Kerala has been the focus of a national debate over the past week about the use of the term “terrorist” by the state police and the media.
The debate is being waged on the ground, on social media, and on the streets, but the debate has been largely framed by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his supporters.
The debate is over whether the police and media should be seen as “terrorists” by people who want to defend themselves or the country against an insurgency that has killed at least 1,000 people in the state since December, according to the United Nations.
The Chief Minister has defended his decision to use the word, saying that the term is being used to stigmatise the security forces and media.
“I am not trying to demonise the police, or the media,” the Chief Minister told the BBC.
“We are protecting the citizens of Kerala and protecting the state from terror attacks.”
The Chief Secretary of the Kerala Police has also criticised the media and police for using the word “terrorist”.
“I do not believe that it is appropriate to use this term and I am not against this term.
It is only being used in order to make the state more feared,” D Sankarachalam told the Times of India newspaper on Sunday.
But it is the police that are the targets of the debate, with the Chief Secretary saying that he believes the term has been used by the media to “disclose the state”.
The Chief Secretary said the term was not being used against the police.
“The police have been the target of these people and these people have used the word ‘terrorist’ to scare people,” he said.
Police Chief Pinarai Vijayan has said that the word has been being used by journalists to demonize the police but has denied that it has been done by the Chief Chief Secretary.
“I think that the people are using this word to make us look bad, to say that we are terrorists and that is the same as the word terrorism,” Pinarajayya told reporters on Saturday.
Earlier this month, the Kerala Chief Secretary made a similar point in a speech at a function attended by around 200 people in Bangalore, but later retracted it saying that “we have been in a very bad situation”.
It is unclear if the Chief Ministers views have changed, but Kerala’s Chief Minister said the state government has not made any effort to “demonise” the police or the state media.
This week, he had told the Kerala High Court that the media is not to be considered “terror” and the police is not “terror”.
“The word ‘terrorism’ has been in circulation since the 1980s, when the state was in a civil war.
The term ‘terrorist’, as we call them, has been around for more than 30 years,” he told the court.
In February, Pinaraya had said that it was necessary to defend the state’s constitution from the “sick” forces of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).
“We have the right to defend our constitution.
We have the same right to protect our state,” Pinarakayya said.