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PFI unleashes violence in Kerala, HC initiates contempt case over ‘illegal’ hartal call

PFI hartal: Normal life was affected in many parts of Kerala, particularly in PFI strongholds, as buses managed by private operators kept away from the roads.

Thiruvananthapuram: Broken windshield of a Kerala State Road Transport Corporation bus after some miscreants threw stones on it, during the 'hartal' called by Popular Front of India (PFI) in protest against the nationwide arrest of its leaders by National Investigation Agency and Enforcement Directorate, in Thiruvananthapuram, Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. (PTI photo)

The Popular Front of India (PFI) Friday damaged vehicles, hurled explosives and vandalised establishments across Kerala during a hartal over the arrest of its senior members by the NIA, even as the High Court stepped in to initiate suo motu contempt proceedings against the outfit and its state general secretary.

“Taking note of the illegal call for hartal’’, a division bench of the Kerala High Court noted that the flash strike was against its 2019 order which specified that any such action should not affect the rights of those unaligned with the protesters and must be carried out only after a seven-day notice.

PFI members, meanwhile, unleashed violence across several Kerala districts to protest the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) nationwide raids and arrests in connection with some outfit members’ alleged support for terror activities.

In Kannur, supporters of the strike flung explosives at an RSS office, a two-wheeler rider and a truck. The RSS office at Mattannur was damaged, but no one was hurt.

Across Kerala, 70 state-run passenger buses were attacked, leaving 11 crew members injured. At Erattupetta in Kottayam, people attempting to enforce the hartal clashed with police when the latter tried to disperse a mob and clear the roads for traffic. Educational institutions remained closed and government offices reported thin attendance.

Hundreds of rail passengers who arrived by train at several places were left stranded as vehicular traffic was disrupted. In many places, PFI members forced shops to down their shutters.

A group of PFI members was also beaten up by local people when they tried to forcefully down the shutters of shops in Kannur. The angry residents handed one of them over to police.

A police statement said 170 people were arrested, 368 were taken into preventive custody and 157 cases were registered in connection with hartal-related violence.

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The High Court bench Friday said the call for the hartal by the PFI and its general secretary A Abdul Sathar without following procedure, “contemplated in our earlier order of 2019, prima facie, amounts to contempt of the directions of this court”.

The PFI called the hartal in protest against the arrest of its 19 Kerala leaders, including its chairman O M A Salam, national secretary Nasaruddin Elamaram, state president C P Mohammed Basheer, senior leader P Koya and former chairman E Aboobacker.

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Protesting the arrest of leaders and raids on premises, PFI state general secretary Abdul Sathar, in a statement, had slammed the use of the “state machinery” and alleged that central agencies were being used to “silence dissenting voices”.

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Alleging police inaction against perpetrators of the violence, BJP state president K Surendran accused the home department under the CPI(M) regime of succumbing to pressure from extremist elements. “The police have reduced themselves to mere onlookers when PFI men unleashed violence in many parts of Kerala. The CPI(M) government led by Pinarayi Vijayan is maintaining a soft corner towards the PFI-sponsored violence in return for the support of extremist elements during the last Assembly elections,” he alleged.

First published on: 23-09-2022 at 10:11:17 am
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