A sporadic outburst of violence in Kerala’s Kizhakkambalam led to the police taking custody of around 150 workers of the Kitex garments factory. The incident happened on December 25, Saturday night. While details of the incident are unclear, a clash reportedly broke out between sections of Kitex workers, who predominantly hail from Jharkhand, West Bengal and the North East, during Christmas celebrations. When the police were called to the spot, the workers allegedly attacked them leading to at least five police personnel being injured and a police jeep being set on fire.
The workers taken into custody reside in a housing camp built for them by Kitex. “The workers brutally assaulted the police officers, including a Circle Inspector, who had reached the spot to resolve the arguments between two groups of labourers on Saturday night,” the company’s Managing Director Sabu Jacob told the media over phone.
He said that initially the camp security personnel and supervisors tried to intervene and resolve the issue but they were assaulted and thereafter, the police were called. However, when the police arrived, the workers attacked the officers, who were forced to retreat to safety, leaving their vehicles behind. Two vehicles were then damaged and one of them was set on fire by some of the workers.
Adding that there was no criminal intent behind what happened, Sabu Jacob claimed that drugs were brought into the camp, and he suspected that some of the workers may have been under the influence. He said that the company would cooperate with the investigation.
Calling it an “isolated incident”, the Kerala government has ordered a probe into it. Speaking to the media, Minister for Labour V Sivankutty said, “Ten policemen have been injured. Preliminary reports suggest that the clashes happened in connection with Christmas celebrations. As many as 151 persons have been arrested. The incident is now in police control. They will take strong action. Other details are awaited. It is an isolated incident. The Ernakulam district labour officer has been entrusted to investigate the matter and submit a report urgently. The government provides all protection and support to migrant workers.”