With Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan forced to pull out of a public event in Bhopal on Saturday in the wake of protests by Sangh Parivar activists, the Madhya Pradesh government and the police have been accused of bowing to the diktats of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and failing to provide security to a visiting leader.

Vijayan’s party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), as well as the Congress have accused the state police of giving in to the demands of a small group of Bajrang Dal activists protesting at the venue against the killing of RSS workers in Kerala. Social media has also been abuzz with reactions to the incident.

The spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party’s state unit, Rahul Kothari, justified the protests by the Sangh activists, and demanded that the Kerala chief minister apologise for the political murders in his state.

Realising the grave lapse in security protocol, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who was in Ujjain on Saturday, immediately called up Vijayan to apologise. On his directions, Chief Secretary BK Singh and Director General of Police RK Shukla visited Vijayan at his hotel to offer their apologies as well. But the damage was done and the Kerala chief minister flew back to Kochi the same night.

Vijayan blames ‘RSS culture’

On Sunday, Vijayan blamed the protests at the event, which was organised by the Malayali community in Bhopal, on the culture of the RSS. “Generally, when a chief minister visits another state, there are protocols,” he told IANS in Kochi. “But since the RSS was behind the protests, the police remained silent. It reflects the culture of the RSS.”

Vijayan was on his way to the felicitation function at the Bhopal School of Social Sciences when Deputy Director General of Police Raman Singh Sikarwar messaged his protocol officer over the wireless, warning him about the demonstration at the venue and advising the chief minister to turn back. Vijayan followed the advice and returned to his hotel.

This happened hours after he had lashed out at the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, accusing it of pursuing the RSS agenda of saffronising state administration, at the national convention of his party’s women’s wing, the All India Democratic Women’s Association.

On Sunday, Vijayan drew a parallel between the incident in Bhopal and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit in September to Kerala’s Kannur district, which passed off without incident. “You should not forget that his visit came at a time when there was high tension in Kannur,” he said.

Singh had visited the family of an RSS worker who was killed allegedly by activists of the Left party. Kannur has seen a history of violence between the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the RSS-BJP. After Vijayan led the Left Democratic Front to power in Kerala in May, the district has seen several political killings and well over a hundred cases of violence.

Vijayan said that what had happened in Bhopal showed the “difference in mindset and culture” between the two states.

His party also released a statement. “This incident shows how the Madhya Pradesh government acts at the diktat of the RSS,” it read. “It is also a telling commentary on the state of the law and order machinery, which cannot protect the chief minister of another state in its own state capital.”

Police caught in the middle

The statement may have hit a raw nerve with the Madhya Pradesh police. For, in the last three months, the force has suffered a series of morale-shattering punishments for acting against workers associated with the Sangh Parivar.

In September, the state government, allegedly under RSS pressure, had ordered the registration of attempt to murder and robbery cases against seven police officials accused of the custodial torture of RSS pracharak Suresh Yadav in Balaghat district, allegedly over an anti-Islam post on social media.

Soon after, the RSS leadership had prevailed upon the government yet again to shift police officers in Dhar and Alirajpur districts for arresting its cadre on the charge of fomenting communal tension during Dussehra processions.

“Given the state government’s abject surrender to the RSS, policemen have reason to be overcautious while acting against saffron activists, howsoever serious their crimes,” admitted a senior police officer who did not want to be identified.

A former BJP minister echoed this sentiment: “The chief minister is to blame for whetting the RSS appetite for more power.” The BJP leader said Chouhan had earlier managed to restrict the influence of Sangh cadre on academics and cultural institutions in the state and, by and large, insulated the bureaucracy from them. However, after the Narendra Modi government came to power at the Centre in 2014, the chief minister had been forced to change his stand with regard to the RSS in order to hold on to his chair. This, in turn, had translated into the police becoming subservient to the Sangh.

The Sangh activists, on the other hand, seem emboldened by the surrender of the police and the state government. On Saturday too, as Vijayan turned back midway from the venue, the Bajrang Dal protestors boisterously claimed victory. “Next time the Kerala chief minister comes to Bhopal, we will not even let him land at the airport,” said Devendra Rawat, the leader of the protest.