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Saturday, August 20, 2022

Kerala: Attack on Rahul’s Wayanad office triggers protests

SFI men taken into custody; CM orders DSP's suspension, seeks report in a week

Rahul Gandhi's office after getting attacked.

The MP office of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in Wayanad was vandalised allegedly by activists of ruling CPI(M) student wing SFI.

The unexpected attack sparked protests from Congress across Kerala with its workers taking to streets in all districts, clashing with police and damaging CPI(M) campaign boards.

Over 100 SFI workers marched to the office of Gandhi at Kalpetta, headquarters of Wayanad district, demanding the Congress MP should intervene to allay the anxiety of people in his constituency in the wake of a recent Supreme Court directive that made it mandatory for every protected forest tract and wildlife sanctuary to have an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of one kilometre from its boundaries.

If such a buffer zone is implemented, a large tract of Wayanad district would fall within that zone.

When the march reached Gandhi’s office, a group of SFI activists allegedly stormed into it, assaulted office staff and damaged the office furniture. Police were present, but reportedly did not prevent the march before the protesters vandalised the office.

Later, the police took a few SFI workers into custody, but Congress workers led by party legislator T Siddique mounted a protest in Kalpetta, where they clashed with police and blocked the highway till night.

CPI(M) distanced itself from the incident with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan condemning the incident. “I strongly condemn the attack on Rahul Gandhi’s office. In our country, everyone has the right to air their opinion and protest democratically. However, that should not result in excess. It is a wrong tendency. Strict action will be taken against the culprits,” he said in a statement.

Late at night, the Chief Minister ordered the Additional DGP at the state police headquarters to probe the incident and suspend the Kalpetta Deputy Superintendent of Police. The CM also directed the Home Secretary to submit a report within a week.

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CPI(M) central committee member and LDF convener E P Jayarajan also deplored the attack, saying the protest against the buffer zone was not a matter that should concern SFI, the student outfit.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury also denounced the attack. “Strongly denounce and condemn what happened in Wayanad, Kerala today. Kerala state CM has already condemned it. Police has initiated measures against those responsible,” he tweeted.

The Congress central leadership has conveyed its unhappiness and concern to Yechury. Condemning the attack, AICC general secretary in charge of organisation K C Venugopal said: “Kerala CPI(M) has become so vile in pleasing the vicious BJP that where the BJP is misusing the ED against him, CPI(M) in Kerala unleashes violence on his office. Their nasty deal has been revealed.”

Opposition leader V D Satheesan said SFI men had vandalised Gandhi’s office in connivance with Vijayan. “He (Vijayan), who wants to wriggle out of the gold smuggling case, wanted to enter into BJP’s good books. He wanted to divert attention from the allegations confronting his office. Vijayan has deputed criminals to trigger riots in the state. Congress would strongly defend the attack on our party offices by CPI(M) and its goons,” he said.

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As the news of the attack on Gandhi’s office spread, Congress workers took out protest marches across Kerala. At the state capital, Congress and Youth Congress activists moved to the CPI(M) state office A K G Centre, but police prevented them. The workers damaged CPI(M) campaign boards. Elsewhere in Kerala, similar protests were taken out in all district headquarters with Congress activists clashing with police and CPI(M) workers.

First published on: 24-06-2022 at 06:09:17 pm
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