to withdraw the cases, which, according to NSS general secretary G Sukumaran Nair, affected the future of several job seekers. The NSS had said that the Left government had withdrawn several cases of serious nature while it was going ahead with the criminal cases registered against the faithful.

Both the Congress and BJP welcomed the decision to withdraw the cases. Congress state president Mullappally Ramachandran said the decision showed that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had to give in to public sentiments. “The Congress raised the demand right from the beginning. However, it was Vijayan’s arrogance that led to the delay in withdrawing the cases. Vijayan should be willing to rectify his mistake,’’ he said.

S J R Kumar, general secretary of Sabarimala Karma Samithi, an umbrella outfit of various organisations, said the decision is only an eyewash. “Hundreds of false cases have been registered against the devotees who took part in peaceful nama japa (prayer) yatras. Although the Cabinet has decided to withdraw the cases, we have to see how the decision is going to be implemented. We want all the cases to be withdrawn without any condition. The faithful, arraigned as accused in false cases, have already spent Rs 3 crore towards the court expenses of the cases. The decision is only aimed at the elections. The crux of the issue is whether the CPI (M) is prepared to withdraw its affidavit in the Supreme Court favouring entry of young women at the temple. Then only the CPI (M) can claim that party has honoured the sentiments of the faithful,” Kumar said.

The BJP took exception to the decision to withdraw cases related to anti-CAA protests. Party state spokesman Sandeep G Varrier said: “The real intention of the government is to withdraw cases against those who rioted against the country in the name of CAA. If the government is sincere in its intention, all cases related to Sabarimala protests should be withdrawn.”

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