Youth Congress began a flash hartal in Kerala on Monday to protest the killing of two of its activists allegedly by ruling CPI(M) workers. Roads and national highways were blocked in various places and state-owned buses were stoned during the demonstrations. The state-wide dawn-to-dusk hartal was called past midnight by the Youth Congress leadership through social media, hours after its workers -Sarath Lal and Kripesh - were hacked to death in northern Kasaragod district.
Normal life was not affected much in the initial hours of the hartal as it was announced late night and common people came to know about it very late.
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Youth Congress activists blocked vehicles in various districts including Kozhikode, Kollam, Idukki and Ernakulam. KSRTC buses were pelted with stones by the protesters in several places. Shops and hotels also remained closed in many places. Private vehicles, however, were found plying smoothly.
The state capital Thiruvananthapuram was exempted from the protest in view of the famous temple festival, Attukal Pongala on February 20, Youth Congress sources said.
University and school model examinations were postponed.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also cancelled his various programmes due to the hartal, official sources said.
State Director General of Police Loknath Behera Monday gave directions to the police to take stringent action against those involved in any violence in the name of hartal.
According to police, the gruesome murder of the two Youth Congress activists took place when they were returning home after attending a local function in Kasaragod Sunday night.
They were obstructed by an unidentified gang and hacked to death, police added. While Krupesh died at the Kasargode district hospital, Joshy died on the way to a hospital in Mangaluru, in neighbouring Karnataka.
Though the opposition Congress lashed out at the ruling CPI(M) for the twin murder, the latter has categorically denied any role in the incident.
Soon after the incident, Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala had said the CPI(M) was trying to destroy the party using its goons. He had also alleged that the murder was a conspiracy hatched by the CPI(M) as the Lok Sabha elections are round the corner.
However, CPI(M) Kasaragod district secretary MV Balakrishnan Master condemned the murder and denied his party's role in the killings.
The High Court was expected to take a suo motto cognizance against those who called the shutdown as it was against the court's directive.
Meanwhile, addressing the media in Kasargode earlier on Monday, district police chief A Sreenivas said that a special team has been formed to probe the crime.
There has been a sense of rising animosity between the youth wings of the two parties in Kasargode for sometime now, reports said.
The Kasargode district CPI-M leadership though has gone on record stating it has no role in the murders.
Top Congress leaders including state's Congress chief Mullapally Ramachandran, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, General Secretary KC Venugopal also reached Kannur, where the two bodies were taken for autopsy.
(With agency inputs)