Street protests rocked Kerala for the seventh straight day on Friday, with Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activists ratcheting up their demand for the resignation of Higher Education Minister K.T. Jaleel.
The police swung batons, lobbed tear-gas shells, and fired water jets to disperse Youth Congress protesters in Kottayam and Malappuram. Kerala Congress (M) P.J. Joseph faction workers were injured in the melee.
In Kasaragod, Yuva Morcha workers grappled with the police, resulting in injuries on both sides. BJP workers stormed the police line in front of the Secretariat gate, prompting law enforcers to train water cannons on the protesters. The BJP organised similar protests in Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha.
Congress MLAs Shafi Parambil and K.S. Sabarinadh staged an impromptu sit-in in front of the Police Headquarters, catching the law enforcement by surprise. They waved photographs of the police baton-charging their party workers and demanded an inquiry into the ‘brutality.’ They were later arrested and removed from the spot.
The parties have been pressing for Dr. Jaleel’s expulsion since September 11 on the ground that he had aided the illegal import of gold in Koran consignments and dates packets sent from Dubai in the name of officials at the UAE consulate here. Dr. Jaleel had accepted the consignments as Ramzan charity in his capacity as Minister for Minority Welfare and Waqf.
The main Opposition parties had also stoked up protests against Dr. Jaleel on the charge that the Enforcement Directorate and the National Investigation Agency had questioned him as a suspect in the gold smuggling case.
Neither Dr. Jaleel’s protestations of innocence on social media nor his claim that the NIA and the ED had summoned him as a witness helped dial down the aggressiveness of the street protests.
On Sept. 29
LDF convenor A. Vijaraghavan said the Congress and the IUML had partnered with the BJP to destabilise the government. It had employed criminal gangs to target Ministers and law enforcers under the guise of protests. They aimed to disrupt public peace and create communal division for political dividend.
The LDF would muster people against such moves. On September 29, it would hold rallies across the State to safeguard peace. LDF convener A. Vijayaraghavan said large-scale mobilisation of LDF supporters and a door-to-door campaign would dovetail with the front’s local body election preparations.