Rights activists cry foul as Kerala government moves court to put law student Alan back in jail

Activists decry CPI(M)'s double standards, saying the party is using the draconian law to quell dissent in Kerala.

ByK A Shaji

Published Nov 25, 2022 | 5:44 PMUpdatedNov 25, 2022 | 5:44 PM


In what appears to be a blatant misuse of the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government in Kerala has appealed to a special court trying NIA cases in Kochi to cancel the bail granted to Alan Shuhaib in the sensational Pantheerankavu “Maoist” case.

The irony is that the Politburo of the CPI(M) defined UAPA as a draconian law being misused to silence the critics of the government. Vijayan is a member of the Politburo, the party’s highest decision-making body.

The government’s move to put Alan back in jail is widely seen as a reprisal against the student for opposing the SFI, the CPI(M)’s students wing.

A former worker of the SFI, Alan is a law student at Kannur University’s Palayad campus in Thalassery. He termed the latest development a revenge for his standpoint against the SFI’s campus activities.

The beginning

The SFI’s campus unit lodged a complaint of ragging against Alan following an altercation. And the Home Department found it a valid reason to get his bail cancelled.


Alan Shuhaib. (Supplied)

Students and Alan’s supporters termed the case “fabricated”. They accused the SFI of distorting facts to implicate the student falsely.

After the SFI’s complaint, the station house officer of the Panniyankara police station in Kozhikode district moved the NIA special court saying that Alan had been arraigned as an accused in a criminal case registered at the Dharmadam police station in Kannur.

The case was registered under sections 341 (wrongful restraint) and 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) of the Indian Penal Code.

The officer further pointed out that Alan had violated the bail conditions, which included abstaining from criminal activities. Additionally, a social media patrolling report of the Cyber Crime Enquiry Cell of the Kozhikode city police was also submitted to the court.

The report alleged that Alan continued supporting the banned outfit, the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

When contacted, Panniyankara station house officer G Shambunath confirmed that he had petitioned the NIA court after discussing Alan’s case with his seniors.

“His family resides in our station limits. While granting him bail, the NIA court assigned me to monitor his activities. So I must inform the court that he had violated the bail conditions and a criminal case has been registered against him,” Shambunath told South First.

The NIA court is yet to consider the bail-cancellation petition. Meanwhile, several human rights activists, academicians and social workers have sprung to Alan’s defense.

They warned the CPI(M)’s national leadership against their state unit’s malicious intention and pointed out the Kerala government’s history of employing draconian laws to silence dissent.

Related: LDF shows willingness to quash dissent with draconian KAAPA

From comrade to enemy

Alan defended himself. He said there was nothing to prove the ragging charge against him other than the SFI’s police complaint.


Alan with his mother Sabitha. (Supplied)

“The SFI activists thrashed some of my friends, who are opposed to the organisation, over a minor incident on campus in the first week of November. I tried to rescue my friends,” he told South First.

“The SFI has taken revenge on me for complaining about a ragging incident involving some of its activists last year. A fake complaint was made and the police registered the case without verifying the logic behind the arguments in the complaint,” he further said.

“Now, the government is acting to convey a message to the younger generation that any dissent would be suppressed using draconian laws,” he added.

How did Alan, once a CPI(M) member, fall out of the party’s favour? His father, Muhammad Shuhaib explained it to South First.

“Alan became an eyesore for the party and its leadership in Kozhikode after he started questioning the wrongdoings of some leaders in his capacity as a card-holding member. Their ego and urge for revenge resulted in the fabrication of the Pantheerankavu Maoist case that put Alan and his like-minded party colleague Thwaha behind bars using UAPA,” he said.

“Now, a fabricated case in which complainants and witnesses are all SFI cadres is being used to get his bail cancelled. It’s a party to which my entire family belonged for decades, believing it is a defender of basic human rights. Political vendetta is behind this latest fake case,” Shuhaid added.

The irony of CPI(M)

“See the irony,” KS Hariharan, leader of the Revolutionary Marxist Party, a breakaway faction of the CPI(M), pointed out.

“When the court placed rights activist Gautam Navlakha under house arrest in a UAPA case charged against him, the CPI(M) controlled BT Ranadive Memorial Library in Mumbai provided him accommodation. At the same time, both CPI(M) and its student leaders in Kerala are conspiring to use UAPA against a former activist who left its fold on ideological grounds,” he stated.

