Kozhikode: With locked shops and empty roads, S.M.Street, the center of commerce in Kerala’s Kozhikode district, wore a deserted look on Monday. It was among several districts hit by allegedly unauthorized calls for a strike, put up on social media sites over the gangrape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua region.
Even as all major political parties denied calling a hartal, the messages spread on social media like wildfire on Sunday.
In almost all districts, vehicles were forced to stop and commercial establishments forced to shut down. In three places in Malappuram district, the police issued prohibitory orders following instances of vandalism.
From hoax hartal calls to hate campaigns, Kerala is going through a flux of protests and polarization between the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in response to rape.
On Sunday, Vishnu Nandakumar, a close relative of Kerala BJP leader A.N. Radhakrishnan, was fired by his employer, a private sector bank, after a comment he made on the rape victim on Facebook caused a furore, including among pro-CPM Facebook users.
On Monday, pro-BJP members turned their guns against Deepak Shankaranarayan, a writer who is seen close to CPM, alleging one of his latest Facebook posts is a call for violence against BJP members. BJP state committee member and media coordinator R. Sandeep filed a police complaint.
“It’s undoubtedly a violation of his fundamental democratic rights and dirty political vendetta," wrote finance minister Thomas Isaac on Facebook on Monday. “The post in question doesn’t endorse any form of violence. It actually calls upon fellow citizens to uphold the real values of Indian democracy," he added.