Kerala: Kitex violence turns into row against forum

Kitex violence snowballs into political row against Twenty20 political forum in Kerala

Sabu Jacob had recently locked horns with the Left Front government as well as the opposition Congress

The police jeep that was set ablaze during the violent clash. Credit: DH Photo

The clashes and attack on police by a section of workers of the Kitex group of companies in Kerala seems to have come as a shot in the arm politically for the ruling CPI(M) and the opposition Congress as the mainstream political parties were quite concerned over the growth of the Twenty20 political forum initiated by Kitex group managing director Sabu M Jacob.

While the police arrested 164 workers, mostly migrants, in connection with the clashes and attack on police at Kizhakkambalam on the suburbs of Kochi on Saturday night, the Congress demanded that the company's managing director Sabu M Jacob should be also held legally liable. The police imposed serious offences like attempt to murder police officials against the workers as five police personnel were attacked, one police vehicle torched and four other police vehicles damaged. Many workers were allegedly under the influence of drugs and liquor.

Meanwhile Sabu Jacob alleged that only 13 workers were involved in the clashes and some of those arrested could not be identified by him. He also alleged that the government was trying to settle political scores with him by arraigning around 150 innocent workers. Those involved in the clashes coud be identified from CCTV camera footages, he said.

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Sabu Jacob had recently locked horns with the Left Front government as well as the opposition Congress. Agitated over frequent inspections from various government agencies at his firms on complaints like pollution and flouting of labour norms, Sabu alleged that Kerala was not investor friendly and backtracked from a Rs 3,500 crore investment proposal. The Congress had also raised allegations of pollution against Kitex group. But Sabu Jacob was maintaining that the CPI(M) and Congress were settling political scores over the growth of Twenty20.

Twenty20 forum was initiated by the Kitex group as part of its CSR activities. It entered politics in 2015 by winning the Kizhakambalam panchayat. In the 2020 local body elections the forum won four more panchayats. It fielded candidates in seven Assembly seats and came third in two. While Twenty20 claims to have made much development in the Kizhakambalam panchayat, there were allegations that the developments were aimed at benifitng the firm and issues like pollution were being covered up. Concerns were also expressed against the growth of a political party controlled by a corporate firm.

In this backdrop the CPI(M) and the Congress might be using the present violence by Kitex workers at Kizhakambalam panchayat as an opportunity to step up the fight against Twenty20.

Congress MP Benny Behanan said that Sabu Jacob should be also held responsible as the anti-social elements nurtured by him unleashed the violence. A section of local people of Kizhakambalam was also raising protest against the frequent law and order problems created by the Kitex group workers, mostly migrant workers.

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