Members of student and youth outfits of the Congress and the BJP clashed with the police late Friday in Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram, demanding the resignation of Higher Education Minister KT Jaleel for alleged Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) violation.
As media reports of Jaleel’s questioning by the ED came out, student and youth outfits of the Congress and the BJP took out protests outside the secretariat, leading to police lathi-charge. Effigies of the minister were burnt. A couple of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) members sustained injuries.
Earlier in the day, Jaleel, a first-time minister in the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government, was grilled by the Enforcement Directorate in Kochi for about three hours regarding his admission about accepting consignments of religious books from the UAE through diplomatic channel, an act purportedly seen as an FCRA violation.
Government officials cannot accept freebies or funds from diplomatic channels of foreign countries without the approval of the Ministry of External Affairs. The allegations of FCRA violation against the minister come days after a high-profile gold smuggling racket through diplomatic channels was busted by the Customs department at the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport in July. Phone call records of the prime accused in the case, Swapna Suresh, had pointed to her contact with Jaleel as well, further incriminating him in the case.
The scuffles between the political workers and the police took place in Thiruvananthapuram, which has ranked consistently at the top in terms of daily coronavirus infections in the state.
“The people of Kerala expect nothing less than Jaleel’s resignation because an incident of this nature has never happened in the state. A cabinet minister has been questioned by the Enforcement Directorate and there is not a single word from the chief minister’s party,” BJP state chief K Surendran told Manorama News, a local news channel.
“There will be state-wide protests till minister KT Jaleel resigns. Police have carried out a cruel lathi-charge on our workers and leaders. We will observe black day tomorrow,” he added.
Congress leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala also stepped up the attack on the beleagured minister.
“If Jaleel has any righteousness left, he must resign and leave the government,” he said.
The minister, on his part, chose to respond to the protests over his grilling by the ED through a simple Facebook post. “Only truth will win. Even if the entire world opposes it.”
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