Several persons, including policemen, journalists, and student activists, were injured when Students Federation of India workers protesting against the government's “commercialisation of the higher education sector” clashed with the police in the city on Friday.
Public property, including police vans and motorbikes, were damaged in the violence. The street battles, fought with stones, sticks, batons, and tear gas shells disrupted normal life in the city for at least two hours from 12.30 p.m.
According to the police, nearly 500 SFI workers marched to the Assembly from the University College campus.
The police stopped them on the road leading to the Assembly. The students toppled the iron barricades the police had placed on the road and pelted the force with stones.
The police responded initially by engaging their water cannon.
They fired tear gas shells at the students and baton-charged them. Some policemen also threw stones at the activists. The students dispersed and regrouped again on the University College campus.
A street battle ensued between the police and the activists, who sought refuge on the college campus. They traded stones and sticks for nearly 20 minutes.
City Police Commissioner Manoj Abraham and Inspector-General of Police, Thiruvananthapuram Range, K. Padmakumar reached the spot.
Soon student leaders and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders reached the spot and conferred with senior police officials. Both parties called a truce and the street battle stopped for the day.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Jolly Cherian and Assistant Commissioner of Police B. Krishna Kumar were among the 10 policemen injured in the violence.
The Students Federation of India identified its injured workers as A.M. Ansari, district joint secretary, Vineeth Govind, district vice-president, and SFI workers Ajeesh Lal and Arun Krishna.
Deshabhimani newspaper's photographer Manu Viswanathan was injured while covering the violence.
Students Federation of India State president K.V. Sumesh and secretary P. Biju warned the government against using the police to stifle peaceful student protests against its “flawed” education policy.
The Cantonment and Museum police stations have registered cases of unlawful assembly, rioting, and public property destruction against the SFI workers. So far, they have arrested none in this connection.