Four arrested for blocking Michael Levitt’s houseboat in Kerala on day of Bharat Bandh; Nobel laureate fears India is ‘sinking into lawlessness'

  • Four people were arrested in Kerala for blocking the houseboat carrying Nobel laureate Michael Levitt in the backwaters during the nation-wide strike

  • The four are said to be belonging to the ruling CPI (M)'s union outfit - CITU, one of the 10 trade unions, which were on strike on Wednesday

  • Levitt, who won the Nobel prize in 2013 for Chemistry, was taking a houseboat ride across the scenic backwaters in Alappuzha when the four protesters stopped the boat

Alappuzha: Four people were arrested on Thursday for blocking the houseboat carrying Nobel laureate Michael Levitt in the backwaters during the nation-wide strike against the Centre's "anti-labour" policies.

The arrests were made on Thursday morning, police said. The four are said to be belonging to the ruling CPI (M)'s union outfit - CITU, one of the 10 trade unions, which were on strike on Wednesday.

 Four arrested for blocking Michael Levitt’s houseboat in Kerala on day of Bharat Bandh; Nobel laureate fears India is ‘sinking into lawlessness

File image of Michael Levitt. Reuters

Levitt, who won the Nobel prize in 2013 for Chemistry, was taking a houseboat ride across the scenic backwaters in Alappuzha when the four protesters stopped the boat near Kainakary for nearly two hours. "Kerala is beautiful. Backwaters are wonderful and the people are very good," he said this morning adding he had no issues with regard to Wednesday's incident when his boat was blocked by protesters.

However, in an email sent to his tour agent on Wednesday, Levitt had said "Being stopped by criminals on the backwaters sends a very bad message to tourists. It is as if a bandit stopped us at gun point and delayed us under threat of force for one hour."

He had also stated that the person who blocked them "ignored all arguments that tourists were exempted" from the strike. "This person, who did this ignored all arguments that tourists were exempted and that I am a VIP guest of the Kerala government. He is obviously acting knowing that he is safe from prosecution. Sadly this makes me fear that India is sinking into lawlessness," he added.

Meanwhile, the Kottayam Collector said he had met the Nobel laureate when he reached Kumarakom in the morning after their boat cruise. "The state government has expressed its grief and concern in the matter. We have also informed Levitt that the government has taken the matter seriously," Kottayam Collector P K Sudheer Babu told PTI.

The Alappuzha police chief told PTI that four people have been arrested in the case and charged for obstructing a public way or line of navigation. "We have arrested four persons in this matter. A case has been registered them," KM Tomy said.

The accused have been charged under various sections of IPC, including causing obstruction in public way and wrongful confinement.

Ten trade unions, including INTUC, AITUC, and CITU had called for the nationwide strike to protest against labour reforms, FDI, disinvestment, corporatisation and privatisation policies and to press for a 12-point common demands of the working class relating to minimum wage among others.

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Updated Date: Jan 09, 2020 14:37:01 IST