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The strike called by the Popular Front of India in Kerala turned violent on Friday a day after Popular Front of India leaders were arrested in a massive country-wide raid, the outfit's dawn-to dusk amid incidents of stone pelting and attacking on vehicles including KSRTC buses by protesters were reported from various places in the state. The hartal (strike) started at 6 am and will continue for 12 hours till 6 pm. Hartal supporters took out protest marches, blocked the vehicles and forcefully downed the shutters of shops in various places, where the outfit has a strong presence.

The Kerala High Court has initiated suo motu case against the leaders of Popular Front of India (PFI) for calling a one-day statewide bandh in Kerala. As per a Kerala HC order, nobody can call for a bandh in the state without permission.

Justice A K Jayasankaran Nambiar said despite its 2019 order, a call for a flash hartal was made yesterday by the PFI.

"The action of the aforementioned persons in calling for the hartal without following the procedure contemplated in our earlier order, prima facie, amounts to contempt of the directions of this Court in the order aforementioned," the court observed.

Kerala Bandh: All you need to know

The hartal was called by the PFI to protest against the raids in the offices and residences of its leaders and their subsequent arrests on Thursday by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and other agencies for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country.

Hartal supporters took out protest marches, blocked the vehicles and forcefully downed the shutters of shops in various places, where the outfit has a strong presence.

The shutdown in Kerala has been called by the PFI to protest the arrest of its members in nationwide raids by the National Investigation Agency yesterday.

Two police officers were attacked earlier today by the hartal supporters at Pallimukku in the Kollam district.

Visuals showed hartal supporters pelting stones at the Kerala State Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus at Panamaram village in Wayanad district. The bus was going to Kozhikode.

KSRTC buses were also attacked in Kozhikode, Kochi, Alappuzha and Kollam.

A 15-year-old girl and an auto-rickshaw driver suffered minor injuries in the stone pelting allegedly by PFI activists in Kozhikode and Kannur respectively.

Hundreds of PFI activists were reportedly detained in local police stations as a precautionary measure, sources said. 

In Erattupetta town of Kottayam district, police had to resort to lathi-charge to disperse hartal supporters when they tried to block the vehicles after gathering in large numbers, closed the shops and threatened the people who were travelling on private vehicles.

Meanwhile, Kerala police beefed up security in the state and issued directions to the district police chiefs to ensure law and order after the PFI called for a day-long state-wide hartal. A statement issued by the police said stern action will be taken against those who violate the law. 

"All the policemen in the state will be deployed for the maintenance of law and order," the statement said. The PFI on Thursday had said a hartal will be observed in the state today "against the RSS-controlled fascist government's attempt to silence dissenting voices using the central agencies". 

Multi-agency teams spearheaded by the NIA had arrested 106 functionaries of the PFI on Thursday in near simultaneous raids at 93 locations in 15 states for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country. Kerala, where PFI has some strong pockets, accounted for the maximum number of 22 arrests, officials said.

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