Kerala Youth Congress president sent to jail for protest against Left govt

A team of Thiruvananthapuram city police surrounded Rahul Mamkootathil’s house in Adoor early in the morning around 5.30 a.m. and arrested him

An Indian Youth Congress Kerala poster featuring president Rahul Mamkootathil, speaking belligerently and pointing forwards against a backdrop of police shields (photo courtesy @IYC/X)
An Indian Youth Congress Kerala poster featuring president Rahul Mamkootathil, speaking belligerently and pointing forwards against a backdrop of police shields (photo courtesy @IYC/X)

Ashlin Mathew

In a surprise move and possibly in an attempt to divert attention from CPI(M)’s hartal in Idukki against Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan, early on 9 January the Kerala Police arrested Youth Congress state president Rahul Mamkootathil in connection with the march on the Secretariat in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram. He was remanded to judicial custody in the evening for 14 days until 22 January.

A team of Thiruvananthapuram city police surrounded Mamkootathil’s house in Adoor, a municipality in the Pathanamthitta district, early in the morning around 5.30 a.m. and arrested him.

Speaking against the arrest, his mother said that the police barged into the house and the room without any respect to personal liberties. “First, they surrounded the house as if my son is a wanted criminal. The police arrested him as though he was a terrorist. He was just discharged from the hospital. He was admitted for extremely high fever,” said Beena, his mother.

The police did not even give any information about the arrest. Only when she insisted did they gave the reason for the arrest.

“Rahul was at the KIMS Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram for a week until day before yesterday and he was in Kollam yesterday. If they had wanted to arrest him then, they could have. This is nothing but a planned move,” added his mother.

Terming his arrest outrageous, Indian Youth Congress president BV Srinivas said Mamkootathil’s arrest was an assault on democracy.

'Arresting Rahul Mamkootathil, Kerala Youth Congress President, for protesting against state govt & CPM is an assault on democracy. Peaceful dissent is a right, not a crime. Kerala govt, stop targeting opposition & unleashing political vendetta!' posted Srinivas on X.

The hurried arrest also led to protest marches by the Congress and the Youth Congress workers at Thiruvananthapuram, Palakkad, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Kannur, Malappuram and Alappuzha.

Congress MLA PC Vishnunadh said that the government and the police were brutally suppressing protests and this is not how democracy functions.

“This is nothing but the vendetta of the state government against Mamkootathil. The state has not followed the basic Supreme Court guidelines for his arrest. The state wants to lock him up under false cases following the footsteps of fascist regimes,” alleged Vishnunadh.

The state government led by Pinarayi Vijayan has taken a leaf out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s and BJP’s playbook, claimed Vishnunadh, adding: “If the LDF (Left Demoratic Front) thinks they can suppress protests by arresting leaders, they will soon realise their folly. Congress protests will continue with even more fervour.”

Slamming the state government for the arrest, Ernakulam MP Hibi Eden called it a blatant act of silencing dissent.

'Outraged by the detention of IYC Kerala president Rahul Mamkootathil for protesting against LDF government's brutality. This blatant act of silencing dissent is unacceptable & sign of a fascist regime, they must be held accountable for their cowardly actions,' posted Eden on X.

Mamkootathil is the fourth accused in the case pertaining to the Secretariat march on 20 December 2023. Opposition leader V.D. Satheesan is the first accused in the case. Another 31 Youth Congress workers have also been arrested in connection with the case.

Mamkootathil was elected as the state president of the Youth Congress in November 2023.

The Youth Congress had, on 20 December, marched to the Secretariat against the Nava Kerala Sadas programme, the outreach initiative organised by the ruling Left Democratic Front government in the state. The Youth Congress march in the state capital was one of the many series of agitations across the state against the government.

The march had turned violent in Thiruvanthapuram after the police blocked the Youth Congress using barricades and then turned on water cannons five times to disperse the Congress workers. A banner titled 'Is chief minister goon?' was placed by the Congress workers in front of the secretariat.

In the melee, Mamkootathil was hit on the head by a lathi and vice-president Albin Varkey also sustained injuries. Another youth Congress leader, V.K. Shibina, had her dress torn by the police in the scuffle. Youth Congress state secretary Hashim, who was detained by the police, was denied treatment even though he was injured—until other Congress workers waylaid the police vehicle and took him away.

The situation escalated when the police tried to storm into the District Congress Committee (DCC) office in Thiruvananthapuram to detain the party workers who had been arrested earlier, but they were released from custody due to the intervention of top Congress leaders. Opposition leader V.D. Satheesan took them back from the station to the DCC office in his official vehicle.

All the Congress leaders protested against the police action and stopped them from entering the DCC office. The stand-off continued until the police retreated from the Congress office.

The event unfolded the day before the Nava Kerala Sadas programme was set to enter the state capital.

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