The protest marches being held across Kerala by workers of the Indian National Congress took a turn for the worse on Monday as the Kannur-Thiruvananthapuram IndiGo flight saw Congress activists raising slogans against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who was travelling in the aircraft. This is the first of its kind protest seen in Kerala’s political history as a reigning chief minister had to face protest while on a flight.
The IndiGo flight from Kannur to Thiruvananthapuram was thoroughly checked by the police as the chief minister was scheduled to travel in the aircraft. Each of the passengers were individually questioned by the cops before allowing them inside the aircraft. The two Congress leaders, one of them wearing black shirt, reportedly told the police that they were on their way to the capital city to call on an associate who was admitted to a leading hospital in a critical stage. Both have been taken into custody by police at the capital city.
Once the plane was airborne, the two Congress leaders stood up and shouted slogans demanding the resignation of the aircraft. Video images released by vernacular news channels showed E P Jayarajan, the CPI-M strongman who is also the convenor of the LDF, rushing to the Congress activists andpinning them down. “They were intoxicated and inebriated and were shouting non sense causing inconvenience to the travellers,” Jayarajan told reporters after the aircraft landed at Thiruvananthapuram.
But police in Kannur airport told media persons that both the Congress activists were known to them personally and they were allowed to board the aircraft only after the cops made sure that they were bonafide passengers. “How come Jayarajan who rushed to the Congress workers and pushed them down knew that they were intoxicated? Even the police in the airport had given them clearance to travel by the flight,” said V D Satheeshan, leader of the Opposition.
The demand for the resignation of Vijayan as Chief Minister is the fall out of the disclosures made by Swapna Suresh, the prime accused in the infamous Gold Smuggling scam that Vijayan had “smuggled out” a suitcase stuffed with currency notes during his official trip to West Asia in 2016 with the active help rendered by the UAE Consul General. Swapna was the liaison officer of the Consulate General Office at that time and she claimed it was she who played the role of facilitator in transporting the suitcase through diplomatic channel.
Since the disclosures made by Swapna last week, the Opposition Congress and the BJP were on a warpath against the CPI-M led Government demanding Vijayan’s resignation though the latter had categorically denied the allegations.
Since Saturday, the Congress and the BJP were demonstrating across the State demanding the resignation of Vijayan. On Saturday and Sunday, a heavy posse of police men had succeeded in keeping the protestors away from the venues where the chief minister made his appearance to attend public functions. People in Kottayam, Kochi and Thavanur (in Malappuram district) where the chief minister attended public meetings were put to a lot of hardship by the police who insisted that those wearing black shirts and even black masks change the costume.
Though Anil Kant, the State Police Chief had denied reports that persons wearing black dress or face masks were asked to remove the same, Jayarajan had asked media persons why the people were insisting that they would wear only black costumes. The capital city resembled a war zone as Congress and BJP workers fought pitched battle against the heavy security blanket by the police who used water canons and tear gas shells to keep the demonstrators away from the vicinity of chief minister’s motorcade.