Several policemen and students were injured when Students Federation of India (SFI) activists unleashed a violent street agitation near the Secretariat after a three-day weekend break on Monday.

The Left students’ organisation had been agitating for the past two weeks to press its demand for the immediate arrest of ruling front supporters suspected to be behind the murder of Aneesh Rajan, vice-president of the SFI unit in Idukki district, last month. Left student and youth-wing activists, including undergraduates and school students from other institutions, massed at the University College around 11.30 a.m.

Soon, they marched out of its gates and staged a sit-in on the arterial M.G. Road at Spencer Junction. A police cordon prevented them from advancing to the Secretariat. The students bringing up the rear of the march pelted the police with stones.

The policemen, all wielding batons and shields and arrayed in protective body armour, baton-charged protesters on the front row of the march.

Groups of five and ten policemen singled out students and beat and stomped them to the ground. The rear ranks retreated to the college, locked its gates and engaged the police from inside the compound wall with stones and sticks.

Every now and then, a group of students would foray out of the college, attack policemen and vehicles and retreat.

They dared the police to storm the college. The policemen in front of the college gates apparently bore the brunt of the attacks with apparent restraint.

The events on Monday seemed almost a repetition of those which transpired on Thursday, when at least 15 persons, including students and policemen, were injured in a pitched street battle between SFI activists and law-enforcers in front of the college. As it happened on Thursday, Opposition Legislators led by Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Elamaram Karim arrived in front of the college, almost as if on a cue, and signalled the agitating students to stand down. They then addressed the media and repeated their accusation that the government used force to suppress peacefully agitating students.

Almost simultaneously, a set of SFI leaders gathered all the agitators from inside the college and escorted them to Asan Square from where the group, including outsiders, dispersed to different locations in hired cars and auto-rickshaws.

Suggestion shot down

A senior official said the political executive had on Monday shot down a police suggestion to enter the college and arrest those responsible for the attack on law-enforcers and destruction of private property.

He said, in the past one week, it had been the norm for Opposition leaders to negotiate secretively with law-enforcers to ensure that the agitators were allowed to disperse unchallenged after the ‘daily dose of protests played solely for news cameras.’

In the past week, at least 25 persons, including policemen and students, were injured in SFI-led street agitations. The police had registered several cases of public property destruction, including attacks on police vehicles and law-enforcers. So far, none had been arrested in connection with the incidents.

The agitation disrupted normal life. The police diverted public transport buses away from M.G. Road, causing scores of commuters to be stranded at bus stops. The Left Democratic Front took out a march to the Secretariat in the evening in protest against the alleged police brutality.