A former RSS worker along with four others were arrested on Saturday in connection with a hoax hartal call that led to a string of violence in Kerala on April 16, the police said. Kerala had shutdown on Monday after messages were circulated on the social media and instant messaging applications calling people to stay away from work to protest against the Kathua rape-and-murder case. Several incidents of violence were reported from Kozhikode, Malappuram, Kannur, Kasaragode and Wayanad during the strike, following which the police arrested over 1,000 persons since Monday.
Amarnath Baiju (19), a resident of Thenmala in Kollam, was arrested by the Malappuram police and later sent to jail.
Malappuram deputy police superintendent Jaleel Thottathil, who is an investigating officer in the case, said Baiju, the key conspirator in the case, had formed two WhatsApp groups – ‘Voice of Truth’ and ‘Justice of sisters’ — on April 14 to spread fake messages on the call for shutdown. The messages, which had gone viral on the social media, culminated in the shutdown on April 16.
The four others arrested were identified as N J Siril (22), P Sudheesh (22), Gokul Shekhar (21), and V Akhil (23) — all residents of Thiruvananthapuram district. The police said all the five would be made accused in all cases of rioting reported in various police stations. Earlier, the police arrested a 15-year-old boy from Malappuram, who was one of the administrators of the WhatsApp group ‘Voice of Truth.’ He is under police observation. Three more people were arrested from Kannur district.
BJP state chief Kummanam Rajasekharan said neither his party nor the RSS had any role in the hartal call. “The political links of those arrested in the case should be looked into,” he said.
The arrest of the former RSS worker is seen as a setback for the BJP, which blamed Muslim outfits for the fake shutdown call and sought an investigation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). DGP Lokanath Behera had claimed the messages were circulated as a part of a larger conspiracy to foment communal trouble in the region.
According to sources, most people who were arrested for vandalism and rioting were activists linked to right-wing Muslim outfit Popular Front of India and its political arm Social Democratic Party of India.
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