Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s testy relationship with the media was on full display yet again on Wednesday when he briefly lost his cool during a routine press briefing. He was responding to questions from reporters surrounding the role of the police in the abduction and murder of Kevin P Joseph, a Dalit Christian man in Kottayam.
Indicating that the media is out on an agenda to link the chief minister with the case, Vijayan lashed out, “You are asking questions without checking facts. You invented it. Certain sections of the media invented it. Media must do its job and not take a wrong path. You are trying to defame the state. You must realize that you are actually defaming the state.”
During an earlier interaction with the media on Tuesday, a reporter from a television news channel, quoting the complainant in the case, had asked the chief minister why a certain police officer, who should have registered an FIR and investigated the case, had recused himself as he was a part of the CM’s security detail. The CM had then said that the officer was not a part of his security detail when he visited Kottayam. He also named the television channel, from where the reporter hailed, and said she had been taking ‘orders from above.’
“When I am talking to reporters, I am hearing somebody’s voice saying, ‘yes, I will ask him.’ So they are getting orders from above which I revealed before everyone. I only said the name of the channel. What’s wrong in it? The society must know that. I have a responsibility to tell the people what you (media) do as well. The reporter’s question was not connected to what I was saying. The complainant has not said anything,” the chief minister remained defiant on Wednesday.
“If there has been a laxity on the part of the government, criticise us. In this incident, you can criticise the way the police did its job. But when you report that the incident occurred because of the chief minister’s programme, and in doing so, portray the chief minister as an accused, is that right?” he asked.
Leader of Opposition, Ramesh Chennithala said Vijayan had no right to stay in power and must step down.
“Pinarayi Vijayan is showing intolerance for the questions of the media. He is the one actually defaming the state. If he cannot control the police, he shouldn’t be criticising the Opposition and the media,” said Congress leader Chennithala.
The controversy surrounding the murder of 22-year-old Joseph, who was allegedly killed by the family of his wife in what is being suspected as a case of honour killing, has ravaged the image of the police force, which comes under the home ministry controlled by Vijayan. The police’s laxity in registration of the FIR and investigation was blamed by the victim’s family. Joseph had married Neenu Chacko, who hails from a Syrian Orthodox family, against her family’s wishes. His body was fished out by the police from a stream with several injuries on his face and other parts.