THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The sea is not calm at Beemapally. Noise of waves lashing hard against the rocks laid to protect the beach from sea erosion can be heard from a long distance.
With sea turning wild during monsoon, and the construction work of the Vizhinjam port forging ahead, the beach has dwindled in size.
All that exist now are large boulder stones strewn with litter. The latest Fahad Fazil-starrer Malik has prompted more cameras to turn their focus on Beemapally.
The Ramadapally in the movie bears stunning resemblance with Beemapally and one of the major twists in the cinema, a police firing in which several people are killed, reminds the residents of the black Sunday, which they badly want to forget.
On May 17, 2009, Beemapally witnessed the worst police firing incident in the Kerala’s history. Six people were killed instantly, while three others later succumbed to their injuries after cops opened fire on a large group of people accusing them to be part of a frenzied mob that was going to attack the nearby Cheriyathura, a claim vehemently opposed by Beemapally residents.
Beemapally is a Muslim dominated area, while Latin Christians form the majority in Cheriyathura. For both communities, fishing is the major occupation.
It was a brawl between the local traders and a history-sheeter Kombu Shibu, who had his roots in Cheriyathura, over the latter’s demand for hafta (protection money) that culminated in the police firing.
“It’s as if our wounds, which are yet to heal, are reopened,” said Riyas Falili, a 30-year-old man, who is employed as an Imam in a local mosque, when asked about Malik.
His 15-year-old brother Firoz was one of those killed in the police action. Firoz was playing football when bullet hit him.
“The pain of his killing has not subsided yet and now we are again forced to revisit those days,” he said.
Sabeer Saqafi, the Imam of Beemapally, who narrowly missed getting hurt in the firing said the incident was given a communal colour to justify the police action and save those cops responsible for firing.
“The incident occurred well within beach and all those shot at were from Beemapally. That itself debunks the claim that the people were about to attack Cheriyathura. Before or after the firing, people from Beemapally and Cheriyathura never fought over religious issues. Some of those who died, and many who sustained injuries, had fast friends in Cheriyathura. We still wonder why the police opened fire at an unarmed crowd for more than 30 minutes. What was their intention?” he asked.
Most of those who Express spoke to have not yet watched Malik. Some of them said they did not as they do not want it give it more reach.
“But I did watch the reviews. It seems the movie tries to tag the place with terrorism, arms storage and smuggling.That’s unfortunate. Even the shops here that sell foreign goods operate legally. And the perception that cops cannot come to the area is utterly wrong. In fact, the police in early 2000s had conducted a series of raids on shops selling pirated CDs,” said A Yahya, a foreign goods dealer and a former secretary of the Jama’at.
Yahya, who had sustained a stomach injury in the firing, said successive governments tried to sweep the issue under carpet and that’s why they have not even released Justice K Ramakrishnan Commission’s report.
Though the government had provided job and financial aid to the families of six people, three men who died while undergoing treatment are yet to be compensated. Salim, one of the injured persons, died after struggling for two years without any support.
His ailing mother now stays at the dargah.
Though many locals felt that Malik could rekindle the memories of the firing, which they found was not widely discussed by the civil society in the past, some felt that the exercise was futile and did not serve any purpose.
“Many have come and heard us. But we are still awaiting justice. We feel justice will be served only by the Malik (the Lord),” a person, who was badly injured in the firing, said.