The Special Investigation Team (SIT) led by K. Padmakumar, Inspector General of Police, Kochi Range, probing further into the alleged political murders committed in the Eighties in Idukki made a decisive step by arresting M.M. Mani, former Idukki district secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
In a swift operation, code named ‘Operation Ringtone’, the team reached Mr. Mani’s residence at 5.40 a.m. and arrested him. He was produced before the Nedunkandam Judicial First Class Magistrate at 9 a.m. and remanded to judicial custody till December 4.
The SIT was formed after Mr. Mani made a controversial statement in one of his speeches, claiming that a list of 13 political opponents was prepared to be killed. During investigations done by the SIT, four murders that occurred in Idukki were found to have links to this statement.
Mr. Mani was arrested on Wednesday in connection with the case registered for murder of Anchery Baby, a Youth Congress leader who was shot dead on November 13, 1982. The SIT is also probing the murder of Mullanchira Mathai (beaten to death in January 1983), Muttukad Nanappan (stabbed to death in June 1983) and Balu (hacked to death in 2004).
Some of these cases, including that of Anchery Baby murder, were tried and accused were acquitted for the want of evidence, while the case for murdering Balu had five persons convicted and are presently serving sentence at the Open Prison, Thiruvananthapuram.
Mr. Mani, along with other top CPI (M) leaders from Idukki, was earlier questioned in connection with the case. But the SIT went for arrests, as none of these leaders concurred with the controversial speech and hence custodial interrogation was required. It is learnt that the SIT will seek the custody of Mr. Mani on Thursday.
Even though the SIT had made the decision to go in for arrest earlier, they chose to progress cautiously, given the political ramifications involved. Mr. Mani and three others – O.G. Madanan, A.K. Damodaran and Kuttan – were given a chance to consent for polygraph test and also to exhaust all legal measures to avoid arrest. Pleas made by Mr. Mani to challenge the SIT move to register new FIR against him were turned down at the Kerala High Court and Supreme Court.
In a clinically executed operation, the SIT had made elaborate arrangements before moving in for the arrest. Additional forces were kept ready to prevent any possible law and order issue, but they were asked to stay beyond the district borders till 5 a.m. Only top officials of the SIT were in the know of the exact action plan of the operation.
After interrogating Mr. Mani in detail, the SIT is expected to take him around to scenes of crime. It is learnt that the SIT has got solid leads into cracking these cases, which happened nearly 30 years ago.