Kerala police gather information on hitmen involved in political crimes

The targetted political killings in Alappuzha had prompted the exercise.

The State Police Intelligence has reportedly launched an investigation into armed gangs which carry out assassinations at the behest of their political masters. The targetted political killings in Alappuzha had prompted the exercise.

By one account, the probe is focussed primarily on two organisations that subscribe to extreme fundamentalist views.

The exercise was reportedly the outcome of a top-level meeting chaired by State Police Chief Anil Kant and attended, among others, by Additional Director General of Police, Intelligence, T. K.Vinod Kumar.

The organisations supposedly under the police scanner occupy the opposite sides of the religious spectrum.

The tit-for-tat attacks and revenge killings orchestrated by their respective cadres had often threatened to upend communal peace.

The intelligence effort is supposedly focussed on identifying the hit teams of both organisations, studying their criminal past, monitoring their social media accounts, identifying their safe houses and vehicles and tracking their mobile phone activity. The police were also seeking to execute pending warrants against the alleged troublemakers.

They would also legally examine whether the activists attract the Kerala Anti-Social Activities Prevention (KAPA) provisions that qualify them for preventive detention.

The mafia-style hit-and-run killings in Alappuzha, captured by neighbourhood surveillance cameras, had prompted the police to take a hard look at the mechanics of such political crimes.

The investigation into the Alappuzha killings had initially run into a headwind after investigators found that the assailants had maintained mobile phone silence during the slayings to pre-empt a police trace. However, officials could later surmount the hurdle and zero in on the suspects.

An official said such crimes were often coordinated via encrypted mobile phone messaging groups. The access to the groups was restricted according to hierarchy. The names of individuals tasked to carry out political hits rarely figured in the organisation’s muster rolls. In some crimes, the outfits had imported killers from other regions to carry out local operations.

An official said a robust legal system supported the accused. The organisations also provided for the families of those involved in political crimes. In the past, the organisational leaders often negotiated the surrender of alleged suspects.

However, when the case came up for a trial, the prosecutors were foxed that the accused could provide strong alibis. It seemed persons who had nothing to do with the offence had owned up the crime at the instance of their leaders to shield the actual assailants.

Last week, Mr. Kant had pointedly said the investigation into the Alappuzha murders would reach the doorstep of the leaders who sanctioned the crime.

The police had drawn flak from the Opposition for its alleged “failure” to forecast and prevent the inter-party violence in Alappuzha.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] saw a plot to incite communal trouble in Kerala. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had assured resolute action in the case.

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