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Italian marines-fishermen killing row kept Kerala in news throughout 2012

Press Trust of India
Dec 19, 2012 at 12:26pm IST

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Thiruvananthapuram: The incident of two Italian marines allegedly shooting dead two Indian fishermen off Kerala's coast in February and the subsequent legal and diplomatic issues made headlines throughout 2012, which also saw many developments on the state's political arena.

Coming to power with a wafer-thin majority in 2011, the Congress-led UDF government of Oommen Chandy won two assembly by-elections held during the year but strutted and fretted on the state's hyper-active political stage often failing to fulfill many of its tall promises. However, the state's presence in the central ministry rose to an all-time high of eight with the induction of Shashi Tharoor and Kodikunnil Suresh in the council of ministers in the reshuffle in October. It was a comeback for Tharoor, who had to resign as minister two years back after being caught in the vortex of a controversy over the Kochi IPL cricket team.

As the politically-volatile state had its usual dose of controversies, the brutal murder of an ex-Marxist TP Chandrasekharan shook the entire state putting main Opposition CPI-M on the defensive as several of its local functionaries figured as accused in the case.

Italian marines row kept Kerala in news in 2012

In another big news the Congress-led UDF government won two assembly by-elections held during the year.

With the monsoon rains falling far short of the normal, the year turned out to be a hard one for Kerala and harder days are in store as it is heading to a grim power crunch and drought-like situation.

The nation was shocked when naval guards Massimiliano Ltorre and Slavotre Girone on Italian ship Enrica Lexie shot dead Valentine Jalstine and Ajesh Pink, who had taken to sea in a fishing boat from the Kollam coast. Acting swift, police took control of the ship and arrested the marines. Though Italy launched a diplomatic offensive against the arrest of the marines arguing that the incident took place in international waters and, so, they should not be tried in India, the state and central government rejected that position.

The cold-blooded murder of Chandrasekharan near Vatakara in Kozhikode district jolted Kerala and put the CPI-M on the backfoot as most of those 70 accused in the case are local party functionaries from Kozhikode and Kannur district.

Once an ardent CPI-M whole-timer from Onjiyam in Kozhikode district, Chandrasekharan had left the party a few years back over ideological and organisational issues with the leadership and floated a parallel outfit called Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP). His rebellion earned the wrath of party bosses of the area, especially those close to the state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan.

The murder case was not only seized by the ruling UDF for its political advantage but also worsened the inner-strife in the CPI-M with senior leader VS Achuthanandan making some damning comments against the state leadership

under his bete noire Vijayan. Achuthanandan was later publicly censured by the central leadership for running down the state leadership. The CPI-M suffered a severe blow when its MLA R Selvaraj from Neyyattinkara near the state capital quit the party and resigned his assembly membership, making a scathing attack on the leadership.

Selvaraj later joined the Congress and retained his seat in a keenly fought by-election, in which the Chandrasekharan murder was the dominant theme. The CPI-M also found itself in a bind after its senior leader MM Mani's startling revelation that the party in 1980s drew up a list of foes to be eliminated and executed three on the hit list. After Mani's speech caused widespread revulsion, the party removed him as secretary of Idukki district. Mani was later arrested and remanded with the police reviving a 30-year-old political murder case in the light of his speech.

Entering its second year in office, the Oommen Chandy government focused much of its attention during the year on projecting Kerala as an ideal investment destination through the 'Emerging Kerala' investment summit held in Kochi. Though the much-hyped event attracted many entrepreneurs from India and abroad interested in setting up business in 'God's own country', the government's critics dubbed it as a failed initiative which turned out long on words and short on delivery.

Touted as Kerala's dream project, Kochi metro rail had been butt of wordy duel for most part of the year, mostly centring the role designated for eminent technocrat E Sreedharan, the architect of Delhi Metro.

Kochi, though a commercial hub, however, played host to Kochi Muziris Biennalle, the state's biggest ever painting, art and cultural extravaganza. The biennale, however, had not been free from verbal acrimony, as any such event would have faced in Kerala, with a section of artists coming out against it as an attempt to degrade lofty cultural traditions of the state to serve the narrow interests of a handful of painters and misuse of government funds by organisers.

In a gruesome tragedy on the eve of Kerala's colourful festival Onam, an LPG tanker exploded at Chalai in Kannur engulfing a vast area in flame leading to the death of 20 people.

The international airport in the state capital witnessed high drama on October 19 as the pilot of an Air India flight issued alert message suggesting 'hijack like situation'. The woman pilot claimed that she was forced to act as some of the passengers threatened her with dire consequences for the delay in flying back to Kochi, the original destination of the flight that came from Abu Dhabi. Though it came inordinately late and at the cost of his career and reputation, former ISRO scientist Nambinarayanan received some relief when the Kerala High Court ordered him to be paid Rs 10 lakh as compensation on humanitarian grounds for being falsely accused and harassed in the 1994 ISRO spy case.

Two senior Catholic bishops from Kerala - Mar Goerge Alanchery of Syro Malabar and Mar Beselios Cleemis of Syro Malanakra hierarchies - were elevated as Cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI during the year.

Kerala lost an intellectual and left ideologist in the death of P Govinda Pillai, who left a deep impression as politician, writer, journalist and commentator for over five decades. Malayalam cinema lost one of its finest actors at the death of Thilakan. The state was also grieved at the death of actors PK Venukuttan Nair and Jagannathan, who made their presence prominent on stage and silver screen.

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