Police Case Filed Against Woman Editor Of Magazine In Kerala

by Mrudula Bhavani and P.Ambika

Ambika Maruvakku

A case has been filed against the woman editor of a magazine in Kerala in Kozhikode’s (Calicut) KASBA police station. This time it is against ‘Maruvaakku’ monthly editor and senior journalist P Ambika. The case against her is in the name of a Facebook post in which she critiqued the role of Kerala home minister, chief minister and Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Pinarayi Vijayan in the extra-judicial encounter killing of a woman Maoist activist Kavita (Lakshmi). The complainant, Martin Monacheri is a native of Ernakulam district, who works as Kerala region general secretary of NewsPaper Association of India, a Sangh Parivar related organisation. The FIR says that Maruvaakku magazine is the mouthpiece of CPI Maoist party. It says that in the facebook post Ambika wrote on December 29, 2023, she pictured Pinarayi Vijayan in derogatory terms in the context of the killing of Kavita. The FIR says that the editor tries to enhance division in society and calls for rioting. An FIR is registered against Ambika under sections of IPC and Kerala Police Act. Section 153 (calling for riot) and KPA section 120 (o) are registered. Ambika was not notified regarding the FIR by the police until she moved her application for anticipatory bail. Ambika discards all these allegations. 

Notably, on December 29th 2023, the Crime Online, which describes itself as ‘India’s first crime investigation magazine’ had published a video report that labels Maruvaakku as Maoist magazine. The video accused Ambika as a key player in the Popular Front of India- Maoist axis. The video also made the baseless accusation that the printing cost of ‘Maruvaakku’ is funded by Popular Front of India and Maoist party, two banned political outfits. This video and the case followed, is evidence of an organized targeting of the magazine. This action against Maruvaakku should be considered as an attack on independent publications that critiques anti-people policies of the government, raises voice for justice and amplifies the causes for human rights.

It is important to note that Maoist activist Kavitha was killed after GROW Vasu’s protest in refusing to pay the fine and securing bail in a case where he protested these killings. Vasu demanded an investigation into the Maoist killings. Ambika observes that only a very few media reported on the killing of Kavita. In this interview, P Ambika responds to the allegations that are raised against ‘Maruvaakku’.

Is it a first case against the monthly?

Yes. This is the first FIR that is registered against ‘Maruvaakku’. The magazine was mentioned in the Alan Thaha case FIR. But this is the first case that directly targets the magazine. The case is registered under the complaint by one Martin Monacheri. We could find out that he is the Kerala chapter representative of a Sangh Parivar affiliated journalists union. A member from Kerala Union of Working Journalists told me he has filed several complaints against KUWJ as well.

How did the police react to you?

The police said that the complaint was filed due to the pressure from the complainant. The police didn’t give us a notice until the court handed over our anticipatory bail plea to the police. They came only after the court intimated.

How did the publication of Maruvaakku begin? Can you explain to us about Maruvaakku’s history?

I was interested in independent journalism. ‘Maruvaakku’ is the name of a publication by MN Vijayan, only a few issues of it were published, it was stopped after that. So, we took this title because we didn’t want to lose it. We were publishing a newspaper named ‘Gaddika’ back then. We felt the need for a magazine to engage in the issues in a serious manner. It was KS Hariharan who suggested that we must take this title up. I worked on it following. Hari also supported. We published the first issue in December 2014. Cover the issues faced by oppressed communities- this includes tribals, Dalits, minority communities, women, environment, sexual minorities, intense unchecked exploitation of the environment- these were the subjects we covered in the past ten years. The first issue addressed the tribal land issue. It carried the interview with tribal leader CK Janu. The first issue was released at the Adivasi Parliament that was held in the Aralam farm.

In the recent issues we covered the Brahmapuram waste dump yard fire. In the case of K Rail, we reported on the anti- K Rail protest, published the K- Rail issue including the articles written by Dr. KG Thara, M Suchithra, Sahadevan and others who have thoroughly studied the subject. We had covered the Vizhinjam port issue, Vypeen gas project etc. When the protests against Malabar jewellery’s gold processing unit was going on in Malappuram’s Kakkanchery, most of the media that carried the advertisements of Malabar jewelry didn’t cover the protest. But when we reported this, many other media organizations had to take this up. Olavanna land struggle was another important subject we covered. A large area of Olavanna was declared as an industrial area. With this, the residents of Olavanna, who owned three to four cents of land, lost their right to fix a broken wall in their house. We took up this issue. We went there with GROW Vasu and KV Shaji, did reporting, and published a cover story on this issue. This issue was raised in the Kerala legislative assembly following the reporting and the problems were solved. We intervene in such ways. We have published articles during the anti- CAA protests. Our 2023 October issue is on the case against R Sunil, a senior journalist who investigates tribal land alienation in Palakkad’s Attappadi. Sunil is a senior journalist who constantly reports on Kerala’s land issues. We published a cover story. We worked a lot in other ways as well to include a lot of people against this case and enquired the opinion of multiple people. The case against him is withdrawn.

