An all-party peace meeting called in Kannur on Wednesday by the Kerala government began on a sour note as the opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) walked out alleging "shabby treatment".
The meeting was chaired by Law Minister AK Balan and Minister for Ports Kadannapally Ramachandran.
The meeting was called to appeal for peace following the brutal murder of Youth Congress worker Shuhaib, 30, at an eatery near Mattanoor in Kannur district on February 12. Four persons in a car hurled bombs and then fatally slashed him with a sword.
The police have arrested two Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) workers and are looking for two more suspects. The Congress has, however, claimed the crime was the handiwork of criminals linked to the ruling CPI (M) and on parole from jail.
Ahead of Wednesday's meeting, Balan told the media that the CPI (M) is ready for any probe by any agency.
Just before the meeting started, Congress Kannur district President Sateeshan Pacheni objected to the presence of CPI (M) Rajya Sabha member KK Ragesh.
Pacheni told Balan it was strange that Ragesh was seated on the dais while the people's representatives from the opposition had not been invited.
Soon, a war of words broke out between CPI (M) and Congress leaders and Balan tried to calm both the sides down, but in vain.
Balan pointed out that they had called two representatives from each political party. Pacheni said if this was the case why was Ragesh seated on the dais and not along with other representatives.
Soon, three legislators of the Congress-led UDF walked into the meeting.
"We have no issues if Ragesh has been invited, but why have we not been invited? This is the first time that legislators are being left out of a peace meeting," said Congress leader KC Joseph, a legislator from Kannur district.
After a few minutes, Pacheni said they were walking out of the meeting since the government had shown "no sincerity in the meeting".
After walking out, Pacheni told the media that when he raised the issue of Ragesh's presence, it was the Kannur CPI (M) District Secretary P Jayarajan who replied and not Minister Balan.
"This murder took place a few kilometres from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's residence. It was only on the sixth day that he made a partial statement. What is happening is really shameful on part of the CPI-M," said Pacheni.
Congress legislator K Muraleedharan said that the party will register a strong protest in the Assembly, whose session is starting next Monday.