NH widening: Stir turns violent in Malappuram

Agitation against a land acquisition survey for widening of a stretch of NH-66 led to clashes between protesters and the police in Malappuram district on Friday.

The clash occurred in A R Nagar panchayat and its neighbouring areas, leaving many protesters injured.

Residents of the area tried to prevent the Revenue Department officials from undertaking the survey and some of them hurled stones at policemen. In retaliation, policemen caned the protesters and hurled stun grenades at them, setting off a series of clashes that blocked traffic on the Thrissur-Kozhikode highway for at least two hours. The protesting groups which included women and children said policemen also entered homes and roughed them up.

The survey proceedings in the district which commenced on March 19 had already led to a series of protests. A local action council has been mobilising public against a fresh alignment approved for widening the National Highway to 45 metres, a move it said would impact hundreds of families.

The CPM-led state government has scheduled an all-party meeting, on April 11, to discuss the issue in the wake of the protests. Survey proceedings on the contentious stretch of the highway is likely to resume only after a resolution is firmed up at the meeting. PWD Minister G Sudhakaran criticised the protesters for adopting a provocative stand and said they were "trained" in anti-social activities.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the clashes in Malappuram were the result of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's move to acquire people's land by force, without taking them into confidence.

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