Rahul Gandhi office vandalism case: 19 SFI activists held; Congress holds protest march

A protest march of the SFI against Gandhi, alleging his inaction in the issue of buffer zones around forests, on Friday turned violent as a group of protestors allegedly barged into his office and trashed it

The Kerala Congress took out a massive rally protesting against the SFI’s vandalising of their party MP Rahul Gandhi’s office at Kalpetta in Wayanad, Kerala, on Saturday. Twitter/ @kcvenugopalmp

The Opposition Congress on Saturday took out a massive rally at Kalpetta in Wayanad, Kerala, protesting against Students’ Federation of India (SFI) activists’ alleged vandalising of Rahul Gandhi’s office and targeted Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the ruling CPI (M) over the Left students’ union’s attack.

A protest march of the SFI against Gandhi, alleging his inaction in the issue of buffer zones around forests, on Friday turned violent as a group of protestors allegedly barged into his office and trashed it. Police said the protest march contained around 100 activists. As many as 19 SFI members were arrested in connection with the incident.

Protest marches

Led by senior leaders including AICC general secretary K C Venugopal and Leader of Oppostion in the state Assembly V D Satheesan, the workers marched for a few kilometers from the premises of the MP’s office to Pinangod. Although minor scuffles between the workers and the police men were reported during the rally at some places, no untoward incident was reported.

However, several workers and police personnel suffered injuries in Kottayam district as a march took out by the Youth Congress there protesting over the attack against Gandhi’s office turned violent. The Congress leadership alleged that the Marxist party’s students’ cadre attacked the Wayanad MP’s office as part of a Sangh Parivar agenda with the knowledge of Vijayan to please the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.

Sharpening their attack, the Opposition also charged that a personal staff of Health Minister Veena George, identified as Avishith, was among the assaulters involved in the office vandalism but the minister quickly rejected the allegation claiming that he was no longer her staffer. He had relieved himself from duty earlier this month citing personal reasons, the minister claimed.

Satheesan visited the vandalised office on Saturday morning and reiterated his accusation that it was done with the knowledge of Vijayan.

Charging that it was the agenda of the Modi government to oust Gandhi from Wayanad, his Lok Sabha constituency, the Congress leader accused the ruling CPI(M) of taking “quotation” of the Sangh Parivar in this regard and the office attack was its result.

“The attack against Rahul Gandhi’s office was held with the knowledge of the CM… it was carried out with with precise planning and also with the knowledge of top police officials… Condemning the attack by the CM was an eyewash to cheat people,” Satheesan charged.

CMO clarifies

On Saturday the chief minister’s office clarified that the Congress MP has sent a letter to Vijayan seeking his government’s urgent intervention in the matter. The CMO also said Vijayan, in his reply, had requested Gandhi to raise the issue in the upcoming Parliament session.

Earlier, following the incident Vijayan had condemned the attack and assured stringent action against the culprits. He said everyone has the right to protest in a democratic manner but such demonstrations taking a violent turn was a wrong tendency.

Sitaram Yechury reacts

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury on Saturday condemned the attack on Gandhi’s office in Wayanad. Speaking to the news agency ANI, Yechury said, “Whatever happened in Wayanad is something which we have said is completely unacceptable. We have condemned it. CM of the state and state government also condemned it and state police has already begun taking action against those involved in this irresponsible act… such things do not happen in the democratic system.”

Police action

Police said that all the arrested persons were identified as local SFI activists and they were remanded for two weeks by a local court. “The arrest of 19 people have been recorded so far. Some more persons were taken into custody and more arrests are expected to take place today. At present, the case is investigated by the Mananthavady deputy Superintendent of Police and it will be handed over to the ADGP-led special investigation team soon,” an official told PTI.

Hours after SFI activists indulged in the vandalism on Friday, the Left government had ordered a high-level probe by an ADGP-rank officer and suspended Kalpetta Deputy Superintendent of Police.

The ESZ issue

The apex court recently issued a direction that each protected forest, including national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, must have an ESZ of one kilometre and banned mining activities within such parks across the nation.

The high range areas of Kerala, particularly areas in Idukki, Wayanad, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts, had been witnessing hartals by various political and farmers’ groups against the apex court order delivered on 3 June.

Issuing a slew of directions, a bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao had on 3 June ordered that no permanent structure will be allowed within such ESZs and said if the local law or other rules provide for an ESZ of more than one kilometre then the earlier provision would continue to apply.

The SC order came on a batch of applications filed on a pending PIL of 1995 and they raised two sets of issues with the first one related to mining activities in and around Jamua Ramgarh, a wildlife sanctuary in Rajasthan. The second set of issues was related to prescribing ESZs surrounding the wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.

With input from agencies

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