Kerala Hartal over Sabarimala costs cancer patient her life as she dies waiting for help; 100 KSRTC buses burnt, 20 CPM offices vandalised

Kerala turned into a warzone on Thursday as the dusk-to-dawn 12-hour shutdown called by Sabarimala Karma Samithi — an umbrella organisation of pro-Hindutva groups — and the Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad (AHP) took a violent turn. Several districts witnessed widespread incidents of violence and vandalism as members belonging to Hindu fringe groups went on a rampage to protest the entry of two women into the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala.

Soon after the shutdown began, right-wing activists burned tyres and granite blocks on the streets, bringing vehicular traffic to a halt at several places. While the BJP actively supported the hartal, the main Opposition Congress separately observed a 'black day'. Demonstrations held by the BJP and Sabarimala Karma Samithi turned violent at several places in Kozhikode, Kannur Malappuram, Palakkad and Thiruvananthapuram. Police used batons and water-cannons to break up the protests.

By afternoon, the state had already suffered considerable losses. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, at a press conference, said that seven police vehicles, 79 Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses were damaged and 39 police personnel were attacked. Journalists were also assaulted at several places, following which they decided to boycott the events organised by the BJP and other right-wing outfits.

 Kerala Hartal over Sabarimala costs cancer patient her life as she dies waiting for help; 100 KSRTC buses burnt, 20 CPM offices vandalised

Kerala State Road Transport Corporation buses damaged during a strike over the Sabarimala issue, in Thiruvananthapuram. PTI

Later on Thursday, Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) chairman and managing director Tomin Thachankary told reporters that more that 100 buses were damaged causing a loss of Rs 3.35 crore to the debt-ridden public sector undertaking.

Over 20 offices of the ruling CPM and other Left parties were attacked during the protests. A library managed by the Left party in Palakkad was vandalised by protesters. Autorickshaws and private buses suffered damage during stone pelting in Kannur and Kozhikode.

The CPI office at Palakkad was attacked by protesters and the vehicles parked in front of it, including state transport corporation buses, auto-rickshaws and police vehicles were pelted with stones.

Protesters hurled a crude bomb at a local beedi-manufacturing unit managed by the CPM in Thalassery in Kannur district, but it did not explode, police told PTI, adding 10 right-wing activists were arrested in the case. Another crude bomb was thrown at Nedumangadu police station, but it caused to damage.

Even as the two traders' body in the state announced they would open their shops, shops failed to open in several areas. However, in Kozhikode, traders were determined to open their shops even as the Sabarimala Karma Samiti and BJP activists protested. "This frequent calling of shutdown is not acceptable. We will open in future also," a group of shopkeepers at Kozhikode was quoted as saying by IANS.

After some traders opened their shops in Kozhikode, a gang of Sangh Parivar forces forcibly closed them down. In the process, numerous shops suffered damages.

Nearly 750 people were arrested by Thursday night for indulging in violence since the Bindu and Kanakadurga — in their forties — offered prayers at the shrine early on Wednesday. A total of 628 people were taken under preventive custody. A staggering 559 cases were registered in connection with violent incidents.

Kerala DGP Lok Nath Behera said a special team will probe the assault on media. Governor P Sathasivam sought an "urgent report" from the chief minister on the disturbances during the shutdown.

A 64-year old woman, Pathumma from Wayanad who came for treatment at the Regional Cancer Centre (RCC) in Thiruvananthapuram, collapsed and died at the railway station in the morning, following which her relatives alleged that a delay in getting ambulance service resulted in her death.

In Thrissur, three BJP activists were stabbed during a scuffle with workers of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), the political wing of Popular Front of India, a militant Islamic outfit. The incident occurred when saffron party workers attempted to force a restaurant to down the shutters.

Two CPM workers arrested for death of protester

The police has identified nine people accused of involvement in the Wednesday stone-pelting between two groups in Pathanamthitta district, and arrested two of them.

A 55-year-old man, who was seriously injured when CPM workers hurled stones at protesters from atop their party office at Pandalam, died on Wednesday night.

While Vijayan told media that the deceased — identified as Chandran Unnithan — died due to cardiac arrest, the post-mortem, however, confirmed he died from serious head injuries. Unnithan was part of the protest march taken out by Sabarimala Karma Samiti on Wednesday evening.

Cartoon by Manjul.

Cartoon by Manjul.

Congress workers hit by Vijayan's cavalcade

Four Congress workers were hit and injured by Vijayan's pilot vehicle in two different incidents when he was returning home from office for lunch, Congress legislator M Vincent told IANS.

Vincent said some Congress activists waving black flags were hit by the pilot vehicle in what he insisted was "a deliberate attempt", injuring two of them.

Later, another 200 metres from the first site, "the pilot vehicle knocked down two of our workers who were on a two-wheeler", said Vincent.

Kerala Congress working president K Sudhakaran lashed out at the Kerala government and said that the "atrocities" were "a creation of the chief minister". "In democracy, protest is normal. He could've stopped the car or diverted it. The driver hit the concerned person deliberately. I request the police to file a case against the driver," he told CNN-News18.

Operation Broken Window

The Kerala Police said in a press release it has launched a special drive 'Operation Broken Window' to take action against those indulging in violent protests.

The special branch has been tasked to prepare the list of those indulging in violence and hand it over to the district police chiefs for further action.

A photo album of the perpetrators of violence would also be prepared, the release said, adding that special teams would be set up to arrest those agitators involved in violence.

Mobile phones of suspected persons would be confiscated and sent for digital examination and raids would be carried out at their homes, to unearth arms, if any, it said. Cases would also be registered against those involved in alleged hate campaign on social media.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Jan 04, 2019 13:22:46 IST