Sporadic violence marks PFI dawn-to-dusk hartal in Kerala

Sporadic violence marks PFI dawn-to-dusk hartal in Kerala

The PFI had called for a general strike to protest the arrest of its top leaders by the NIA

The PFI had called for a general strike to protest the arrest of its top leaders by the NIA

Random incidents of violence and disarray marked the first few hours of the Popular Front of India (PFI) sponsored dawn-to-dusk hartal in Kerala. The PFI had called for a general strike to protest the arrest of its top leaders on UAPA charges by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in sweeping raids on Thursday.

Police officers attacked in Kollam.

At Pallimukku in the Kollam district, two hartal supporters speeding on a motorbike rammed a police foot patrol, injuring two officers. They were under treatment at the district hospital for minor injuries.

Read | 109 held in nationwide crackdown against PFI

Bus driver injured

A KSRTC bus driver, tentatively identified as Sasi, sustained an eye injury when hartal supporters smashed the vehicle’s windscreen near Kozhikode civil station.

Firebombing incident

At Uliyil in Narayanpara in Kannur, anonymous motorcycle-borne persons attacked a newspaper vehicle with a petrol bomb. None were injured in the firebombing.

Hartal supporters attacked an airport employee, A. Nived, while returning home from duty. He was under treatment for a minor injury at the Taluk hospital in Iratty.

Inter-State bus attacked

At Valapattanam, hartal supporters damaged an inter-State KSRTC bus headed for Mookambika in Karnataka, injuring a 15-year-old passenger, Anakha.

Alleged PFI activists attempted to ambush a private vehicle near Aralam. Hartal supporters burned tires to block traffic on the busy Peravoor-Bangalakunnu road.

Police baton charge

Police baton-charged protesting PFI workers at Erattupettah in the Kottayam district.

At Pothencode in Thiruvananthapuram, PFI workers vandalised a convenience store for not downing shutters.

KSRTC buses targetted

Hartal supporters targeted KSRTC buses across Kerala, bringing public transport to a near stand-still in several localities.

Television channels aired footage of indignant passengers stranded at the Kattakada bus terminal bordering Tamil Nadu haranguing KSRTC officials to resume services.

A police official said the attacks against KSRTC buses seemed rehearsed and according to a plan. He noted that helmet-clad persons travelling on motorbikes targeted KSRTC buses at surveillance camera blindspots to evade detection. The method of operation was almost the same across Kerala.

Hartal supporters smashed the windscreens of KSRTC buses in Kozhikode, Wayanad, Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha, Panthalam, Kollam, Thrissur and Kannur.

In Thiruvananthapuram, at least ten vehicles, including KSRTC buses, were damaged in hartal-related violence. Most of the attacks occurred within Balaramapuram police station limits. Suspected PFI workers threw stones at a car ferrying passengers to the airport, injuring the driver.

Tourism unaffected

The district police said hartal supporters threw stones at a KSRTC bus at Valanjavazhi near Ambalapuzha. V. Vinod, president of All Kerala House Boat Owners Association, said the hartal scarcely impacted the tourism sector.

PFI workers had fanned out through commercial localities on Thursday evening, urging traders to cooperate with the strike call.

At Chalai, Palayam and Kumarichantha markets in Thiruvananthapuram, PDFI workers forced the closure of shops. They halted the sale of perishable goods, including fish and vegetables, leading to heated arguments with vendors.

The hartal upended everyday life in certain pockets in the State in some measure. For one, it hit online food delivery in some parts of Thiruvananthapuram.

Many hotels and restaurants in the capital had downed shutters, fearing hartal violence. Scores of delivery persons stayed away from work, fearing attacks.

Meanwhile, the State police have upped the security for BJP offices following the attack on the party’s office in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu.

BJP slams police for “inaction.”

BJP State president K. Surendran accused the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government of reining in the police from stopping PFI violence. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s electoral pact with the PFI had rendered the police impotent. He said the police watched mutedly as PFI activists unleashed violence and anarchy across Kerala. Hartal supporters targeted ordinary people. The government had sacrificed the rule of law at the altar of vote bank politics, Mr. Surendran alleged.