The ongoing Revenue District School Arts Festival was disrupted and delayed by more than three hours on Thursday afternoon after a group of journalists held a protest alleging that five mediapersons were manhandled by the members of the Government School Teachers Union (GSTU) at the Government Girls Higher Secondary School.
According to sources, the incident took place following an argument between the union members and two photographers, who alleged that they were prevented from taking photographs of sub-standard quality food being served to the participants at the venue. Five mediapersons, including four photographers of Malayalam dailies, who were injured in the attack, were taken to hospital. Photographers Jithesh Damodar of Kerala Kaumudi, T.C. Shijumon of Deepika, Shuhaib Pazhakulam of Thejus, Sajith Gopal of Pathram and Anil Kumar of Asianet News were injured in the scuffle. The police took three injured members of the GSTU into custody and later admitted them to the hospital.
A group of journalists organised a protest around 2 p.m. and demanded action against the union members. Minister for Education P.K. Abdu Rabb and Minister for Health V.S. Sivakumar reached the venue and held a closed-door discussion with the organisers.
Mr.Rabb said the government would provide treatment facilities for the injured and arrangements would be made to replace the damaged cameras.
“After reviewing the visuals of the incident, further action would be taken against those involved in the attack,” he added.
The protest caused a fear among the students, many of whom refused to consume the food being served. Participants of various competitions such as folk dance and ‘oppana’ had to wait for over three hours before the festival resumed at around 5.30 p.m.
Talking to The Hindu, a member of GSTU said they had only prevented the mediapersons from taking “unnecessary” photographs of students having lunch.
“The issue has nothing to do with the quality of the food as it is regularly checked by the food inspectors”, added the member.
According to Deputy Director of Education V.L.Vishwalatha , even though such a complaint was raised, the food inspectors had not found any bad quality food. However, she confirmed that the team would be more vigilant and take further steps to ensure safety.
Activists of the Student Federation of India (SFI) took out a march to the festival venue in protest against the alleged serving of sub-standard food.
They also sought action against those involved in the scuffle.