Kerala protests: Congress MLA among several injured in police action; govt shields controversial minister KT Jaleel

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The Opposition parties mounted pressure on the state govt for minister's resignation even as NIA interrogated him for about 8 hours on Thursday

Kerala witnessed violent clashes between police and workers of the Opposition parties who have been seeking the resignation of state Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel in connection with the Thiruvananthapuram gold smuggling case.

The state erupted into violent protests right from the morning itself by the Congress, Muslim League, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and their youth as well as students wings seeking the immediate resignation of the minister.

Several workers of the Opposition parties including Congress MLA VT Balram were injured in the police action against the protesters. Balram was injured after the protest march by the Youth Congress led by him turned violent in Palakkad.

BJP workers were injured in Kottayam during cane charge by police to disperse the protesters.

The Kerala PCC president Mullappalli Ramachandran sought the resignation of the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and get ready for fresh elections in the state keeping in view the unprecedented incidents happening in his ministry.

"KT Jaleel does not deserve to continue in his seat for another moment," Muslim League General Secretary Kunjhalikutty said.

BJP state president K Surendran said that Jaleel cannot get rid of the charges against him and the only way left before him was to tender his resignation. He also asked the resignation of the LDF government.

Jaleel appeared before the National Investigation Agency (NIA) probing the gold smuggling case early on Thursday morning. He was interrogated for about eight hours and he left the NIA office in Kochi by 5 pm for Thiruvananthapuram.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) interrogated the minister twice last week, but he had escaped the media glare.

Jaleel had given his statement before the ED on the protocol violation related to receiving the diplomatic parcels containing Quran a couple of months ago. The NIA reportedly examined Jaleel's deposition before the ED as well.

A retired officer of NIA claimed during a news channel discussion that this was for the first time in the history of the country a sitting minister was summoned by the national agency for interrogation.

Meanwhile, Vijayan ruled out the resignation of Jaleel and said that there were no charges against h the minister at present nor any investigation was going on against him.

Vijayan said that penal action would be taken against those who resort to protest violating the COVID-19 protocol norms.

The LDF also rallied behind Jaleel declaring support to him. State Culture Minister  AK Balan said that there was nothing unusual in the NIA summoning someone to seek clarity on an issue.

Senior CPM leader MV Govindan said that Jaleel need not step down even if the NIA registered an offence against him in this case.

He also urged the Opposition to withdraw from violence and said that during the coronavirus time, the protests posed a huge challenge to the people as well as the state.

As many as 385 cases have been registered against the protesters and 1,131 cases have been arrested in connection with the protests in Jaleel’s case from September 11.

Kerala on Thursday reported the highest-ever single day spike of 4,351 positive cases and the chief minister said that the protests by the Opposition parties were not feasible at this time of crisis.

Image credit: The Wire

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