KOCHI: The dawn-to-dusk hartal called by the BJP in North Paravur on Tuesday in protest against the death of BJP worker Sreejith due to the alleged custodial torture witnessed sporadic violence. A tense situation was prevailing in the Varapuzha region since Monday night as most of the shops remained closed, fearing violence. The protests began as early as 7.30 am with the protesters assembling on the National Highway around 8.30 am and staging a blockade which continued the whole day. Meanwhile, the police remained mute spectators even as hundreds of motorists were held up on both sides of the busy stretch for several hours from the morning.
The protests took a violent turn around 8.30 am with the hartal activists beginning to assault the motorists for allegedly attempting to negotiate through the blockade. Those assaulted included the father of a few-months-old baby, who was being taken to a hospital in Kochi and a four-member family, including an eye-patient, who was returning from a city hospital after treatment.
“The baby’s father sought to argue with the protesters and it soon escalated into an attack. At one point, the protesters were also seen abusing a couple of college students, who had approached the protesters seeking their cooperation to appear for an examination taking place at a college in Kochi,” said an eyewitness.
As the protests intensified, the police began re-routing the held-up vehicles through alternative routes and the backlog could be cleared only by afternoon. As part of the protests, the protesters staged a march to the Varapuzha police station seeking action against the officers responsible for the death of Sreejith around 10.30 am. The protest was blocked using a barricade and several policemen were deployed to manage the mob.
Meanwhile, the Varapuzha police have registered two cases for rioting and assault in connection with the hartal. The first case is in connection with the assault of a person, who attempted to take his baby to the hospital while the second case is in connection with the protest march taken out to the police station in the morning, officers said.
SHRC criticises police
Kozhikode: State Human Rights Commission acting chairman P Mohanadas came down heavily on the police over the custodial death of Sreejith at Varapuzha. While interacting with the media, Mohanadas said murder case should be slapped on culprits, including those policemen, who attacked Sreejith and who remained mute spectators. He added that police officers in charge of the station are also accused in the case. The chairman said police had made lapses in providing treatment, food and water to Sreejith on time. He also rejected Ernakulam Rural SP A V George’s statement that Sreejth was not tortured in police custody. “The SP’s statement is unbelievable and baseless,” Mohanadas said. “Sreejith’s wife gave a statement to us that inside the vehicle, police had tortured him. Policemen in mufti had admitted Sreejith to hospital. It was a violation of rules. As per rules, police should admit a person in custody to hospital in uniform,” the chairman said. He added that the Human Rights Commission has summoned Varapuzha SI to be present at a sitting, scheduled on April 23.