TAMIL NADU

PDP march turns violent in Kerala

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM OCT. 31. Several persons were injured and private property worth lakhs of rupees damaged when People's Democratic Party (PDP) activists demanding the release of the PDP chairman, Abdul Nasir Maudany, went on the rampage in front of the Government Secretariat attacking shops, damaging parked vehicles and hurling stones at the police on Thursday afternoon. Police foiled an attempt by the protestors to set fire to the Civil Supplies Department's petrol pump at the Spencer Junction.

Nearly 10,000 PDP workers from all over the State had converged at the Museum junction at 11 a.m. to participate in the PDP's Secretariat march which was inaugurated by the Kerala Congress (B) chairman, R. Balakrishna Pillai, MLA. The march, led by Poonthura Siraj and Muhammad Bilal, reached the Secretariat gate at 1 p.m.

The violence started at around 1.30 p.m. when some PDP workers scrambled over the Secretariat fence and started breaking flower pots and throwing potted plants onto the road. The police swung into action and chased the PDP workers.

The stragglers bore the brunt of the police charge while the retreating PDP workers left a trail of destruction. PDP workers who used flag-staffs to smash windscreens of cars and break headlights of two-wheelers attacked vehicles parked near the Spencer Junction and on either side of the Statue-General Hospital road. They also attacked shops in these areas.

Soon, more than 1,000 PDP men regrouped on the M.G. Road and hurled stones at the police and journalists covering the march. A stand-off ensued between the police and the PDP workers with the latter accusing the police of arresting Mr. Siraj and Mr. Bilal. The Commissioner, Rajan Singh, said neither of them was in police custody and urged PDP leaders to ask their cadres to disperse peacefully. Several attempts by the PDP leaders and the police to trace Mr. Siraj and Mr. Bilal yielded no result.

At 4 p.m., the Commissioner set a half-hour deadline for the PDP workers to disperse peacefully. As the deadline approached, the police deployed forcefully on the flanks and in front of the workers who were squatting on the road. The tear-gas squad was moved to the front of the police cordon.

The sudden arrival of Mr. Bilal at 4.15 p.m. defused the situation. He urged the cadres to disperse peacefully and asked the police to bring to book the "real culprits'' behind the violence.

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