The Kerala Cabinet has decided to withdraw cases of non-serious criminal nature registered during the protests against the Sabarimala verdict and Citizenship Amendment Act. According to reports, nearly 2,300 cases have been registered in different districts related to the Sabarimala issue, of which Kannur has the highest number.
Reportedly, around 490 cases related to Citizenship Amendment Act protests have been registered, of which Kozhikode has the highest number. Many of these cases are registered under various sections regarding the destruction of public property, assault on women and incitement to violence, which will be withdrawn only after obtaining legal advice.
The cabinet has also decided to create around 400 openings to welcome the protesting PSC rank holders in education, police, and Kerala State Agro Machinery Corporation (KAMCO). The cabinet has decided to create a new battalion for the police, which would be the first one in 35 years, welcoming around 120 candidates. Almost 30 openings were made in KAMCO, with more openings to be reported in the future.
In an earlier meeting, the cabinet had instructed the Chief Secretary to oversee the reporting of vacancies in the various departments. They also added that strict action would be taken against department heads who do not properly report on the vacancies. According to sources, new vacancies and openings are slowly coming out into the public, which the Chief Secretary will continue to monitor. Experts believe that while these new openings may not directly help the protesting candidates, they will affect the overall employment prospects in the state.
On the other hand, around 84 qualified sports candidates will be given jobs, including the medallists from the National Games. After the reports of the cabinet meeting became public, the sports candidates withdrew from the overall protests, while the Civil Police Officer rank holders continue their strike. On the other hand, Last Grade Servant rank holders opine that they are willing to back off if the government can give these promises in writing.
Political observers believe that the LDF government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is in a damage control mode. For the past many weeks, the government had been cornered on many sides, and the Sabarimala arrests and the PSC protests had been some of the most prominent of those. The experts opine that this decision to change their stance is related to the upcoming elections. Interestingly, both issues had been a hot topic for the government with the LDF leaders claiming that they were helpless in both matters. Moreover, their change in their stance is also not an inherent reaction based on some moral ideology, as it follows from a stronger stance taken by the opposition.
Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala as well as former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had been demanding that the cases against the Sabarimala and CAA protestors be withdrawn immediately. “The decision to withdraw the cases even comes so late, but it is good as the government finally decides to implement the demand, which the opposition had put forward earlier,” Ramesh said. In fact, they have claimed that they would do the necessary when the UDF comes to power. This is would be problematic for the LDF government since the public traction for the UDF had been growing of late especially thanks to their Aiswarya Kerala Yatra.
Moreover, some of their claims have also been backed by other political parties and organisations, which could drive more voters to the UDF side.
Earlier, the Nair Service Society (NSS) had demanded the withdrawal of the cases related to Sabarimala protests, which the government was against this demand. The NSS had filed a review plea in the SC challenging its verdict. BJP state president K Surendran said that he could not agree with the government’s decision to treat the Sabarimala and Citizenship Amendment Act protests as one since the Sabarimala protests did not have any criminal intentions, which activists disagree with.
In 2018, the Supreme Court made its landmark judgment permitting women of menstruating age to enter the Sabarimala temple. Kerala witnessed dozens of protests following the Apex Court’s order, as right-wing elements blocked highways and forced closed shops. Later, arrests were made for defying the Supreme Court order and reacting to the arrests, the then CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said that it was normal police action when rules are breached. LDF leaders had also claimed that Congress and BJP were using the Sabarimala issue to create polarisation and topple the current government.
However, now, the scenario had changed. With the latest EMCC deep-sea fishing issue gaining greater traction among the opposition parties and coastal communities protesting it, the LDF government is facing an attack from many fronts. In this situation, experts believe that the latest cabinet decision is as interesting as it is a double-edged weapon. In the case of the PSC protests, ministers such as Thomas Isaac and EP Jayarajan had claimed that the protestors are engaged in a futile venture, as it was near impossible to guarantee them anything. With 400 new openings, and more reportedly on their way, the change in this decision can also affect them.
Observers are already asking why the government is catering to a “futile venture” and “politically motivated protestors making improbable demands”. Is the government admitting that the protestors are making genuine demands or that all of this is a political move with the election in their sight? Either way, they will have to admit to one or the other.
However, the protestors are still on their toes, as none of this has been received in writing. The opposition has also not withdrawn its attacks since the government is yet to cancel the illegal backdoor appointments that started the whole fiasco. Nevertheless, the LDF government is engaged in a damage control mode, to make sure that the survey results don’t change against them.