Special Correspondent

UDF calls for 12-hour hartal today

KOZHIKODE: The death in a police vehicle of Rajan, who was a remand prisoner kept in district jail for alleged involvement in a case registered under Abkari Act, has triggered strong protests and a call for a 12 - hour on Tuesday by the United Democratic Front (UDF).

District Collector A. Jayathilak, responding to the demand for a probe by UDF leaders, has ordered a magisterial inquiry by G. Unnikrishna Pillai, Deputy Collector, into the circumstances that led to Rajan's death. He has also sanctioned a compensation of Rs.10,000 to the family of the victim and promised steps to repair his house.

Though a call for hartal has been given, essential services like newspapers, electricity, hospitals and marriage-related programmes would be exempted from the dawn-to-dusk hartal on Tuesday, UDF district convener M. Veerankutty said.

Rajan, a native of Malayamma near National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Kunnamangalam, was booked in a case in 2003. But he was arrested by an excise inspector in Kunnamangalam range on August 4 and remanded to judicial custody and sent to the district jail.

Rajan, 38, was admitted to district general hospital by the jail authorities on August 5 since he showed symptoms of shivering. He was kept in police cell in the hospital. The police said he became violent and the duty doctor gave him two injunctions after examining him on August 6 around 8 p.m.

City Police Commissioner Balram Kumar Upadhyaya said Rajan again turned violent around 2 a.m. The doctor referred him to the Government Institute of Mental Health at Kuthiravattam. From the jail a warden was sent to escort the prisoner to the mental hospital.

He was reported to be dead when the police ambulance with two police constables and the jail warden reached the institute, hardly 5 km away, around 4.45 a.m.

The doctor of the mental hospital who examined him in the ambulance declared him dead.

Rajan's relatives have demanded an inquiry.

There had been complaints about undue delay in taking Rajan to the institute after the district hospital authorities ordered it to be done.