Activists of Kerala’s ruling CPI-M’s student wing, SFI, vandalised Congress leader and local MP Rahul Gandhi’s office in Wayanad on Friday, and also assaulted a staffer, even as police stood by, the Congress alleged.
A staff member at Gandhi’s office was beaten up, said Congress’ Wayanad district President N.D. Appachen.
Following the incident, the Congress hit the streets all across Kerala to protest the vandalism.
Congress workers, as well as those of its student and youth wings, were out in full force, shouting slogans.
In the state capital, the Congress marched to the state CPI-M headquarters but no untoward incidents took place.
However, at Kottayam, activists of the Congress and the CPI-M’s youth wing clashed, while in Palakkad, Youth Congress president and legislator Shafi Parambil was arrested following a protest.
At Kochi, the student wing of the Congress halted traffic in the main road in the commercial capital to protests the attack of their leader’s office.
Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan, who has left for Wayanad slammed Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and held him responsible for this attack.
Congress state chief K. Sudhakaran said that all limits are being exceeded by the CPI-M and it should not underestimate the potential of his party’s student wing.
“We will not stoop to the level of the CPI-M, but then we are warning them that all the permissible limits have been crossed by them,” he said.
Two-time Congress Chief Minister Oommen Chandy expressed suspicion on the role of Vijayan as things have reached a point that this attack was pre-planned one. He said activists of SFI, the CPI-M’s student wing, protesting on the issue of buffer zone should march to the office of Vijayan, as he is the one who is to be held responsible.
Reacting to the incident, Chief Minister Vijayan said: “Kerala is a place where people can protest in a democratic manner, but under no circumstances, should it (the protest) turn violent and if it does, then it’s not acceptable. Strict action will be taken against the wrongdoers.”
In the incident, the SFI protesters not only vandalised the office, they attacked a staff member Augustine who is presently in the hospital taking treatments for the injuries he has suffered.
Gandhi, meanwhile, spoke to Augustine and to others who were attacked by the protesters.
Appachen said on Friday that when he came to know about the SFI’s likely protest march, he called up the top district police official and said that adequate security should be provided.
“But what happened was, there were just half a dozen police officials and the SFI students created mayhem. The police were mere onlookers and did nothing. This is the way Chief Minister Vijayan acts, when he failed to do anything on the buffer zone, the students’ wing of his party does this. It’s deplorable,” he said.
As the melee continued, a bigger force of police came and arrested some students, and amid all this, activists of CPI-M’s youth wing DYFI were seen engaged in heated argument with police for using force against the SFI protesters.
The SFI has not taken up protests on such issues earlier.
However, CPI-M district Secretary P. Gagarin said that nothing prevents SFI activists in taking up such issues. He also said he is unaware of what has happened in the protests.
Meanwhile, angry Congress workers also protested against the police. They engaged in a war of words and the police had to carry out a baton-charge for dispersing them.
Congress General Secretary K. C. Venugopal said Gandhi has done everything on the buffer zone issue and he has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Vijayan as well over the matter.
“The real issue is not buffer zone and Vijayan is duty-bound to give us an answer on why this has happened. We all know that the ED had questioned Gandhi for over 50 hours. And now what happened to his office is being done to please Modi, and Vijayan is doing that because all know that he is in soup on a few counts. I am also seeking an answer from CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury over the ghastly attack,” he said.