The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday questioned Kerala Higher Education Minister K.T. Jaleel in connection with its probe into the smuggling of gold via air cargo shipments addressed to the consulate of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Thiruvananthapuram.
The police had barricaded the road leading to the agency’s office by 4 a.m., anticipating protests throughout the day by the Opposition parties.
The Minister was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) here last week in connection with the consignments of Koran that he had received from the UAE consulate. It was transported to various places in the State in government vehicles. The NIA team held a meeting with senior ED officials on Wednesday. It is learnt that the agency had asked the Minister about his links with Swapna Suresh, prime accused in the gold smuggling case.
Meanwhile, anti-government protests buffeted the Statefor the sixth consecutive day on Thursday.
The arrival of Mr. Jaleel at the NIA office in Kochi for questioning appeared to have catalysed the protests led by Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party workers who demanded the Minister’s resignation. Roads leading up to the NIA’s office at Kadavanthra turned riotous as waves after waves of protesters clashed with a heavy police contingent through the good part of the day.
The Kochi City police arrested nearly 100 protesters of the Congress, Youth Congress and Mahila Morcha on charges of rioting and unlawful assembly besides violation of the COVID-19 protocol under the Kerala Epidemic Diseases Ordinance.
Protesters broke COVID-19 protocol and grappled with the police in Thiruvananthapuram, Kottayam, Thrissur, Kozhikode, and Kannur, resulting in injuries on both sides. They damaged the office of Mr. Jaleel in Malappuram.
A Youth Congress march to the Palakkad Collectorate turned violent, leading to a police lathicharge and stone throwing.
Over two dozen protesters, including V.T. Balram, MLA, were injured in the police action. Ten police personnel too were injured in stone throwing.