Kathua rape protest hits life in Kerala

| | Kochi

Widespread violence was witnessed in Kerala on Monday after protesters poured into the streets to enforce a shutdown on the people demanding justice for the eight-year-old girl who was gangraped and murdered in Kathua, Jammu & Kashmir despite the fact that no recognised organisation had given a call for the protest.

Several incidents of stone-pelting, blocking of vehicles, clash with the police and forced closure of shops were reported from different places, especially in the northern Malabar region, even as departure of flights got delayed from the Kozhikode International Airport as pilots got trapped in traffic blocks created by the protestors.

At least 100 persons were arrested or taken into custody by the police from different places in the State during violent protests held after messages in the name of some “People’s Collective” calling for a shutdown over the Kathua incident spread through the social media. No organisation had aired support for the hartal call. Though the hartal was observed in the name of “People’s Collective” with no political or religious affiliations, most of those detained belonged to the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), political arm of the Islamist outfit, Popular Front of India, and the Muslim League, second major constituent of the Congress-led Opposition UDF, according to sources.

Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala of the Congress said that the UDF had not aired support for the shutdown while KPA Majeed, State general secretary of the Muslim League, said that his party had nothing to do with the “undeclared” protest after rumours spread that it had pledged support for the protest.

Stating that shutdown calls through the social media would create anarchy in the society, State CPI(M) secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said that such protests were unacceptable. “The culprits behind the Kathua incident should get maximum punishment. But certain sections are trying to divide the society on communal lines over this,” he said.

The BJP termed the shutdown as part of an effort by certain organisations for creating communal tension. Alleging that widespread violence had occurred during the undeclared shutdown in the Malabar region, State BJP general secretary MT Ramesh said, “Efforts to create tension in the society by giving communal colour to the unfortunate Kathua incident are unacceptable.”

Prohibitory orders were imposed on Tirur, Parappanangadi and Tanur areas in Muslim-majority Malappuram district following violent incidents. At least eleven police officials were injured in attacks by protestors who also vandalized several shops in these places. The prohibitory orders will be in force in the three coastal areas for a week.

Tension prevailed in Kannur on Monday morning after protestors clashed with the police, who arrested 15 persons for trying to block vehicles in the name of the shutdown. The police had to resort to lathi-charge to disperse protestors who marched to the Town Police Station in Kannur to protest the arrests. Following this, the police booked 22 more under non-bailable charges.

Shop-owners chose to keep the shutters of their outlets down and vehicles kept off the roads in areas known as strongholds of the Muslim League and SDPI in Kannur. An official with the Kannur police said the protests in the district seemed well-coordinated despite the fact that there was no formal call for a hartal.

Traffic was hit along almost all the main roads in Malappuram district after protestors blocked vehicles. Operations at Indian Oil Corporation’s LPG plant at Chelari in the district were hit and only 15 per cent of the employees reported on duty at the University of Calicut. The police arrested 20 persons from Kuttippuram and Tavanur for indulging in illegal activities.

The State-run Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) was forced to suspend its bus services from the Perinthalmanna depot in Malappuram following the protests while private buses were blocked by protestors on the National Highway between Kozhikode and Thrissur. The police came under stone-pelting from protestors at the bus station in Ponnani.

Incidents of forced closure of shops and blocking of vehicles were reported also from Palakkad, Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Thrissur, Wayanad and Kasaragod districts.



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