KIZHAKKAMBALAM(KOCHI): The usually busy streets leading to Kitex Apparel Park at Kizhakkambalam wore an unfamiliar look on Sunday morning. People were very few and the police personnel outnumbered them.
A police jeep lay gutted on the road in front of the company’s labour camp while tension was palpable. The place witnessed a fierce fight between groups of migrant workers from Manipur and Nagaland who were in an inebriated state after celebrating Christmas on Saturday night. They later attacked the police who came to disperse them. Witnesses said the situation was riot-like.
Twenty-four people were arrested while 132 have been detained. Two cases, for attacking police and vandalising their vehicles, were registered. The region houses thousands of migrant labourers — a majority of them employed in Kitex — and it is for the first time that they dared to attack the police.
According to local residents, an argument over reciting carol escalated into a fight around 11.30 pm. When a security staffer at the labour camp intervened, he too was attacked. A group of police officers on night patrol rushed to the spot after Kitex authorities alerted them while a team from Kunnathunadu station joined them in an attempt to bring the situation under control.
Kitex chairman terms midnight clash accidental, offers help to probe team
Around 500 labourers vandalised a police vehicle using lethal weapons and did not allow the officers to get out of it. A team of officers under Inspector of Police V T Shajan reached the spot, but the mob set a jeep ablaze in the meantime.
“The migrant workers were celebrating Christmas late into the night and the violence lasted for nearly three hours,” said KK Surendran, a local resident. The workers pelted stones at the police from inside the labour camp and also damaged their other jeeps. Shajan, who sustained head injuries and fractured his hand, was admitted to a private hospital in Kolenchery.
He was discharged later. Five civil police officers were also injured. At Thykkavu, another local resident Sakariya Mohammed said native people had complained many a time to the police about the nuisance caused by the drunk laburers but they did not take any action. “It’s very difficult to travel through the road in front of the labour camp after 8 pm as the workers will be in an inebriated stage.
They intercept vehicles,” he said. Kitex Group chairman Sabu M Jacob, who is also the chief coordinator of Twenty20 that rules Kizhakkambalam panchayat, described the clash as “accidental”. “This is for the first time that such violence is being reported. As per the details collected, a group of labourers celebrated Christmas with carol and dance while another group objected to it as the celebrations went past midnight. Following this, a quarrel erupted between the two groups and they started fighting.
When our security staff and supervisors intervened, the labourers attacked them. When the police team reached the spot, they too were attacked,” Sabu said. He said he suspects the workers were under the influence of some sort of drugs. “We are worried because there is a gang supplying drugs to these labourers,” Sabu said, adding no local resident was attacked by the labourers.
“We will cooperate with the police for initiating stringent action against the culprits. The Kitex Group will not protect anyone who violates the law. Police verification certificate is mandatory for workers from other states for getting jobs at our company,” he said. Kizhakkambalam panchayat president Mini Ratheesh expressed shock. “We need to find out the reasons why the labourers resorted to large-scale violence and even dared to attack police. It can’t be tolerated,” she said. District police chief K Karthick said more than 300 officers have been deployed in the area. “The situation is now under control,” he said.