The episode of the dusk-to-dawn hartal organised by the now-banned Popular Front of India (PFI) witnessed random incidents of violence causing disarray in the state of Kerala, causing the state a loss of Rs 86 lakhs, the state government told the high court.
The hartal was called in response to NIA’s sweeping raids on the PFI hideouts across the country in September this year. The one-day strike saw instances of vandalism of public and private properties, attack on police officers and petrol bombs hurled at civil localities in Kerala.
On Monday, the Kerala government revealed to the High Court that the state had suffered a total loss of Rs 86 lakhs while private persons endured a loss of Rs 16 lakhs. The state on November 7 said that it had begun the procedure to reclaim the losses incurred and had appointed former district judge P D Shargadharan as the claims commissioner.
Violence caused by PFI cadres in Kerala
The PFI extremists during the protest created a ruckus and damaged several KSRTC buses by pelting stones at them and breaking the bus windshields. Buses and cars were damaged by the PFI extremists in the Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Kozhikode, and Wayanad districts of Kerala. As reported earlier, the PFI workers also destroyed many of the private buses. Around 71 of the KSRTC buses were damaged and 11 KSRTC employees were injured.
The extremists at Pallimukku in the Kollam district rammed a speeding motorbike on police foot patrol, injuring two officers. The state that day also witnessed several incidents of petrol bombings at Uliyil in Narayanpara in Kannur and also private vehicles being ambushed near Aralam. As the police initiated action against PFI cadres to control the situation in the state, the protest turned violent, with demonstrators vandalising several private businesses for refusing to close the shutters for the day.
The protesters also blocked the traffic and targeted the state conveyance system by launching attacks on public buses and private vehicles carrying passengers to their destinations. Several passengers travelling in the buses were also reportedly injured during the protest. According to the reports, helmet-clad persons travelling on motorbikes had targeted the KSRTC buses and had also pelted stones at the passengers. The PFI hartal reportedly ruined the everyday life of the state and forced the Kerala High Court to take suo-moto cognizance of the incident.
‘Hartal was organised without permission’: Kerala HC
The Kerala High Court maintained that the one-day statewide bandh in the state was organised by the PFI without permission for inciting violence. The court stated that hartal had previously been prohibited and that the damage to public property could not be tolerated. It further impleaded PFI State General Secretary A Abdul Sathar as an additional respondent in the case and directed the state government to file a report.
Also, on September 27, the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) moved to the Kerala HC seeking compensation of Rs 5.06 crores from the Popular Front of India (PFI) for losses caused to the corporation during the strike called by the PFI. The corporation noted that the buses would become operational and resume services only after repair works.
Notably, the Court on September 29 directed the PFI to pay Rs 5.20 crores for the damages estimated by the state government and the KSRTC. The PFI had been ordered to deposit the fine within two weeks with the Additional Chief Secretary, Home Department. The state on Monday however revealed that it had initiated the process to reclaim the losses incurred during the protests and that it has appointed former district judge P D Shargadharan as the claims commissioner.
The Kerala Police had earlier detained around 724 persons in connection with the PFI hartal case and had identified and arrested the majority of them. As per the reports, the police have so far registered 361 cases and have arrested around 2674 people in connection with the violence which happened on September 23 under the pretext of a ‘general strike’.
PFI was banned on September 27
Following two rounds of the massive crackdown, the Ministry of Home Affairs on September 27 issued a notification banning Popular Front of India and its affiliate organizations. The MHA stated that the organizations including All India Imams Council, Campus Front of India (CFI), Rehab India Foundation, National Conf of Human Rights Org, National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation, and Rehab Foundation, Kerala-operated unlawfully and needed to be banned under UAPA.
The ban on the PFI came after two rounds of searches by the NIA in a multi-agency investigation against the organization for sponsoring terror operations in the nation. The initial series of raids occurred on September 22, with a follow-up on September 27 in multiple states, resulting in the arrest of multiple persons associated with PFI.
The NIA officials also recovered several incriminating materials from the PFI hubs located in around 17 states of the country. Prominent among them include a brochure and CD related to ‘Mission 2047’. As reported earlier, the document has been recovered from the possession of the vice president of PFI Maharashtra and PE training material from Irfan Milli’s house, the State President of PFI Maharashtra.
Further, a huge amount of undocumented cash was also recovered from the PFI leaders of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and also document in a ‘short course on how to make IEDs using easily available materials. Meanwhile, pen drives containing videos related to ISIS, and Gajwa-e-Hind were found from the Uttar Pradesh PFI leadership and Marine radio sets from Tamil Nadu PFI leadership. Many such other materials including wireless communication devices have been taken into custody by the official.