Kizhakkambalam violence: 163 Kitex workers arrested, MD alleges it is to target him

Kitex MD Sabu Jacob said there were only 23 culprits, and most people are being illegally detained as part of a concerted move to harm him, his business and the Twenty20 party.
A police jeep that was burnt during the clash at Kizhakkambalam
A police jeep that was burnt during the clash at Kizhakkambalam
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One hundred and sixty three workers of Kitex garments have been arrested for the Christmas day violence at Kizhakkambalam area of Ernakulam district, a move which the company's Managing Director claimed was targeted to harm him, his business and his political outfit – Twenty20. Police said that of the 163 persons arrested in connection with the incident, 76 have been remanded to 14 days judicial custody till Monday evening and the process was still going on. It said that it would seek judicial custody of all of them.

Eight policemen, including a Circle Inspector, were injured in the violence and subsequently, police lodged two cases – one for the assault on the officers, which also includes attempt to murder charges and the other, for destruction of police vehicles – and 163 persons arrested in connection with the incident.

Meanwhile, Kitex MD Sabu Jacob said at a press conference that 164 of his company's migrant employees were arrested subsequent to the incident without any evidence indicating whom among them were responsible for the violence. He alleged that such a large number of his employees were arrested due to the state government's personal enmity towards him, his company and the Twenty20 organisation. He said that the poor workers must not be targeted in order to harm him or his business and said that if the government wants him to shut his company in the state, he will do so if asked to.

On Saturday night, Christmas day celebrations by migrant labourers from the north east part of India at Kizhakkambalam turned violent, leading to several policemen being brutally assaulted and two police jeeps badly damaged, with one set on fire.

Jacob said that as per the enquiry carried out by the company based on CCTV footage, there were only a total of 23 culprits. Of the 23, 13 were part of the 164 workers taken into custody, Jacob said and claimed that the remaining were innocent. He alleged that 151 workers were being illegally detained by police as part of a concerted move to harm him, his business and the Twenty20 party, which had won the elections in the local body polls held at Kizhakkambalam in 2015. Police said that earlier in the day it had recorded arrests of 50 workers and the number rose to 163 by evening.

Kerala Labour Minister V Sivankutty, at a press conference held in Kasaragod, said that a Labour Commission has been appointed and tasked with finding out whether labour laws were being followed by Kitex.

The minister, however, said that this move has nothing to do with the earlier inspections of the company, which had resulted in Kitex withdrawing its Rs 3,500 crore investment from Kerala. Jacob had withdrawn from a Rs 3,500 crore investment project in the state, alleging harassment by government officials.

Sivankutty also said that the police were also investigating how the law and order situation took a turn for the worse on Saturday night and how the workers dared to attack the officers and burn one of their vehicles.

Jacob has claimed that the workers, who attacked the police, were probably under the influence of some narcotic substance and therefore, they had become "uncontrollable". He said police should investigate how drugs were brought into the area and added that drug trafficking was a major concern in the state.

He urged the state government to set free the 151 workers in custody who are innocent according to him, saying they belonged to poor families who have come to earn a living.

Visuals of the violence which went viral on social media showed a large group of people surrounding the police vehicles, climbing on top of them, pelting them with stones and then thrashing them with sticks, leaving the vehicles in shambles. Subsequently, after the policemen retreated to safety, the workers set fire to one of the vehicles.

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