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Kerala: Sporadic Violence, Stone Pelting During PFI Hartal Against NIA Raids

PTI |
Supporters took out protest marches, blocked vehicles and “forcefully” downed shop shutters in places where the radical Islamic outfit has strong presence.
PFI

Image Courtesy: PTI

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala on Friday witnessed widespread stone pelting at public transport buses, damaging of shops and vehicles, and sporadic incidents of violence in many places during the statewide dawn-to-dusk hartal called by radical Islamic outfit Popular Front of India (PFI).

The hartal was called by the PFI to protest against the raids in the offices and residences of its leaders and their subsequent arrests on Thursday by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and other agencies for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country.

Hartal supporters took out protest marches, blocked the vehicles and “forcefully” downed the shutters of shops in various places, where the outfit has a strong presence.

Besides police personnel, some bus and lorry drivers and commuters suffered injuries in stone pelting and other related incidents.

The Kerala High Court took a case on its own over PFI's hartal and subsequent sporadic incidents of violence in the state today.

The court said holding hartals were banned by it earlier and the destruction of public property cannot be accepted.

The court also directed the state administration to take stern action against those who violate the court order banning hartals.

In Erattupetta town of Kottayam district, police had to resort to lathi-charge to disperse hartal supporters when they tried to block the vehicles after gathering in large numbers, closed the shops and threatened the people who were travelling on private vehicles.

Hundreds of PFI activists were reportedly detained in local police stations as a precautionary measure, sources said.

More police personnel were deployed in and around the town as tension continued to prevail in the area.

Local media reported that a petrol bomb was hurled at a vehicle which was carrying newspapers for distribution at Narayanpara in Kannur in the morning.

Stones were pelted at Kerala State Road Transport Corporation buses in almost all districts including Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kozhikode, Wayanad, and Alappuzha.

Sevaral buses were largely destroyed as its glasses were broken and seats were damaged.  However, Transport Minister Antony Raju said there was no move to stop the services.

"Our intention is to provide maximum service to the commuters who are facing difficulty to travel during the hartal day. Police will surely take action against those who resort to violence and destruction," he said.

A 15-year-old girl and an auto-rickshaw driver suffered minor injuries in the stone pelting allegedly by PFI activists in Kozhikode and Kannur respectively.

As soon as the PFI called for a hartal on Thursday, the state police chief had given directions to beef up security across Kerala and to take stern action against those who violate the law.

But, there were complaints that police did not act swiftly in many places when hartal supporters tried to block vehicles and forcefully shut down the shops on Friday.

The PFI on Thursday had said a hartal will be observed in the state today "against the RSS-controlled fascist government's attempt to silence dissenting voices using the central agencies".

The hartal would be held from 6 a.m to 6 p.m, A Abdul Sathar, state general secretary, PFI, had said in the statement.

On Thursday, PFI workers had taken out marches to the places where raids were carried out and raised slogans against the Centre and its investigating agencies. However, central forces were already deployed in all such places as part of strengthening the security.

Multi-agency teams spearheaded by the NIA had arrested 106 functionaries of the PFI on Thursday in near simultaneous raids at 93 locations in 15 states for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country.

Kerala, where PFI has some strong pockets, accounted for the maximum number of 22 arrests, officials said.

PFI state president C P Mohammed Basheer, national chairman O M A Salam, national secretary Nasaruddin Elamaram, former chairman E Abubacker and others were among those arrested.

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