Verdict on Marad violence

Published : Feb 13, 2009 00:00 IST

MARAD appears peaceful today, nearly six years after a group of revenge killers hacked to death eight Hindu fishermen (and a Muslim fellow attacker by mistake) there, in what turned out to be the worst communal incident in recent memory in Kerala.

Maybe, time is a healer. But it is more or less certain now that the circumstances that led to the 2003 killings will continue to remain a volatile mystery, with a short fuse.

On January 15, the special court constituted for the trial in the Marad case awarded rigorous life imprisonment and a fine of Rs.25,000 each to 62 of the 139 against whom charge-sheets were filed. On December 27, 2008, the court had found 63 of them guilty of various crimes and had acquitted the rest.

Twenty four of the 62 found guilty of the charges of murder, attempt to murder, promoting enmity on grounds of religion, unlawful assembly, rioting with deadly weapons, causing hurt or grievous hurt with dangerous weapons, among other crimes under the Indian Penal Code, were close relatives. One of the accused, the manager of a local mosque, was found guilty under the law seeking to prevent the misuse of religious institutions.

The court said the evidence proved that the eight Hindu fishermen were attacked with lethal weapons and that the prosecution could establish beyond doubt that there was an unlawful assembly of the 62 people with the common objective of committing murder, grievous hurt and other allied offences.

The court found that Asker Ali, the ninth victim in the incident, was also a member of the group of assailants. However, the prosecution could not prove its charges that there was a criminal conspiracy behind the killings or that the accused had committed offences under the Explosives Substances Act or the Arms Act. The verdict was based on the evidence presented before it after an inquiry by the Crime Branch of the State police.

But, a judicial commission of inquiry appointed in the aftermath of the incident had found that, among other things, the incident was a sequel to the largely politically-motivated murder of five others in the village earlier in January 2002 and a fallout of the then Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) governments unjustified delay in the prosecution of those accused of that crime ( Frontline, October 20, 2006).

The commission had said that the delay in filing charge-sheets in the January 2002 incident at Marad was utilised by Muslim fundamentalists, terrorists and other forces to capitalise on the grievances of relatives of three Muslims killed and to use it as a cause for vengeance against Hindus of Marad as a whole.

It had also said that the inquiry into the May 2003 incident by the Crime Branch had failed to unravel the larger conspiracy and the source of the large cache of arms and ammunitions unearthed subsequently in the area and of the sizeable funds used in the planning and execution of the murders.

The judicial commission had also been critical of the role of the civil administration, the State police and the Crime Branch and had said that despite clear evidence that there was a long-drawn conspiracy and that the objective of the assailants was not merely to kill certain persons but to create bigger havoc and ignite large-scale riot, the Crime Branch team had stuck to its simple theory of revenge killings.

The question as to whether other forces were involved in the massacre was not even an issue for the Crime Branch team, it said.

Much to the discomfiture of all major political parties in the State, the judicial commission that was constituted to inquire into the circumstances that led to the second Marad incident of May 2003, had thus drawn attention on the facts and circumstances of the 2002 incident too, in which, activists of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)/the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Muslim League, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Indian National League and the National Development Front, were among the accused.

And its main recommendation was further inquiry, involving the Intelligence Bureau, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, into the larger conspiracy involving fundamentalist and other forces, and into the sources of the explosives and funds that the Crime Branch had failed or refused to investigate an act which the commission had described as quite suspicious and disturbing.

In September 2007, the Left Democratic Front government had requested the Centre to conduct a CBI inquiry as suggested by the commission, but in a manner that did not affect the ongoing trial. Such an inquiry never materialised, obviously because the major political parties could not agree on an inquiry that would expose their roles too in the incidents.

It is hard to believe that despite the prevailing peace and calm at Marad at present, and given the hurt and anger in the village (Frontline, November 7, 2003) that had led all the Muslim families there to flee their homes not so long ago, Kerala can find solace in the verdict of the special court and the sentencing of 63 persons alone and believe all will be well.

R. Krishnakumar
Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment