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Violence during the PFI strike in Kerala; the HC launches a contempt case against the group

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PFI hartal: As buses operated by private operators avoided the roads, normal life was disrupted in several areas of Kerala, particularly in PFI strongholds.

Numerous violent occurrences occurred in Kerala on Friday when a division bench of the High Court took note of the Popular Front of India’s “illegal call” and began contempt proceedings against the group and its state general secretary.

The first few hours of the hartal organised in protest of the National Investigation Agency’s arrest of prominent PFI officials were marred by many acts of violence and attacks on moving cars.

As buses operated by private operators avoided the roads, normal life was disrupted in several areas of Kerala, notably in PFI strongholds. Numerous travellers who arrived at railway stations from far-off places were left stranded. Schools either stayed closed or reported low enrollment. According to authorities, businesses and establishments in districts with a preponderance of Muslims were closed.

In the early hours of the morning, numerous trucks, private vehicles, and buses of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation were attacked. Several bus drivers were hurt during the stone-throwing. While two police officers were struck by a bike while attempting to disperse protesters in Kollam, a petrol bomb was thrown in Kannur.

When police attempted to disperse the throng at Erattupetta in the Kottayam district, supporters of the hartal fought back. The PFI workers forcibly removed store shutters in numerous locations.

When a group of PFI members attempted to forcibly lower the store shutters in Kannur, the locals beat them up. One of them was turned up to the police by the outraged locals.

PFI Hartal is the target of a suo motu case by the Kerala High Court.

The bench stated that asking for the hartal without following the procedure “contemplated in our earlier order of 2019” amounted to “prima facie disobedience of the directives of this court,” according to the PFI and its general secretary A Abdul Sathar.

The 2019 order, which stated that a call for a hartal or general strike shall not have the effect of impinging upon the fundamental rights of those who disagree with the cause of the callers, was cited by the division bench. Citizens who oppose the demand for a hartal or strike will have seven days to contact the court.

During the aforementioned notice period, the state/district administration would also be entitled to take the required action to protect the state’s citizens’ interests. The court had ruled that hartals and general strikes that were called without following the aforementioned protocol would be declared illegal, and the person or party calling for the hartal would be responsible for any harm to the populace and the government as a result of the call.

On Friday, the court urged the media to take steps to ensure that the public is properly informed whenever such unlawful flash hartals are requested and that the request is in breach of the court’s order. The court stated that “this would help to a substantial degree in allaying public worries regarding the legitimacy of the request for hartal and also dissuade providers of public utility services from heeding to such requests for illegal hartals in the future.”

Anil Kant, the state’s top cop, had warned on Thursday that violent hartal participants will face harsh punishment. On hartal day, Kant had promised that the whole police force will be on duty to maintain order. However, despite the presence of police, scattered acts of violence were recorded throughout the state beginning in the early hours of Friday. The State Road Transport Corporation momentarily suspended services as a result of attacks on buses.

PFI leaders, including its chairman O M A Salam, national secretary Nasaruddin Elamaram, state president C P Mohammed Basheer, senior leader P Koya, and former chairman E Aboobacker, were arrested after calling for a hartal in protest.

Abdul Sathar, the state general secretary of PFI, denounced the use of the “state apparatus” and said that national organisations were being used to “suppress dissenting voices” in a statement in response to the arrest of leaders and searches on properties.

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