Kerala: Trade Unions March to Asianet News Over Derogatory Remarks on Elamaram Kareem
Thiruvananthapuram: The platform of joint trade unions marched to the headquarters of Asianet News, a Malayalam news channel owned by Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Union Minister of State for Electronics & IT. Trade Union Joint Council organised the protest on Wednesday following the derogatory comments made by Vinu V John, chief coordinating editor of Asianet News, against Elamaram Kareem, leader of the CPI(M) in the Rajya Sabha and the State General Secretary of the CITU. Vinu V John made the alleged remarks during a television debate on Monday on the two-day nationwide general strike.
The channel owned by the BJP leader and its prime time anchor Vinu V John has been facing harsh criticism from the Left, particularly for its alleged bias towards the BJP and the right-wing in general. Vinu V John anchored a prime time show on the first day of the two-day general strike, in which, according to the trade unions, he allegedly highlighted isolated incidents to depict the strike in a bad light.
"Elamaram Kareem's vehicle should have been stopped, his family members thrown out of the car. Kareem should have been beaten up on the face till he bleeds. What would have been the reaction then?” - the television anchor went on to ask. INTUC state president R Chandrasekharan and AITUC leader KP Rajendran who were panellists in the debate confronted the derogatory remarks at the same show.
Later, INTUC state president R Chandrasekharan announced a Joint Trade Union March to the channel headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram. Inaugurating the march, Anathalavattam Anandan, CITU state president and a veteran trade union leader, said that the demands of the general strike included the rights of working journalists.
"A section of the journalists surrendering to the management's economic interests and political agenda, attack workers movements and leaders like Elamaram Kareem. If the labour codes are implemented, they don't realise they will have to face the same plight as any other contract labourer. Only trade union leaders will be there to speak for them if it happens so," he said.
Leaders and volunteers from all major trade unions joined the protest. The platform of joint trade unions held protest marches at all district centres, where hundreds of workers and trade union leaders marched in solidarity with the state secretary of CITU.
Elamaram Kareem said the comment made by the news anchor accounts for a criminal offence, inciting violence against him. He added that he would file petitions against the news anchor with the state police chief and the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
CPI(M) state secretariat also condemned the derogatory remarks against their leader in Rajya Sabha. "Free media is an integral part of a democratic society. Exchanges conducted with mutual respect strengthen democratic society. However, Vinu V John, Asianet News anchor has crossed all limits. Such comments inciting violence against a leader cannot be tolerated," the secretariat said in its statement. CPI(M) state secretariat also urged people in the media field to condemn such acts.
STRIKE COMPLETE IN KERALA DESPITE COURT INTERVENTION
The two-day nationwide general strike was complete in Kerala as shops, commercial establishments, industries, public transport, banking and other financial institutions etc were paralysed. Despite the Kerala High Court verdict prohibiting the government employees and state transport employees from the general strike, very few turned up at work. KSRTC buses remained off-road, with only a few services operating to hospitals and other emergencies.
Even after the court verdict on Monday-the first day of the strike, Kerala Secretariat recorded only 200 attendance against its strength of 4,800 on Tuesday. Kerala State Electricity Board also recorded meager attendance on the two days of the strike.
In another verdict, Kerala HC had barred the BPCL employees from participation in the General Strike. The management had also issued an order declaring 18 days of a penal wage cut for workers on two days of strike. A major section of the BPCL workers participated in the strike, even after the court order and the intimidation from the management.
Commenting on these two court interventions, Elamaram Kareem told NewsClick that the court actions were hurried. He added that acting upon PILs in both cases, "the court never gave time for the trade unions to clarify our stand."
The Trade Union Joint Council, a joint platform formed by 22 trade unions as part of the two-day general strike, has decided to conduct a protest at the High Court Junction, Ernakulam, on 13 April, against the anti-worker bias of the judiciary.
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