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Opposition protests against KT Jaleel storm Kerala

Kochi: Police detain BJP activists staging a protest demanding resignation of Kerala Minister KT Jaleel for his alleged involvement in the gold smuggling case, in Kochi, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. (PTI Photo)(PTI17-09-2020_000207A) (PTI)Premium
Kochi: Police detain BJP activists staging a protest demanding resignation of Kerala Minister KT Jaleel for his alleged involvement in the gold smuggling case, in Kochi, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. (PTI Photo)(PTI17-09-2020_000207A) (PTI)

Kerala erupted into widespread opposition protests for the fifth day in a row on Thursday, demanding the resignation of minister KT Jaleel who was summoned by the National Investigation Agency Kochi that is probing the recent gold smuggling scandal

Ernakulam: Kerala erupted into widespread opposition protests for the fifth day in a row on Thursday, demanding the resignation of minister KT Jaleel who was summoned by the National Investigation Agency Kochi that is probing the recent gold smuggling scandal.

The protestors blatantly violated covid-19 protocols, even as the state's daily caseload touched a new high of 4,531 on the day. On multiple cities, the police and the protestors clashed with each other. In the capital Thiruvanthapuram, the protests turned violent and several activists of opposition parties the Congress, the BJP and the Muslim League were injured. Legislator V T Balaram was injured in police lathicharge against the Congress workers in Palakkad. He alleged that the police action was without any provocation and demanded an enquiry.

“At least 12 officials were injured when protesters clashed with the police at Palakkad. Shoulders of three officials were dislocated while one official was injured with a sharp object on his cheek. He got 12 stitches," a police official told Press Trust of India. The NIA office premises here also witnessed separate protests by activists belonging to youth wings of the Congress and the BJP.

The police action is likely to fuel further protests in the coming days. Meanwhile, in his daily evening covid-19 press briefing, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the protestors, including at least two legislators, will be booked under the stringent rules to prevent the spreading of epidemic diseases.

Jaleel is Minister for Higher Education, Welfare of Minorities, Wakf and Hajj in the LDF led ministry. He has not been named in the gold smuggling case so far. But he has been in the dock for accepting religious books and flood-relief kits through the diplomatic baggage route at United Arab Emirates Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, which is currently probed for being used as a cover for smuggling gold. He has also allegedly violated bureaucratic protocols while accepting the goods.

Jaleel reached the NIA office here at around 6 am in a private car after being summoned by the agency, nearly a week after he was interrogated twice by the Enforcement Directorate on the same issue. Although the minister reached the NIA office early in the morning to evade media attention, cameras of a Malayalam news channel followed him closely. Multiple rings of police security were thrown around the NIA office as the news broke about the minister’s appearance before the NIA team probing the gold smuggling case.

The scenes of Jaleel at the doorsteps of the terror probing agency is likely to spell more damage for the LDF government, while it could give a leg-up to the Congress and the BJP. The developments are crucial since Kerala is nearing local body polls in October and assembly polls mid-2021.

As the opposition sharpened its attack against the ruling LDF, the leadership of the CPI(M) rallied behind the embattled minister, saying “seeking information" was part of the procedure of investigation and there was no need for anyone to resign.

PTI contributed to this story.

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