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30 April, 2018

“Suspicions” about Aswathi has makings of a put-up job

The complaint against Aswarhi Jwala on the basis of which Kerala’s Director General of Police has ordered an inquiry has the hallmarks of a put-up job.

Aswathi, a young social worker, whose humanitarian work (which includes distribution of food packets to the needy) has earned her much praise, incurred the wrath of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and DGP Loknath Behra by telling the public about the indifference of the state police to the complaint about the disappearance of Liga Skromane of Latvia who had come to Kerala for Ayurvedic treatment for depression.

Aswathi had been helping Liga’s sister Ilze and partner, Andrew Jordan of Ireland, to trace the missing woman. When they found that the police attitude was not helpful, she took them to the DGP. She said the Chief Minister did not meet them. The Chief Minister explained that he was not in town on the day they tried to meet him.

Andrew Jordan made a quick visit to Dublin and told the Irish media and the Indian embassy there about his unhappy experience in Kerala.

The crux of the allegations levelled against the Kerala police by Ilze, Andrew and Aswathi is that it did not act promptly on the complaint about the missing Liga even after they expressed fears about her safety.

One and a half months later, Liga’s body was found in a highly decomposed state in a mangrove in an area said to be frequented by drug pedlars. The police initially tried to pass it off as a case of suicide. Forensic examination has now compelled it to admit she may have been murdered.

Their indifference thoroughly exposed, the police, it appears, is now working overtime to fix Aswathi so that nobody dares to challenge it again. The CPI (M)’s cyber activists, whose task is to salvage the reputation of the Chief Minister, who is also the Home Minister, is extending the police full support in the cover-up. As part of the effort they have placed on the social media a synopsis of the complaint on the basis of which the DGP ordered the inquiry against Aswathi.

It identifies the complainant as one Anilkumar of Panangode, Kovalam, and lists the following four points said to be in it:

11.   Aswathi Jwala the social worker was with Liga’s relatives from the time of her disappearance. There is suspicion about her intervention in Liga’s murder and collection of Rs 3.8 lakhs in its name.
   2.   Aswathi’s sources of funds must be investigated. There is suspicion about her office and assets in the city. Lakhs of rupees flow into her account every day in connection with the distribution of food packets. She has collected Rs 5000 each from MLAs.
   3.  Recently an advance was given for five acres of land at Ponkulam. Aswathi’s foreign trips and cars also create suspicion.
    4. There is also suspicion about from where so much money came in three years.

If this is a fair synopsis of the complaint, the complainant has actually levelled no allegations against Aswathi. He has merely listed a number of suspicions, and that too without mentioning any ground for the suspicions.

It is easy to make out from the very first suspicion he has listed that what prompted him to come forward with the complaint is Aswathi Jwala’s association with Liga  Scromane’s relatives. He doesn’t give any information in support of his claim – rather, his suspicion -- that she collected Rs 3.8 lakhs in Liga’s name.   

He does not spell out his suspicions about Aswathi’s office and assets. How is it his – or the police’s -- business if some MLAs have given her Rs 5,000 each and people are giving lakhs of rupees for the humanitarian work she is doing?

I find it hard to believe that Loknath Behra, an IPS officer of 33 years' standing is such a simpleton that he treats a communication of this kind as a police complaint and orders an inquiry.

The only reasonable conclusion an intelligent reader can draw is that the complaint is the work of a person who suffers from paranoid personality disorder, which is a mental condition characterized by intense suspicion and mistrust of others.  

Police cooking up documents or evidence is not entirely unknown. But in all likelihood the hand behind this one is not that of the police. A policeman would have produced a  more credible document. My suspicion – yes, suspicion, not allegation – is that it originated in a political establishment of doubtful professional standard.   

As outrage against the vindictive police action against Aswathi surged in public space, party apologists, who have lately been forced to find justification for a plethora of police misdeeds, have trotted out arguments like she has not been questioned, she has not been arrested etc. Even if they don’t know it, the police must know that before acting upon a complaint it has to satisfy itself that it is a genuine complaint, not a string of suspicions of a paranoid person, and that there is sufficient ground to believe a crime may have been committed.

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