December 15, 1991: Eleven-year-old Sirajunnisa was playing in the courtyard of her house at Puthuppalli in Palakkad. Communal tension was mounting in the region with the start of ‘Ekta Yatra’, lead by BJP leader Murali Manohar Joshi. The clashes between polarized groups culminated in police firing and one of the bullets hit Sirajunnisa, piercing the back of her head and killing her on the spot. Surprisingly, the FIR recorded that Sirajunnisa was leading a violent mob of 300 people towards a nearby village. It took a relentless fight from various human rights groups to remove Sirajunnisa’s name from the FIR. The man who ordered the firing was the then Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG) Raman Srivastava — the right-hand man of then Chief Minister late Congress leader K. Karunakaran.
In 1994, Raman Srivastava hit the headlines again, this time too for all the wrong reasons. His alleged complacency in the infamous ISRO espionage case had shaken Kerala politics, which ended up in the resignation of Karunakaran. However, for the opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF), the ‘wrong man in the police headquarters’ turned out to be a trump card for the subsequent elections, which they won with a comfortable lead.
Much water has flown under the bridge since then. The same police officer — retired now but still active in the state — has now become a headache for the ordinary CPI(M) comrades. The controversial police officer is acting as the adviser to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on policing and related affairs. Since the beginning, Vijayan has been heavily criticized by his supporters (not always openly) for the way the Kerala police functions.
Every time there is an act of abuse of power by the police, Pinarayi Vijayan has been blamed (even from within the party) for keeping Raman Srivastava in his office. According to party insiders, no one within the party dares to question the CM on Srivastava’s appointment. However, the resentment has come out in open in the recent times after a vigilance raid on Kerala Financial Enterprise. Finance Minister Thomas Isaac and state secretariat member Anathalavattam Anandan lashed out at Srivastava. The Finance Minister has gone to the extent of saying that there is a ‘conspiracy’ behind the vigilance raid which was allegedly conducted without the knowledge of the CM. It is alleged that Raman Srivastava, who had been acting as the chief security advisor of a private finance company, was behind the raids. It was also pointed out that the raids were conducted when the vigilance director went on leave. However, the party secretariat has asked its members to keep away from openly making statements against Srivastava. The party issued a press release that the open criticisms ‘could have been avoided’. In a cadre party like the CPI(M), this is enough to mute every dissenting voice within the party.
At the time of his appointment as advisor to the chief minister in 2017, a go-ahead was issued by the General Administration Department, which provided him a ‘police office’ and all other amenities including a vehicle. The details furnished in the order went against the claims made by the CM that Srivastava avails no remuneration. But the order makes it clear that he had all the paraphernalia of an officer in service including a full-fledged office with travel and daily allowances equivalent to that of the Chief Secretary. Party members and loyalists struggled hard to manage the heated debates on social media with regard to the appointment of an officer, who has a ‘shady service record.’
The appointment of Raman Srivastava created annoyance not only among party cadres but also within the police ranks. Srivastava being provided an office within the police headquarters created suspicion among officers whether that was a move to put an extra control over them. T.P. Senkumar, who was the Kerala police chief then and joined the BJP after retirement, had made it clear that Srivastava was an advisor to the CM, but not to the force in general.
Raman Srivastava is a 1973 batch Kerala cadre IPS officer, who, apart from being a Karunakaran-loyalist, was also close to Oomman Chandy, the former UDF Chief Minister. He was appointed DGP in 2005 by the then Chief Minister Oomman Chandy. The LDF government, which succeeded Chandy, let him occupy the seat against speculations that he would eventually be removed.
No one is able to make a conclusive observation on the reasons why Srivastava, with all the controversies surrounding him, is the blue-eyed boy of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. “Maybe because the CM might need his connections in Delhi,” says a party insider. Srivastava is believed to be well networked with the bureaucrats in Delhi. However, since the killing of Sirajunnisa, Raman Srivastava is said to have got comfortable with right-wing Hindutva politics. There were witness statements against him, saying he had ordered firing without any provocation. Unfortunately, the investigation initiated by the crime branch against the cops involved in firing did not make a completion.