Navlakha, 70, had been in jail since April 2020 after his arrest in the 2017-18 Elgar Parishad-Maoists links case. An NIA court in Mumbai on 19 November ordered to place him under house arrest following a directive of the Supreme Court on 10 November.

“There is nothing other than personal vendetta and intolerance behind the move,” Hariharan further commented on Alan’s case. “Teachers or students who are not affiliated to the SFI have not confirmed that Alan had engaged in ragging,” he added.

Meanwhile, activists, academicians and writers issued a joint statement terming the latest move a cruel twist of facts to take revenge on Alan, who did nothing but maintain an independent approach to student politics.

Signatories included veteran journalist and social commentator BRP Bhaskar, human rights activist K Ajitha, Dalit scholar Sunny M Kapikkad and environmentalist Purushan Eloor.

“Alan resisted the undemocratic activities of the SFI on the Palayad campus without engaging in any violence. The UAPA is threatening him again at a time he is busy attempting to recapture life by focussing on studies and undergoing medical treatment,” the statement read.

Also Read: Recurring police brutalities dent image of ‘strongman’ Vijayan

The Pantheerankavu case

Alan, then aged 22, and his friend and journalism student Thwaha Fazal, 26, were jailed as remand prisoners under UAPA for 10 months and two weeks. On 1 November 2019, a police sub-inspector detained them from Kottayithazham near Pantheerankavu on the outskirts of Kozhikode city.

The police then said that they were active members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

According to the first information report, the Pantheerankavu police sub-inspector and his team were on a combing operation when they found the students, along with a third person named Usman, under suspicious circumstances at the busy bazaar around 6.45 pm.

Usman fled on seeing the police, which made the police more suspicious. The two others later identified themselves as active workers of ruling CPI(M) and they were taken into custody and shifted to the Pantheerankavu police station.

Alan had a shoulder bag, while Thwaha was holding a red plastic folder when they were detained.

The police found a notice demanding the implementation of the Madhav Gadgil Committee Report on Western Ghats and several other pamphlets condemning the alleged encounter killing of four suspected Maoists inside the Manjakketty forests of Attappady region in Palakkad.

Suspected Maoists Manivasakam, Karthi, Aravind and Rema, all natives of Tamil Nadu, were killed in an “encounter” with Thunderbolts, the commando unit of the Kerala police, on 28 October, 2019. The police said they were killed when the commandos returned fire.

The police version was dismissed by the CPI, the second-largest constituent in the ruling LDF. The party termed it a “fake encounter”.

Alan’s bag also contained printed materials demanding the authorities to solve the land alienation issue of tribals in Wayanad and handwritten notes on increasing social inequalities.

A copy of a cultural magazine Maruvakku, a spiral notebook with coded scribbles, a pocket diary and a letter pad with notes on the “right to dissent” were found in the bag.

Thwaha’s folder had printouts detailing the CPI(Maoists) central committee’s perspective on caste issues in India apart from a copy of the book, Organisational Democracy, Disagreements with Lenin, by German-Polish Marxist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg.

The police registered a case against the two and Usman, terming them members of the banned terrorist organisation. They were also accused of distributing Maoist literature in Kottayithazham and its neighbourhood.

Sections 20 (punishment for being a member of a terrorist gang or organisation), 38 (offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation) and 39 (offence relating to support given to a terrorist organisation) of the UAPA were slapped on them.

NIA, CPI(M) and justice

On 16 December 2019, the NIA took over the case. For the next more than 10 months, the students languished in jail without bail.

Meanwhile, the CPI(M) expelled both students from the party and initiated a slander campaign against their alleged extremism. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan justified the arrests and termed the youths active members of the Maoist outfit.

The families of the two youths were almost alone in the legal battle until judge Anil K Bhaskar of the NIA court granted them bail on 9 September, 2020, on stringent conditions.

While granting bail, the court made interesting observations on the arrest made without any formal complaint and the subsequent NIA probe.

The bail order mentioned several missing links in establishing that the accused were cadres of CPI(Maoist) and their activities were controlled by the banned organisation as contended by the NIA.

The accused had only a “leaning towards this banned organisation, and there was no violent act”, the court observed.

The Maoist ideology might be influencing and tempting for several people due to the oppression faced by the weaker sections, the judge observed.

Judge Bhaskar, however, warned the students that the “chance offered by the court for reformation shall not be mistaken as an opportunity to strengthen their bond with the banned terrorist organisation and be a part of it”.