Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy suffered minor injuries after suspected CPI-M activists stoned his car here Sunday evening. Reacting to the incident, he said desisting from violence would save the state and the CPI-M.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has denied its involvement in the attack. While a probe has been ordered into the incident and two CPI-M activists detained, statewide condemnation has poured in.
The incident occurred as Chandy was arriving to attend the annual athletics meet of Kerala Police.
State CPI-M secretary Pinnarayi Vijayan condemned the incident and said his party had no role in this.
Addressing a public meeting here, Chandy later said: "I just heard Vijayan's statement and I see it in a positive light. If he has said it with utmost seriousness, I am the most happiest person because both Kerala and the CPI-M will be saved."
Amidst thunderous applause, Chandy said if Vijayan is serious about what he has said "then let us begin from Kannur that there will be no violence in politics".
"But if it is otherwise and they think they can take on their political rivals using violence, then they are mistaken," said Chandy.
He said he has firmly said a big 'no' to a statewide shutdown on Monday that was initially planned following the attack on him.
"I have nothing against anyone and I am one who never acts with vengeance and my sincere wish is that what Vijayan has said comes true because what we should practise is true democracy and not violence in politics," added Chandy.
Leader of the opposition V.S. Achuthanandan, in a written statement, condemned the attack.
"We never indulge in violence and hence I doubt if any of our supporters are involved in this as we have announced a democratic form of protest," said Achuthanandan.
State director general of police K.N. Balasubramanian has announced a probe into the incident by a senior police official even as two CPI-M activists have been taken into custody.
Across the state, Congress and United Democratic Front (UDF) activists took to the streets with the strongest protests seen in Malappuram district where angry UDF supporters were seen shouting slogans against Achuthanandan and Vijayan and demanding that they not be allowed to enter the district.
"The attack on Chandy should be seen as an attack on the people of Kerala and the CPI-M should call off their protest against Chandy," said Finance Minister K.M. Mani.
"This is rowdyism by the CPI-M and this is going to be the beginning of their end," remarked Electricity Minister Aryadan Mohammed.
Speaking to reporters, party general secretary T. Siddiq said he was travelling with the chief minister in his car when the attack occurred.
"...Stones came from both sides and I immediately threw my hands around him to protect him and a stone hit my hand. The glass pieces came flying and hit him on the forehead and injured him," he said.
Chandy, however, was unfazed by what happened even as blood drops appeared on his forehead. In his characteristic manner, he smiled and waved to his supporters and took his position as the chief guest.
State party chief Ramesh Chennithala said they suspect there was a conspiracy behind the attack and demanded a probe.
"We have called for a statewide protest tonight against this ghastly attack. There is every reason to suspect that this was a pre-planned attack and was perhaps done with the knowledge of the LDF leaders ... a probe has to be conducted," he told reporters.
Kannur district has always been the stronghold of the CPI-M and top party leaders, including Vijayan and politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, hail from there.
Minister for Civil Aviation K.C. Venugopal said this is a ghastly incident and the CPI-M will have to pay a heavy price for this act. "Waving of black flags is understandable but stoning a chief minister is an act of attempt to 'murder' him. This has never happened in our state before and this should never be allowed," said Venugopal.
Media baron and former Lok Sabha member M.P. Veerendra Kumar said that with this act, democracy has reached its lowest ebb in the state. "This has been done purposely with the knowledge of the CPI-M and such a thing should never ever happen," said Kumar, who heads the Socialist Janata Democratic, an ally of the ruling Chandy government.
Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan told reporters at Kottayam: "Our party never has a tradition of retaliation and even as Chandy's blood fell, we and our party maintained absolute calm. Our restraint should never be seen as a weakness."
CPI's youth legislator V.S. Sunil Kumar said such a thing should not have happened.