Crack down on PFI protests, court tells govt | India News

Kerala police took 551 people into custody after a protest called by Popular Front of India (PFI) against NIA raids and arrest of its functionaries led to widespread violence and damage to public property on Friday, prompting the high court to take suo motu notice.
It called the “flash hartal” illegal and asked the government to confront the lawbreakers with an iron fist. As many as 13 shops, 70 state-run buses and two Tamil Nadu government buses were damaged by mobs in 217 reported attacks on properties, vehicles and citizens during the dawn-to-dusk statewide protest, police said.
They said 10 KSRTC staff, including eight drivers, and six cops were wounded. The protest was comparatively peaceful in the south.
Of those arrested in 311 cases registered so far, most were in Kollam city (164), where cops reported protesters ramming two policemen on duty with a bike, besides other crimes. Also, some 400 people were taken into preventive detention, with Malappuram (126) recording the highest, followed by Kannur city (86).
The protests were comparatively peaceful in the southern districts, compared to the north, especially Kannur and Kozhikode. Petrol bombs were reportedly thrown on four occasions in Kannur, including one at the RSS office in Mattanur.
“We have identified the culprits and they will be caught soon,” ADGP (land and order) Vijay Sakhare said.
The hartal was by and large event-free in Kasargod, where it was expected to be more intense because of the large concentration of PFI activists in the district. Attendance was low at many offices as protesters took over many roads and violence spread quickly. The government secretariat recorded just over 57% attendance, while KSRTC operated only 62% of its buses. KSRTC pegged the damage at Rs 42 lakh.
As the protest brought life to a standstill in many areas, the Kerala HC took suo motu notice and said flash hartals that violate the court-ordered requirement of a seven-day notice period should be dealt with strongly by the government. A division bench of judges AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Mohammed Nias CP said the PFI hartal was illegal and registered a case against the Islamic organisation and its state general secretary A Abdul Sathar.
The court had made giving notice seven days prior to a protest march mandatory on January 7, 2019. PFI called its hartal on Thursday. Asking the government and police to ensure public or private property is not damaged, the court said such activity by supporters of the hartal should be monitored and a report should be placed before the high court by September 29, with details of such instances and the extent of damage, so that remedial action can be taken to recover such losses from the perpetrators.

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