10 injured as police and students clash in the city

At least 10 persons, comprising policemen and student activists, were injured when Students' Federation of India (SFI) workers and the police fought a pitched street battle for nearly an hour in front of University College here on Thursday evening.

The SFI has called for a State-wide boycott of classes on Friday in protest against the “arbitrary and brutal” police action against “peaceful” student protesters, including women.

Violent street protests by SFI activists, accusing the State government of protecting the killers of their party colleague Aneesh Rajan disrupted life in the city for the second consecutive day on Thursday. The student agitation and subsequent protests by Opposition legislators in front of the Nandavanam police camp, demanding the release of the SFI activists detained there, went on well into the night.

Small groups of Opposition workers took out marches in different parts of the city to express solidarity with the legislators who staged a sit-in in front of the police camp.

The police deployed in strength to prevent any resumption of violence. They diverted evening rush-hour traffic from the points of agitation and routes taken by small groups of protesters. The diversion caused scores of commuters, mainly working women, to be stranded for hours at bus stops. Motorists and two-wheeler riders had to take longer detours to reach their destinations.

The chain of events started when a group of University College students staged a sit-in in front of VJT Hall where Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was scheduled to attend a public function. Heeding police advice, Mr. Chandy stayed away from the function.

A section of the student protesters courted arrest peacefully and were taken to the nearby Armed Police Camp. The rest of them retreated to their college campus and started pelting the police with stones and sticks from behind the high perimeter wall of the institution.

Several policemen and television camera crew were injured in the sudden hail of stones. The stone-throwing, almost incessant but varying in intensity, continued for nearly 30 minutes.

The police retaliated by lobbing tear-gas shells into the campus. The students, who covered their faces with kerchiefs so as not be caught on television and police surveillance cameras, threw some of the caustic smoke-emanating shells back at the police. The police top brass prevented their field officers and the men under their command from entering the college campus. The violence abated when Opposition legislators led by Elamaram Karim entered the college premises and pacified the student protesters.

The legislators then dared the police to enter the campus and arrest the agitating students. They then led the agitators out of the college campus and escorted them till Asan Square from where the students dispersed in small groups. The MLAs then staged a protest in front of the police camp demanding the release of those detained there. Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan visited the students in the camp.

He spoke to Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan on the phone, and demanded that the students be released on bail guaranteed by the Opposition MLAs.

Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, A.K. Balan, V. Sivankutty and Suresh Kurup, MLAs; A. Sampath, MP; CPI(M) district secretary Kadakampally Surendran, Palayam area secretary A.A. Rasheed and the DYFI leader S. Depaak were among those present.