Rahul Gandhi's office in Wayanad vandalised by SFI activists, Kerala CM assures stern action against culprits
A protest march of the SFI against Congress MP Rahul Gandhi's office in Wayanad on Friday turned violent as a group of activists allegedly entered the Lok Sabha member's office and vandalised it
A protest march of the SFI, the students wing of ruling CPI(M), against Congress MP Rahul Gandhi's office in Wayanad on Friday turned violent as a group of activists allegedly entered the Lok Sabha member's office and vandalised it, prompting Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to strongly condemn the incident and warn of stern action against the culprits.
Strongly condemning "the act of violence" by SFI at its top leader's office at Kalpetta in Rahul Gandhi's LS constituency Wayanad, the Congress party staged a statewide protest, which turned violent in some regions.
The incident occurred when the Students' Federation of India (SFI) activists held a march to Rahul Gandhi's Office alleging his inaction in the issue of buffer zones around forests.
The activists of the Left outfit allegedly barged into his office, vandalised it and attacked three Congress workers who were present there before police intervened to prevent them from the violent acts, the Congress alleged.
While the main opposition party claimed that the attack happened with the knowledge of the Vijayan, the chief minister, in a strongly worded message, said this land ensures space for freedom of expression and democratic protest but it was a wrong practice if it turns into violence.
CPI(M) General Secretary, Sitaram Yechury, also denounced the attack.
"Strongly denounce and condemn what happened in Wayanad, Kerala today. Kerala state CM has already condemned it. Police has initiated measures against those responsible," Yechury tweeted.
Police said around eight people were taken into custody following the ruckus in front of the MP's office and six police officials including a woman civil police officer have been injured in the attack.
"As of now, eight of the protesters have been taken into custody and brought to the station. A few policemen, including Kalpetta SI, were injured in the stone pelting following the march," police told PTI.
Congress leaders claimed three staff members in the office got injured in the "attack" by SFI.
Rahul Gandhi has spoken to them over the phone and enquired about their health, the party said.
Television channels aired visuals of persons entering the office, creating ruckus.
Hitting out at the Left government and its workers for targeting their top leader over the buffer zone issue, the Congress organised a statewide protest and in some places including in Kottayam, it turned violent after Left party workers attempted to disrupt the march.
Senior Congress district leaders were injured in the violence occurred in Kottayam.
AICC General secretary K C Venugopal strongly criticised the attack and alleged that the office was vandalised with the knowledge of the CM.
Venugopal said the police who witnessed the attack "remained a mute spectator" aiding the "SFI criminals" to vandalise the office of the senior Congress leader.
"Instead of fighting the BJP government at the Centre, the CPI(M) was attacking the Congress in the buffer zone issue. The Chief Minister is answerable to this violence planned by SFI criminals. The party strongly condemns the attack," he told reporters at the KPCC office in Thiruvananthapuram.
Denouncing the attack, CM Vijayan said, "strongly condemn the attack against Congress MP Rahul Gandhi's office at Wayanad. This land ensures space for freedom of expression and democratic protest but it is a wrong tendency to turn such protests into a violent one."
"The government will take stern action against the culprits," he assured.
KPCC president K Sudhakaran welcomed the Chief Minister's assurance but doubted his sincerity.
Sudhakaran alleged that the attack was with the knowledge of the CPI(M) leadership and sought action against the police officials who allegedly "aided" the protestors.
"We welcome the chief minister's statement condemning the issue. But we doubt his sincerity. Action should be taken against those police officers who failed to take action against the attackers. If CPI(M) fails to control their workers, the Congress will be forced to take a strong defensive stand. We also know how to retaliate," Sudhakaran said.
Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan also reacted sharply to the incident and said the attack showed lawlessness and goondaism.
"Ghastly attack by SFI goons at Rahul Gandhi's MP Office at Wayanad. It is lawlessness and goondaism. CPM has turned into an organised mafia. Strongly Condemning the attack," he said in a tweet.
Congress alleged that the protest march to Rahul's office was held without any prior announcement.
SFI organised the protest alleging Rahul failed to intervene in the issue of buffer zones around forests in the hilly areas of Kerala.
However, two hours before the incident, the Wayanad MP had posted a letter he had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address the concerns of the local communities likely to be impacted by the Supreme Court judgement on buffer zones.
A recent Supreme Court order mandates the maintenance of an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of one kilometre around national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, which has led to widespread protest in various parts of Kerala.
The high range areas of Kerala, particularly in Idukki, Wayanad, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts, had been witnessing hartals by various political and farmers' groups against the apex court order delivered on June 3.
Issuing a slew of directions, a bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao had ordered that no permanent structure will be allowed within such ESZs and said if the local law or other rules provide for an ESZ of more than one km then the earlier provision would continue to apply.
The SC order had come on a batch of applications filed on a pending PIL from 1995 and they raised two sets of issues with the first one related to mining activities in and around Jamua Ramgarh, a wildlife sanctuary in Rajasthan.
The second set of issues was related to prescribing ESZs surrounding the wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.