Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Assembly Oommen Chandy alleged in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday that the LDF government was extending political patronage to criminal elements and hindering attempts by the police to check the “spiraling” violence across the State.

Inaugurating a dharna, organised by the District Congress Committee in front of the Secretariat as part of a State-wide agitation to protest against the spate of violent incidents, he said goondas were having a free run in the State. “Incidents of robbery, murder, chain snatching and attacks on people are being reported every day. Quotation gangs are running riot as the police remain helpless to check the growing menace. There is a total breakdown of the law and order machinery.”

Mr. Chandy said the Home Minister's criticism of the media's efforts to highlight the problem exposed the intolerance of the CPI(M) towards democratic expression. Referring to the recent murder of industrialist Paul M. George, he said the incident had raised several questions about the government's ability to maintain the rule of law.

The Anti Goonda Act introduced by the LDF government had diluted the provisions in the Ordinance issued by the previous UDF regime. “In 2006, the LDF allowed the Ordinance to lapse and later came up with a diluted version.” The Act, he said, was designed to protect goondas, than clamping down on them.

Mr. Chandy urged the government to amend the Act with provisions giving the police the authority to crackdown on gangs.

KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala said the spate of temple thefts, bank robberies and violent incidents had generated a fear psychosis among the people. “The law and order machinery is in shambles. People are terror-stricken. CPI(M) workers brazenly take the law into their hands to forcibly release criminals taken into custody by the police while their leaders harbour musclemen and quotation gangs.”

Alleging that the Paul M.George case was not on the right track, Mr. Chennithala said the police were trying to shield the culprits. He challenged the government to publish the list of goondas prepared by the police. He called on the Home Minister to step down in the wake of the “failure” to check the violence. The Congress would organise peace marches and dharnas at 280 centres across the State on October 2, urging the government to take immediate measures to check the activities of criminal gangs.

Deputy Leader of the Opposition G. Karthikeyan, MLAs Varkala Kahar and Geroge Mercier, DCC president V.S. Sivakumar and KPCC leaders Thalekunnil Basheer and Thennala Balakrishna Pillai were among those who addressed the dharna.

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