A tense situation prevailed on Tuesday at Moozhikkal and its adjoining areas from Malaparamba to Karanthur on the National Highway 212 (Wayanad Road) after Revenue officials removed an illegally installed idol of Lord Vishnu from a plot of land owned by the Kerala Water Authority (KWA).

Activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Sweyamsevak Sangh, a temple committee, and a section of the local people observed a dawn-to-dusk hartal at Chevaloor, Moozhikkal and Vellimadukunnu in protest against the action of the District Administration. They also installed an idol of Goddess Durga on the government land later in the day.

A team led by Revenue Divisional Officer Himanshu Kumar Rai and assisted by police personnel under Chevayur Circle Inspector Prakashan Padannayil removed the idol, after which protesters began to gather at the KWA area and spread to the neighbouring areas on the National Highway.

The situation turned violent when the agitators hurled stones at a police bus and a Kerala State Road Transport Corporation bus. Huge stones were placed along the National Highway to prevent traffic. Protesters burnt old tyres on the Muzhikkal- Cheruvatta Road and the Muzhikkal-Viruppil-Kalandithazham Road. The traffic had to be diverted at 7 a.m.

G. Sparjankumar, Commissioner of Police, Kozhikode city, said cases had been registered against several identifiable persons under the Prevention of Damage of Public Property and Sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting) and 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object ) and 283 (danger or obstruction in public way or line of navigation) of the Indian Penal Code.

The volatile situation was brought under control later in the day. A posse of police personnel led by Assistant Commissioner of Police (North) Prince Abraham was monitoring the law and order situation in the area, the Commissioner said.

The local people had installed the idol of Lord Vishnu recovered from Muzhikkal river on the KWA land on August 29. Subsequently, devotees from Madathilkunnu Vishnu Temple thronged the spot.

However, the KWA officials filed a complaint at the Chevayur police station stating that some people had encroached upon the government land. Although the police registered a case, the devotees refused to remove the installed idol.

Following this, District Collector C.A. Latha held talks with the temple committee representatives. The police then took a decision that the idol would be removed within two weeks. But the committee authorities refused to budge from their stand saying that the idol was centuries old and that the area was a part of the Moozhikkal Madathilkunnu Maha Vishnu Temple. The remains of the temple were also discovered at the KWA plot, they claimed. Later, M.K. Raghavan, MP, tried to mediate but in vain.

The RDO gave a report to the Collector citing that it was illegal to install an idol on government land. The Revenue officials took the decision to remove the idol on the basis of the order of the Collector.

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