What are the subjects and issues carried in the special issues of Maruvaakku?

We’ve published three issues focused on education. One of it is based on Devika, the high school student’s death by suicide, caused by the digital divide during pandemic hit education. We went to Devika’s house to meet her relatives and neighbors. Spoke to the associated lawyers. We raised that issue. We collected the documents prepared by the organization named ‘Right to Education’.

The latest issue is about caste census. The campaign for caste census in Kerala is led by Dr G Mohan Gopal. We include opinions written by Sudesh M Raghu, OP Raveendran and so on who are closely associated with the movement. We either interview them or publish their exclusive writings. That’s how we report political movements. We had done a cover story on Vadayambadi caste wall issue, that was a ground report.

The people’s protest against K-Rail began in Kozhikode’s Vengalam, by women. We published their interviews as well.

In Kerala, news publications with a woman as its editor are very few. Being a woman editor how do you feel about this case?

Being a woman, there will be problems. I’m someone who does both activism and journalism together. I get immense support from people. Getting calls from Teesta and R Rajagopal was relieving. But I see this case as something very natural about our times. I think this is a problem that is faced by journalists today.

What do you think about the video published by Crime Online? This video explicitly gives a history to this case charged on you. Why do you think you are being targeted?

I could find only a few reports when Kavitha was killed, like exclusive news channels in very few media, like the 24 News or The Fourth. Incidents like this are going unreported. Nowadays, journalists are reluctant to report such news. I wrote on facebook because we need to talk about it when there is no news. In Kerala, nine revolutionaries and a photographer were killed during extra judicial killings or staged encounters. Maruvaakku has covered such issues in detail. I think that is a reason for being targeted. I know very well about this, this has begun a long time back. It happened during the Alan Thaha case. You can buy this magazine from any news stand openly. This is not a secret publication.

They even confiscated the magazine in the Alan Thaha case. That too is a way of targeting. Cases are being filed against, when we protest in Kashmir issue. I’ve very strongly opposed all extra judicial killings. When CP Jaleel was killed, we published an interview with his mother. This interview had stirred emotions in people. Currently there is a land struggle going on in Nilambur, it is led by a tribal woman, Bindu Vylasseri. She was a very healthy woman (when the struggle in front of the ITDP office began in May 2023), now she is in a deteriorated condition. We must do reports about this land struggle.

It was ‘Maruvaakku’ that started a column on Islamophobia for the first time. Now some other Malayalam publications do have a column on Islamophobia. But we realized Islamophobia is a threat in Kerala society and we had decided to begin a distinct column for this issue. We began it a year ago. This column is by Dr. K. Ashraf, who is a professor in Johannesburg University. Another thing, be it Baburaj who is part of the editorial board, be it myself, we speak about Muslim minority issues in the Muslim political platforms constantly and that too can be a reason for a Sangh affiliate to file a complaint like this.

What are the existential problems you face while continuing in print amidst a lot of digital publications? How do you carry on the publication in print? What are the challenges?

The major challenge is financial crunch. The physical hard work of DTP and Layout is done by two persons. I get the magazine copies from the press mostly. The editorial team includes KS Hariharan, BS Baburaj, TR Ramesh, and Martin KD.  

We do all the work by ourselves except the printing and sending the copies out. We publish only because all the work is done by ourselves. I used the salary from my job for publication but now I do not have a job. When each issue is printed, we fear this would be the last issue to be printed, but the next issue too comes out. The printing never stopped. There was no break till date. I consider it as a big thing that an alternate print publication could stand in print for continuous ten years. Especially when there is no organizational support, no collective support for us, doing this almost single handedly. The support by friends in the editorial board is immense, and the support of our readers is great wealth.

Mrudula Bhavani is an independent journalist

P.Ambika is editor of Maruvakku

The interview was originally published in Keraleeyam

Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

Baring Their Claws

There is a news that the government is planning to proceed against 'anti-government content' appearing in media on the lines of British colonial laws that still quietly survive in our…

Suppression of contrarian voices

In the US, we proudly point to the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights that was adopted in 1791: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,…

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News