An expatriate, who returned to Kerala to start an automobile workshop in Kollam, allegedly killed himself after the CPI youth wing planted a flag on the land to apparently mark its protest against the venture. Alinkeezhil Sugathan, 64, from Vilakkodu in Kollam district, was found hanging from the beam of the shed erected for the workshop on Friday. He had kept three other ropes in the shed, apparently meant for his wife and two sons.
After working in the Gulf for 35 years in the automobile sector, Sugathan had returned home three months ago to start the workshop. The LDF-ruled Vilakkode panchayat issued a memo to Sugathan last week asking him to dismantle the shed, saying it was erected on land that was part of a paddy field. The land had been identified under the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act.
Sugathan’s son Sunil said the AIYF, the CPI youth wing, planted a flag at the workshop last Monday, a day after the construction of the shed was completed. “The land was once paddy field, but was reclaimed in 2002. Several other constructions on the same tract of reclaimed paddy field have come up. Two weeks ago, another workshop opened in the area. Why did the AIYF not protest then? I think my father did not pay bribe to party leaders,’’ he said.
Sunil said that after the AIYF planted the flag, its local leaders told Sugathan they would not allow the workshop to function. “My father went to CPI leaders, who wanted him to wait. He had started construction on the land, taken on lease, after the LDF-ruled panchayat informed him that it would grant permission for the project.’’ Sugathan had to borrow money from financiers for the land after pledging his wife’s gold ornaments.
Local sources said the site had been part of a wetland, but several projects had come up on it without facing hurdles. Sugathan apparently could not withstand harassment from the local political leadership, who wanted money, they said. He had already spent Rs 4 lakh on the workshop.
Local CPI leader and panchayat member J Sajeev said the AIYF cadres had not informed the CPI leadership about the protest. “The land has been earmarked in the data bank of wetland, where construction cannot be allowed. The party will discuss the issue and action will be taken against erring cadres,’’ he said.
AIYF state president Saji Lal said his organisation’s protest was against the panchayat attempt to give sanction for the project. “None of our workers approached Sugathan with any demand. If the panchayat has agreed to give sanction for the workshop on reclaimed wetland, it is very suspicious. The other ventures on the land came up several years ago,’’ he said.
Congress Kollam district president Bindu Krishna said three AIYF men were behind harassing Sugathan. A case of abetting suicide should be registered against the AIYF men, Krishna said.