Bandh partial in Kerala, minor incidents of violence reported

Bandh partial in Kerala, minor incidents of violence reported

A dawn-to-dusk hartal called by Kerala's Congress-led Opposition, the United Democratic Front (UDF), on Monday against policies of the Centre and state governments was partial and marked with incidents of minor violence.

Private vehicles were on the road and Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus services remained largely unaffected. While educational institutions remained closed and university examinations postponed, attendance at government offices was marginally low. Most of the shops and business establishments remained closed.

Despite assurance from the Congress leadership that no force would be used by protesters, the shutdown saw supporters stopping private vehicles and forcing businesses to down shutters.

In towns on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram, KSRTC buses were attacked and services stopped by hartal supporters. In Palarivattom in Kochi, stones were pelted at a KSRTC bus from Alappuzha to Guruvayur. In Kollam, Alappuzha, Thrissur and Kozhikode, protesters intercepted private vehicles.

Attacks on buses were reported from Pathanamthitta and Palakkad. KSRTC services were disrupted in Kasaragod. Clashes between protesters and police were reported from some parts of the state.

The hartal was called in protest over issues, including the rise in fuel prices, faulty implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, political killings in the state and law and order concerns.

The CPM-led government had announced stringent action against use of force during the hartal and assured security for vehicles.

"The reported incidents of violence are isolated. The protesters were also provoked at some locations by the police," Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said.

THE RHETORIC AND REVERSAL:
The shutdown call had invited criticism with many pointing out that Chennithala had himself, during his stint as home minister in the previous Congress-led government, initiated a bill to regulate hartals. The criticism led Chennithala to clarify on why the Opposition had to announce the "peaceful" hartal, with an assurance made against use of force.

The Kerala High Court, while considering a petition against the hartal, had issued a notice to Chennithala and directed the state government to ensure security for the public and dispel "fears" about the hartal.

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